Leadership Lessons from Summer Camp #1
I feel a little bit like I’ve gone back in time this week. I’m volunteering for a week of camp at Medeba; where I was the program director 17 years ago. This time I’m helping with day camp program while my son is having his first experience as a residential camper. A serious injury to my left hand a week ago means I’m on limited duty, but that makes it easier for me to look around and see what else is going on. I am already impressed (and frankly, humbled) as I watch the young people who are spending their entire summer here. This should be required experience for all leaders. I’m going to try to write a short blog each day highlighting one of the exemplary things I see these young volunteers doing. Lesson #1: Change on the fly, with a smile. One of the more complex roles here is Program Director, partucularly on the first day. They need to ensure that nearly 200 campers get signed up for four activity periods each day from among a couple dozen rotating options. At the same time they need to ensure that each activity has qualified staff ready to lead, and that staff are scheduled their needed time off each day. There are literally hundreds of moving pieces, and they get rearranged every day. It is amazing that it all gets done, and here they do it all with numbered chips on a large wooden board instead of on computers because they want it to be easy for campers to participate in the choosing and to see their choices at any time.
Late last night I realised that I was scheduled to lead a couple activities today, which I really can’t do because of my hand injury. I had to track down one of the program directors (who was already stretched because her counterpart was off sick) and ask her to remove me from the board, even though campers have already signed up for those activities. I truly hated to do it, but really have no choice. When I spoke to her there was no frustrated sigh, no eye roll, no questioning whether I could try to handle the tasks for at least one day; just a smile and the promise that she’ll take care of it. I’m sure she will. How rarely I demonstrate that same adaptability, especially at the end of a long day. To immediately accept responsibility for finding a solution that is within my mandate, even when it means reworking a challenging system for the umpteenth time, and to do so without showing any frustration to the one, however innocent, who brings the problem to light: that is a demonstration of leading and serving that is remarkable. I’ll be posting several more leadership lessons this week. What can you learn from a summer camp leader that challenges you in your role?