Commitment to Excellence

So many times a new director has lists upon lists of things they want to accomplish or get done during their time at camp. And, so many times they feel as though that they are not accomplishing nearly the amount of things that they want or feel that they are the only voice trying to be heard on what needs to be done.

Download: Camp Kern Evaluation Form

Download: Camp Kern Committment of Excellence Report

Wouldn’t it be easier if the entire staff was committed to achieving excellence and completing all the ideas and projects to better the camp? How do we create a staff team that will welcome new ideas and try anything… a team that will pursue the vision of the camp with passion?

What is your organization’s culture? Is it a place where all new ideas are welcome and tried? Does everyone brainstorm new ideas and ways of accomplishing them together? Is there a support system in place that you can call on for assistance? Do people ask your opinion and offer help? Do you know that you can talk to your supervisor at any time? Is there an effort by the senior staff to see to it that everyone is involved, or at least informed, about what’s happening around camp? Does it sound too good to be true?

Culture Shock

The process to change a camp’s work environment or culture starts with the director. Your attitude, your willingness to change and your practices will determine success or failure.

This is a hard road to follow. Five years ago it would have been impossible for me to try it. It took a desire to really be better at my job, to actually let go and trust people more than ever before, and to work every day at being a living example of what and how I wanted them to be and work.

I had to stop giving orders and saying things like, “Because I said so.” The most important change I made in myself was to truly listen to the ideas around me and provide resources to try those ideas out.

Five years ago I thought about the perfect work environment, or the work environment which would make me happy, and allow a place to grow. Two years ago I decided to try the experiment.

As the new director of a YMCA camp I began on my very first day. At my introduction meeting with the staff I informed them that it was my goal to be the one of the best camps in the country in reputation, customer service, facilities, staff training and program quality. The looks I got initially were to be expected. New guy with big ideas! Yeah, right…

So, I met with every staff member individually over the next 10 days. And that means all of the staff! Whether it was housekeeping, maintenance, food service, program staff, outdoor educators, and so on, I met with them.

In each one-on-one meeting I listened. I asked what their favorite part of the job was. What needed to happen to make them feel better about their work? What did they want children, staff and parents to say about their work? What obstacles were in their way?

At the end of the meeting I told them that the camp would now operate under a Children and Guest First philosophy and that there would be more to come on actually making that happen.

After meeting with everyone on the staff, an all-staff meeting and a series of staff retreats were held. The goal was to take the information discovered in the one-on-one meetings and share it. The next step was to share the changes in camp that were being made with the goal of correcting the common problems.

During the discussions with the staff members I kept notes based on certain categories. I listed the headings Communication, Environment, Obstacles, Positives and lastly, Miscellaneous.

After combining all of the individual meeting notes into complete lists under each heading I was able to see the pattern of situations underlying each. This, in turn, led to a starting point in solving the issues.

Communication was a common issue mentioned by everyone. After the all-staff meeting, all meetings were now open. Anyone was welcome to come to any board, staff or program meeting. There were no longer any hidden agendas to worry about.

A staff newsletter was created and department heads were required to share information of program meetings with all staff with in two days of the meeting or policy change.

In addition, all staff was to operate under an open door policy, including leaving office doors open unless disciplinary action was being taken or if a staff member needed confidentiality.

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