A Healthy Lead

Staff members are usually on top of their game until they start treating their job like one. Once young people lose sight of the importance of caring for other people’s children, taking unhealthy risks increases. By contrast, if they rest playful leadership on the three-legged stool of sleep, exercise, and nutritional food, their resilience and stamina also increase.

Ask Not What Your Camp Can Do for You

Does this sound idealistic? Do you wonder where on earth you might find such wholesome young adults to staff your camp? Whether you staff the camp with an apprentice-style, internal leadership-development program, with external hires, or with some combination of the two, the quest for quality should always include the appropriate interview questions.

Asking hypothetical questions with “right” answers is a waste of time. “What would you do if some of your friends had been drinking and were about to drive themselves home?” is an example of just such a vacuous query. The question lacks what psychologists call discriminative validity, meaning that it cannot validly discriminate between two groups—in this case between responsible and irresponsible people. A person’s answer to this question tells only whether the interviewee knows what a person should do in such a circumstance. (If you’re done having candidates tell you what they know you want to hear, read on.)

A better alternative is to say, “Tell me about a time when you had to make a tough decision to keep a friend out of trouble.” Listen carefully to the person’s answer, and then ask open-ended follow-up questions such as, “What did you struggle with when you chose that course of action?” and “Who in your life influenced you to behave

Photo courtesy © Can Stock Photo Inc. / photography33

Photo courtesy © Can Stock Photo Inc. / photography33

that way?” and “When have you ever had a friend get you out of a jam?” and “What did you learn from that experience or from some other poor choice?” and “How might you instill a sense of social responsibility in your fellow staff members this summer?”

The strategy of asking a job candidate to choose a specific, personal behavior and then answer a string of open-ended questions about that situation is called behavior-based interviewing or sometimes performance-based interviewing.

Religious Taboos

Anti-discrimination laws justifiably prohibit employers from asking prospective employees, “What religion are you?” The answer is worthless anyway, not because it is meaningless to the person, but because it has no discriminative validity. There are great leaders from different faith traditions and many who do not identify with a particular faith. What does have some value is asking about one’s coping style.

  • How do you bounce back from adversity?
  • What do you think or do to help make things better when you’re feeling down?
  • How have you overcome challenges that seem doable at first but then seem much more difficult?
  • What or who supports you when you feel down, drained, or discouraged?

These open-ended questions are all fair game. Best of all, the answers will teach you a lot about a person’s resilience and stress-management strategies. Some prospective leaders might even expound on their faith-based ways of coping, such as prayer, meditation, or participation in religious services. Religious or not, that person will provide an accurate sense of a coping style—data which can predict the person’s stability, stamina, and ability to weather in healthy ways the sometimes stressful storm of youth leadership.

Four Legs And Two Arms

Apparently, then, the three-legged stool of wellness turns out to have four legs: sleep, exercise, nutrition, and coping style. Naturally, candidates who deal with stress by drinking, drugging, or anything

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