A cable television company I worked with many years ago decided they wanted to encourage good performance by recognizing the hard work of some on their frontline employees. The company developed a plan to recognize, among others, a cable TV installer of the month. The installer of the month was recognized by with theirr picture and name on a plaque that hung in the company's customer lobby. They also were taken out to lunch at a very nice restaurant by the company president.
Several months after starting the program, the company realized installers were going out of their way to avoid being named installer of the month. As I talked with the installers several important things emerged. First, installers were prohibited from the customer lobby because they were often dirty from crawling in attics and climbing telephone poles. This meant they never saw the installer of the month plaque. For those who did receive the award, the lunch was viewed with great disdain. Often the installers felt the need to buy a set of new clothes to wear to the lunch. The fancy restaurant made them feel uncomfortable and out of place. Perhaps worst of all, they had to spend an hour with the president of the company, who most found very intimidating.
After spending some time with the installers, we completely revamped the installer of the month award. The award was announced by the employee's immediate supervisor in a meeting in the the installer's work area and accompanied by free donuts for everyone. The plaque was replaced by a reserved parking spot for the installer's assigned company van. The parking spot was next to the entrance they used to get to and from the warehouse and staging area. Given all of the equipment and supplies they hauled out every day to restock their van, the front parking spot was seen as a huge perk. McDonald's gift certificates replaced lunch at the nice restaurant. The result was a complete change in installers' attitudes about the award.
We all recognize that rewarding staff members is important. It encourages good performance, makes employees feel appreciated and boosts morale. The key to effective rewards, as the cable company learned, is making the reward attractive to the staff member. Think about their needs and preferences. Ask them what they value. Create rewards that reflect their interests.
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.