A couple of days ago I was having a discussion with some members of our leadership team about programming for the upcoming summer. A staff member mentioned that they felt we should either change or eliminate a particular activity. When I asked why, she mentioned that several counselors had complained strongly about the activity. I asked what data from our end of week camper evaluations showed. The staff member didn't know.
In the same discussion, we talked about another camp activity that all of our staff thought was great and should be left as is. Unfortunately, in our end of the week camper evaluations, this activity was consistently rated as the "least favorite" activity by campers.
This discussion points out three common problems that can plague camp leadership when making decisions:
1. Assume the view of the staff reflects the view of campers.
While we would hope counselors would want what's best for the campers, the reality is they have different priorities. When looking at an activity they may be concerned with how it helps or hinders their management of the group. They may be focused on whether they have to be actively engaged or if someone else will provide the leadership. They may tend to prefer activities that allow them to interact with other staff. These might be important considerations. If, however, we are interested in what campers think, we can't assume the staff speak for them.
2. Assume those who complain the loudest reflect the majority.
It's natural to react to those staff members who are passionate and vocal in expressing their opinion. It's important, however, that we recognize they may or may not represent the majority. We need to take their feedback and use it as a starting point to explore an issue. What do other staff members think who haven't spoken up? We need to get a look at the complete picture before acting.
3. Use opinions rather than data to make decisions.
While the opinion of staff members is important, remember it is just that, an opinion. If we have data, we have to use it to vet the opinions we're hearing. Does the data back up the opinions that have been voiced? If not, why?
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.