Rehabilitate Or Replace?

We have all inherited staff at some point in our lives.

Change is inevitable; how do you handle it?

If you are like me, you find that some you instantly connect with and have an agreed vision for the future of your camp.

But with others, it seems like everything that is brought up is an opportunity to disagree.

When you find yourself in these situations with staff where you don’t seem to connect, what are the options?

I think it comes down to the question of is it time to rehabilitate or replace?

A camp director and good friend of mine passed this quote along to me, “If you can’t change your people, change your people.”

As a camp director, you have many responsibilities, but creating and protecting the culture of your camp can rise quickly to the top, especially if things are not going as they should.

So many of the issues that we deal with at camp can be traced back to a people problem.

We always have to look to ourselves as leaders to make sure we are setting clear expectations and giving clear direction, but after this has been done, what are our next steps?

I believe that some of it comes down to the personality of the leader. A former supervisor of mine used to say that he was a “therapist” and I was a “surgeon,” meaning that he would try to rehabilitate staff members while I was more apt to replace or remove the problem.

I don’t think there is necessarily a right or wrong approach to how you create culture, cast vision or make changes at camp, but we can go to extremes with both options.

I can move too quickly to replace a staff member who is not aligning with my vision for the future, and the “therapist” can get stuck in efforts to rehabilitate a staff member who is not going to change.

It takes time to make changes within any organization, and I have found that it takes at least three years to make improvements that turn into “this is what we do” types of changes.

Even though I prefer to make changes quickly, I understand that change takes time and that we want to bring people along at their comfort level.

When change is needed in your camp or organization, what are the steps you take to make it happen?

Dave Bell has directed day and resident camp programs for more than 15 years. Currently, he is the Executive Director of Camping Services for the YMCA of Greater Seattle. He is a former American Camp Association Southeast Section board member, a certified Y-USA Day Camp Director Trainer and a Y-USA partner YMCA camp consultant. Reach him via e-mail at

Related posts:

  1. 4 Tips for Lasting Change
  2. Change: Challenge and Character
  3. Don’t Take It Personally
  4. Summer’s Over; What Now?
  5. Summer’s Over; What Now?

One comment on “Rehabilitate Or Replace?

  1. Jim Spearin on said:

    Great blog! Thoughtful. I would think a great manager would be both a therapist and a surgeon. You need to look into the personality styles of your people. When change is needed, set the tone, share the vision and allow your people to assist with the steps forward. If they show a tendency to change with you and have excitement for the vision, then all you need to do is help them along when they’re having difficulty. If they are a constant complainer and find fault with ways to move forward, then it’s time to cut them out. I’ve found, however, that most times if the person needs to go, if you focus heavily on the path forward and amp up that pressure, constantly talking about the need for change and highlighting the failures of the past and the ways to succeed in the future, the complainers will leave in very short order because they can’t take being part of the excitement for change.

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