Strive For Success

By the time I was 14 and had finished my first summer as a camp leader in training, I knew I wanted to be a camp director. It became one of my major life ambitions.

What kind of camp director do you want to be? Photo Courtesy Lambton United Church Centre

As I worked my way from counselor through senior-management, my leadership style naturally evolved.

But once I became the director, I realized that allowing leadership to take its natural course wasn’t really sufficient. My laid-back attitude toward my employees did work … but it wasn’t really serving staff members or the camp in the best way.

Thus began the journey of brainstorming, soul-searching, and attempting to learn from every camp supervisor I had ever encountered.

Did I want to be a “hands-on” director or spend more time in the office? Did I want to be friendly with staff members or keep them at an arm’s length?

No matter what type of director you may want to be … it’s worth considering the following:

Start Early

How you present yourself during the recruiting process, with the interview and the initial interactions with personnel, will quickly indicate what type of leader you will be.

Disorganization and general unprofessionalism not only set the tone for the summer, but also tend to indicate the type of staff members you are likely to recruit.

A strong, confident, and knowledgeable demeanor will attract similar employees.

Get Serious

Determine exactly what your role will be. Every director does things differently, and may even change his or her approach from season to season.

Take a careful inventory of your skills and weaknesses to gain an interesting insight on how to improve as a leader.

Part of my initial trouble in interacting with the staff was an inability to clearly define my role in the staff-training process. While ensuring that everyone participated in emergency drills and first-aid training, I overlooked how important it was to establish my role.

The more that staff members understand what the director does and how they will be treated, the easier it is on everyone.

Don't try to be your counselors' pal. © Can Stock Photo Inc. / monkeybusiness

After deciding on your role, figure out how to assert it. There has to be a plan of action. What do you want to achieve in staff interactions?

Next, share the plan. Tell staff members of the benefits of this new relationship and what you expect. Employees with this knowledge tend to be more confident and prepared for meetings with superiors, and thus more productive.

Maintain Appropriate Relationships

Sometimes a camp director may feel the need to be thought of as “cool” by the staff, to be accepted as one of the gang, just like during the “glory days” of camp.

It doesn’t work like that, no matter how much one tries; it just can’t, and more importantly–it shouldn’t.

Consider specific encounters with superiors during your own camping career. Did you want them hanging around when you were 17? A huge part of camp is giving staff members a taste of freedom from their parents, and to be generally responsible for themselves.

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