How Real Camp Issues Can Empower & Strengthen Staff

"HINTS" from Camp Consultant Joanna Warren Smith 

Most end of the summer staff assessments are mitigated by the good times, emotions, a sense of relief and exhaustion.  In retrospect, real issues were managed and as a result, are minimized.  This speaks positively about your team’s ability to persevere, but it obscures the problems which if fixed, could move your operation from good to GREAT.
I see this all the time as I travel during the summer from camp to camp.  While I am on-site, we address real issues and generate immediate fixes or at least improvements.  When we reconvene in the fall to discuss other critical items that we had identified, those issues suddenly become ‘no big deal’.
Don’t be fooled by the passage time.  There’s a great deal to be gained by determining your ‘Heat of Battle’ issues and holding yourself accountable to fix them this season or in the fall.


Empower your Leadership Team.  Challenge them to help move your culture from Good to GREAT by identifying key issues that get in the way of providing the best possible experience to your campers and their parents.  Encourage, motivate and hold all accountable to be objective about program, logistics, facility and communication issues.

Provide a collection methodology.  Some shops use text snap polls, others utilize a huge white board and the ‘old’ suggestion box still works.  My preference is definitely the white board in a ‘secure’ place with contributors noting their names and entry dates.  Taking pictures of each completed board allows for a chronological storage of information.

Prioritize urgent elements.   Critical elements that must be fixed right away and ‘no brainers’ that simply require some fine tuning, should be addressed immediately.

Brainstorm possible resolutions.  Every couple of weeks, bring your team together to have at the entries.  Use a non-contributing scribe to take notes and power your way through the items on each list in 15-20 minutes and be done.  In the fall, you’ll use these notes to inform your resolutions and new protocols.

Provide a context for changes.  Even if you made a horrendous mistake, focus on your ‘ongoing quest for excellence or your intention to provide the ‘best possible experience’ for each child.

Use the changes to your advantage.  If a revised protocol is internal, inform full-time and seasonal staff as soon as you commit to the new manner of doing business to influence employment or return the next summer.  Likewise, if it is a program issue that positively impacts campers, let kids know early in the recruitment season to influence retention.  If it’s a parental issue like communication or opening day logistics, post it everywhere and include it with ‘kid impact items’ so parents have the full story, will return and eagerly tell others.

Are you up for the Challenge?  It’s a small effort for great rewards.      

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Categories: Camp Resources, Staff Training