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, February 19, 2019

The Open Door Policy

Most organizations have a formal open door policy. Many leaders regularly emphasize that their door is always open. The danger is when leaders rely too heavily on the open door policy.

The open door policy puts the onus on the employee to initiate communication. It says I'm here if you need me, but you must come to me. If you have a problem or need assistance come in and let me know.

Unfortunately, employees are too often reluctant to go through those open doors. They may feel asking for help makes them look weak or incompetent. They may be intimidated by the leader. They may not be able to take time away from their work.

Leaders need to remember the open doorways leads both in and out. Effective leaders don't wait for employees to come to them. They regularly get out of their offices to interact with their staff. They make a point of checking in. They practice what management guru Tom Peters calls management by wandering around.

Don't ditch your open door policy but don't rely on it to stay in touch with your staff and what's happening in your organization. Go out the door and stay in touch.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

The Art of the Huddle

When a basketball coach needs to get his team on track he calls a time out and the team huddles. In football the huddle is where the quarterback calls the play, getting his entire team on the same page.

Doing a regular huddle can be an effective tool for leaders in summer camps to get their team on the same page. A quick, daily gathering of key players can help with communication and coordination. The investment of just a few minutes can make a huge difference.

1. Have a clear purpose. Make everyone knows the purpose and desired outcome for the huddles.

2. Structure your content. Have a clear plan that you use for every huddle and stick to it.

3. Prepare some questions to stimulate discussion. "What are we hearing from the campers?" "Is there an area we're not currently meeting expectations?"  "Are we seeing any recurring issues with the counselors?"

4. Check for understanding. Make sure your message is heard and understood.

5. Recap and reinforce. Who is going to do what.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Giving Feedback: Three Steps

The Center for Creative Leadership has developed an effective three step process called Situation - Behavior - Impact for giving feedback.

Situation - Describe the situation with specific details. What happened, when, etc.

Behavior - Describe observable behavior. Don't make assumptions about the motives behind it.

Impact - Describe the impact the behavior had on the organization and your reaction. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Why Employees Quit

In the tight labor market we're experiencing, retaining good employees is one of the biggest challenges we face as leaders. Keeping the talented people we've invested the time and effort to train is critical.

A 2018 study of 25,000 employees identified the top five reasons employees leave. They include:

  1. Poor management performance
  2. Lack of employee recognition
  3. Overworked employees
  4. Company culture not a priority
  5. No growth opportunities 
In looking at the reasons on the list, the reality is they all point in one direction...to us as leaders. They reinforce the axiom that employees don't leave organizations, they leave bosses. Think about where you and the other leaders in your organization are in relationship to these reasons employees leave. 
  • Are you the kind of leaders people want to work for?
  •  Do you consistently recognize employees in meaningful ways? 
  • Are you realistic in what you ask of employees? 
  • Do you have a clearly defined culture that you actively promote?
  • Are you creating opportunities for employees to grow and develop? 

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Taming Your Time Wasters

In research recently reported in the Harvard Business Review, a study of how leaders spend their time showed they spend only 9% of their time interacting with front line employees. While we as leaders know how critical our people are to the success of our organization, it's easy to get wrapped up in all of the other responsibilities we're tasked with. Meetings, customers, projects and some many other priorities compete for our time. 

How do we carve time out to focus on our employees? Here's some suggestions on taming the things that tie us up and keep us away from our employees.

  • Say no at least three times a day to tasks that don’t add value.
  • Avoid your biggest time-wasting task for 30 days.
  • Designate certain tasks to certain times of day.
  • Prioritize important work over other tasks.

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?