Staff Conscious

Summer is here and the plans have been made, events organized and staff hired. The only thing left to do is deliver the program with the best team possible. How do you do that?

With a few simple rules to follow a camp director might find it easier to manage the team and get the most out of them…

1. Be a master at separating personal from professional. 2. Tell everyone the rules to the game. 3. Be honest and open with your team. 4. Be consistent. 5. Keep your goal in mind with all decisions.

Personal vs. Professional

This skill is the hardest part of directing camps. We are in an extremely emotional business where people get extremely close. We share intense time with one another and experience extreme emotional stress together managing other people.

It’s easy to get caught up in personal relationships and lose sight of the professional responsibilities. A camp director cannot afford to blur the line between personal and professional.

They may find themselves in a position of firing their best friend. It has happened. A director must uphold the standards to everyone, no matter who they are. To make it harder, a camp director is actually teaching this skill to 18-22 year olds, who are not used to it.

It’s great that a staff gets so close. But remember that the children’s experience and safety is more important than upsetting your friend because they didn’t get the time off they requested, or you didn’t let them slide on a rule they broke.

Allowing your personal feelings for people in the workplace to affect your decision making will cause you to lose much more than you gain, like respect of other staff, children’s experiences, confidence in your decisions, mass debates over the decisions you make, and finding yourself having to make case-by-case calls, thereby losing your consistency.

The old saying is that it’s lonely at the top. It’s true, but let’s not get extreme. It is lonely when it comes to having to use the responsibility you have been entrusted with.

It can be made easier if everyone knows the rules, then the decision to force a director to make the call is actually made by the staff.

Clear Rules

The best position to ever be in is when a counselor comes to see you after getting in trouble and says, “I did it, and I know what you have to do.”

Why is this the best position? Because they know without a doubt the consequences for their actions and don’t begrudge you for doing what they know you have to do. How do you get to this point? Tell everyone the rules of the game.

Start in staff training by handing out copies of your administrative policies and procedures. Make this a detailed series of rules that are no-brainers and what will happen if the counselor violates them. Have them sign this.

Remind them constantly of these rules, explain the meaning behind them and the expectation of behavior and standards you will be enforcing. Take time to run through these and some hypothetical situations to reinforce the understanding of your position or the position of the camp.

Alcohol is a huge issue in summer camp. Our policy is this:

“Consumption or storing of alcohol on camp property is not permitted. Working under the influence of alcohol, or drinking alcohol in the presence of children, shall be cause for dismissal. Consumption/and or possession of alcohol by minors or individual under the age of 21 years of age on or at any camp function is cause for dismissal.”

This is straight forward, but then come the hypothetical situations…

“What if on our time off a junior counselor comes to a party at my house and drinks with us?”

As a director you have to be prepared to explain your stance. We cannot control what staff gets into on their time off. We can only express our desire of standards and inform them of our position.

We terminate counselors who supply anyone under the drinking age with alcohol. How do we find out? Let’s be honest for a second… Are there really any secrets at camp?

Every camp I have worked with has handled issues like this in their own way. Whichever way a camp director chooses to go, let everyone understand. It will help you to manage with less resentment and fear.

Directors will actually see a raise in the confidence of the staff when they feel secure in knowing what they can and can’t do. It releases the fear of screwing up and getting fired.

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