Welcome to the Summer Camp Leadership blog. For those of us who lead summer camps, making a positive difference in the lives of young people is our passion. Turning that passion into a reality, however, takes more than the ability to lead songs, teach archery or plan craft projects. Creating camp experiences that truly transform lives takes leadership. Leadership that creates a vision for the future, leadership that inspires and engages others, leadership that remains focused and stays the course. My hope is through this blog you'll find ideas, inspiration and tools to help you be a great summer camp leader.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

The Gifts of Hardship

As leaders we're all going to run into hardships. Unexpected things happen in our organization, with our employees, with the people we serve and in our lives. While it's hard to see the positive in the midst of these hardships, there can be silver linings.

The Center for Creative Leadership's research highlights three gifts we can take away from hardships. They include:
  • Greater insight into what makes you tick. Increasing your self awareness makes you more equipped to make better decisions next time.
  • Increased compassion for others. Greater humility and sympathy make you more effective in dealing with others.
  • Resilience. Getting through tough times means you'll be stronger and more capable next time hard times come along.

How do learn from hardships? Try these strategies:

  • Don't let the hardship be everything. Don't let them overwhelm you. Take time away. Focus some time of what's going right.
  • Don't be ashamed of failures or mistakes. If we're not making mistakes we're not pushing ourselves and our organizations. 
  • Avoid defensiveness. Own the problem and then focus on next steps and solutions.
  • Keep asking questions. What happened? Why? What part did I play? 
  • Reflect and look back to discover the lessons from your experience. What did I miss? What could I have done differently?

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Project Roles & Accountability

As a leader we are often called on to lead or participate in projects that involve others. One of the challenges in these situations is making sure there is clarity regarding each participant's role. It is also critical for everyone to understand where the accountability lies for various aspects of the project. A structure called "RACI" can be helpful. Done before the project begins and updated as necessary, "RACI" helps break down who does what.

Responsibility - Who is doing the actual work to accomplish each portion of the project.

Accountable - Who ultimately is accountable for results.

Consult - Who needs to be consulted for information but are not directly involved in the work.

Inform - Who needs to be kept abreast of what is happening.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Your Leadership: A Year End Review

At the end of one year and start of the next, people commonly take stock of where they are in their lives and set goals for the upcoming year. Most resolutions focus on personal goals related to health, money, etc.

The year end is, however, also a great time to reflect on where we are as leaders. Take some time to reflect on the following and set some goals for the upcoming year:

1. How effective was I as a leader?  Did I get the results I wanted? How did my team/peers/supervisor respond to me?

2. What did I do well as a leader this year? How can I continue to have success in these areas? Can I leverage these successes into other areas?

3. Where did I fall short of being the best I could be? Why? What could I do differently in the future to create better results?

4. Did I achieve the goals I set for myself this past year? Why/why not? 

5. What goals do I have for myself as a leader for the upcoming year?

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Staying Calm Under Pressure

Being a camp leader can be stressful. Very stressful! Between campers and their parents, our staff and the challenges of managing often aging facilities and infrastructure there is no shortage of  triggers to set off our emotions. Research, however shows that the ability of leaders to remain calm under pressure is linked to positive performance. 

Dr. Travis Bradberry, the author of the bestselling book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0 suggests ten strategies successful people use to stay calm under pressure. 

#1: They Appreciate What They Have

#2: They Avoid Asking “What If?”

#3: They Stay Positive

#4: They Disconnect

#5: They Limit Their Caffeine Intake

#6: They Sleep

#7: They Squash Negative Self-Talk

#8: They Reframe Their Perspective

#9: They Breathe

#10: They Use Their Support System

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Leadership Quote of the Week

"Every great leader makes the same decision. Success at the highest level comes down to one question: Can you decide that your happiness can come from someone else’s success?" If you can, you take the most important step towards becoming a great leader. No one has qualities like courage, vision, charisma, adaptability, and decisiveness in equal measure. But every great leader makes that one decision -- and so can you."                                                                                                         Jeff Haden Ghostwriter, Speaker, Inc. Magazine Contributing Editor

Monday, March 7, 2016

Improving Staff Recognition

As leaders we know that recognizing the positive efforts of our staff are important. Unfortunately too often our attempts at recognition go unappreciated and have limited impact. Scott Mautz, author of Make It Matter: How Managers Can Motivate by Creating Meaning offers the following suggestions for making recognition more meaningful:

Personalize recognition so that you don't trivialize it. Adapt the recognition the the needs and preferences of the individual staff member. 

Get everyone involved. Recognition doesn't have to be from just you as the leader. Recognition from other staff members, campers and parents can be powerful. 

Be frequent but not frivolous. Take regular opportunities for recognition but make such what you're recognizing really matters. 

Celebrate both the first downs and touchdowns. Certainly celebrate the big accomplishments but don't the little victories along the way. 

Deliberate the delivery. How you deliver recognition can be just as important as the recognition itself.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Consistency Most Important

Recent research published on-line by the Academy of Management Journal indicates that consistency is a key trait employees are looking for.  Employees were asked if they preferred a manager who is sometimes fair and sometimes unfair or someone is consistently unfair. The majority of employees preferred the consistent manager, even if they were unfair.

"Intuitively, you would think the more fairness you get, the better," said Fadel Matta, a researcher at Michigan State University and the lead author of the paper, said in an interview. "But that's not what we demonstrated. It's better if supervisors are a consistent jerk than if they're fair sometimes and not fair other times. People want to know what they can expect when they come into work. A lot of it centers around this issue of uncertainty," Matta said. "This notion of knowing what to expect -- even if it's bad -- is better than not knowing what to expect at work."

How consistent are you as a leader? Does your staff know what to expect from you, in both good times and bad?  Is there a predictability to your leadership that they can adapt to?

Monday, February 15, 2016

Habits of Disruptive Leader

There is a great deal of discussion these days about disruption. There is talk about disruptive technology, disruptive ideas and disruptive products. What is disruption? In the context of today's organizations, disruption is a concept or idea that fundamentally changes the status quo. They are ideas that not just challenge, but shatter long held assumptions.

Think about what Amazon did for selling books or what Uber has done for local transportation. Both companies completely changed the market by challenging the assumptions of how things are done.
Faisal Hoque author of Everything Connects: How to Transform and Lead in the Age of Creativity, Innovation and Sustainability suggests five attributes of organizations that disrupt the status quo.

1. They relentlessly pursue the truth
2. They guide others through chaos
3. They're decisive
4. They break the rules and write new ones - but always explain why
5. They thrive on uncertainty

What are some of the unwritten assumptions you and your organization hold to be true? Have you ever explored what would happen if they weren't true? Are there things you could do to challenge the status quo? Could you be disruptive?

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Getting People to Speak Up

Have you had the experience of having someone not speak up in a meeting when decisions are made and then after the meeting express their disagreement? Such behavior can be divisive and undermines the effectiveness of the team that made the decision.  This type of passive-agreesive behavior can also be toxic to your camp's culture.

One way to help avoid this situation is to set one straightforward ground rule for all of your meetings... silence equals agreement. Staff members need to know that silence does not mean "I don't agree" or "I want to think about it." If someone decides not to participate as a decision is made, they need to know the opportunity to continue debating the issue is over when the meeting ends.

This ground rule when made clear to your team and consistently applied, goes a long way in helping your team understand the need to speak up when important decisions are being discussed.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Leadership Quote of the Week

“To get something you never had, you have to do something you never did.” ~Unknown