Building a Strong Staff Team - Part II Staff Behaviour

Last week we started this series on Building a Strong Staff Team. Being part of a nurturing community and developing friendships as part of a close-knit team can be one of the most rewarding things about working at camp. As Camp Directors and leaders it is our job to ensure our team is strong through setting clear expectations, offering encouragement and leading by example.

In Part I – Setting Expectations we reviewed the importance of setting clear expectations on all aspects of working at camp for new and returning staff members. We also covered the importance of staff policies and manuals as well as professionalism at camp and the benefits of teaming up new staff with your trusted returning staff members.

Although it was briefly touched upon in Part I, we will dig a little deeper in the topic of setting expectations for staff behaviour both on and off camp property. We will also give you some ideas for discussing behaviors and creating a Staff Mission Statement.  These discussions can easily double as excellent team-building exercises during staff training.

Staff Behaviour at Camp

It is important to have open discussions about staff behaviour during your staff orientation and training sessions. Share your expectations for your staff’s behaviour during camp as well as off camp property. This is also a good opportunity to engage your staff into open discussion, allowing them to brainstorm and share ideas with each other in a nurturing environment.

During staff training ask your staff how they would define  a good leader or an ideal camp staff member. Have a flip chart or large poster sized piece of paper at the front of the room and invite them to write down traits and behaviours that would contribute to good leadership and a positive role model for campers and other staff. Ask your staff if they completely agree with the traits and behaviours on the list or if there is something they should add. Once you have a list you and your staff agree with (feel free to add some expectations of your own if they were not mentioned) have each staff member sign the back of the list, showing their commitment to these attributes.

Have this list posted somewhere your staff will see it throughout the summer like a staff lounge or meeting room to remind them of the type of person they should always strive to be. Make sure they know that these behaviours are no longer negotiable and that they have committed to them.

Staff Behaviour Off Camp Property

When I was a young and eager 18 year old camp staff member, I remember our Camp Director discussing his expectations for the staff’s behaviour outside of camp property.

“Please don’t wear your camp t-shirt in public while doing something inappropriate,” he said. “Actually, please don’t do anything inappropriate at all!”

Your staff needs to know that while they work for camp they are representatives for your organization to the public. Even if they are hanging out at the mall on their day off they still need to be mature representatives of camp and should continue to meet your camp’s expectations for behaviour. They need to know how their behaviour outside of camp affects the team at camp.

For example, if they are out in public and a camper’s parent sees them smoking, swearing and joking with their friends about inappropriate things...how comfortable will that parent feel leaving their child at camp the next week with that cabin leader? Or, if they leave camp property during a break and drink alcohol and an accident happens when they return to camp...how can they defend themselves to leadership and parents?

All of your expectations, for both on and off camp property, must be explained to each staff member during the interview process and then repeated at staff training. Make sure everyone knows what the consequences are if they break policy. Give verbal warnings if staff step out of line and if the problem continues follow through with the consequences you have already laid out.

Team Building Exercise:  Developing a Staff Mission Statement

While most camps have an overall camp mission statement, it is a good idea to create one specifically for your staff. Developing a Staff Mission Statement can also be a great team-building activity during staff training. It gives you the opportunity to have open discussion with your team, talk about common goals, and expectations. Remember that not all of your staff will be familiar with what a mission statement is. Be sure to explain the purpose and importance of developing a Staff Mission Statement.

Break your staff into 3 to 4 groups depending on the size of your team. Make sure each group has a good mixture of staff from different areas of camp (kitchen, activity leaders, maintenance, programming, etc). Have them work together to define three goals they want to work on throughout the summer season. Have your staff regroup and share their goals with the entire team.

From here your team can discuss everyone’s suggestions and narrow the ideas down to three main goals. From these three goals create a Staff Mission Statement and have a vote to make sure everyone agrees with it. When you have your statement, post it around camp for all to see!

Stay tuned for Part III of Building a Strong Staff Team. We will discuss empowering your team through communication, being a strong role model , and how to show your staff you appreciate their hard work.