Seven things that successful directors do nearly every day!

Much of what a director does speak louder than the words he uses. Engaged directors have their thumb on the heart beat of camp; he knows who, what, when, and where’s of camp and he know how much time it takes to accomplish projects and he knows how much it costs.  He knows enough about the staff that he is able to assign the right personality and skill set to the right job.

  1. Work the low jobs.  Not the ones on the ground, but the ones that entry-level staff and even temporary high school workers might work.  I know I am a very expensive dish-return-guy; but I want to stand at the dish return window and greet as many guests as I can.  I want the younger staff members who have busted their tail to get out the meal to see that even office people want to be involved in this thankless job of cooking and cleaning up.   This simple little action screams, “We are on the same team, working towards the same mission.”  Sitting in the office creates the “we against us,” mentality which eventually wears away at staff unity.  I purposely dress down everyday knowing that I will probably be outside helping on some dirty project. (the exception to dressing down… when I know I have a meeting).
  2. Create urgency in projects. There are times that directors need to apply the push.  Not every day needs to be a push-it day; but there needs to be a time when a director jumps into the fray and says, “We are going to get this done by this date; we have promised this building by June 1, and we are going to finish it by June 1.”  We were working on a second chapel a couple of years ago; we had promised a young couple we would have this chapel done for their special wedding day.  We finished planting and mulching the flower bed in front at 2 p.m. on that Friday; they arrived at 3 p.m.  We pushed right up to the last-minute and we finished.  Without a sense of urgency, staff can sometimes use excuses when the target date is not met and guests are disappointed.  A “yes we can” attitude generated by a director can accomplish more than people think they are capable of doing.
  3. Help prioritize staff responsibilities to the big picture instead of letting staff do “as they deem best”. Staff arrives at camp in the morning with their projects for the day in mind.  They know what they hope to accomplish.   Fix a tractor, paint a lodge room, work on curriculum, or clean the kitchen.  Most of the time I see and know a bigger picture; I know that the retreat group is arriving on Thursday of this week instead of Friday.  I know that the retreat group won’t care whether the tractor is fixed or not, but I know they will care if the roads have pot holes and the grass needs to be mown.  Tractor repair gets put on hold in order that we are first ready to meet the retreat’s needs; people always trumps projects.
  4.  Act like you own the place and are paying staff from your own personal checkbook.  It does make a difference when you approach staff assignments if you think you are paying them yourself, instead of the organization.  I make sure every person is needed on the project, and if someone is extra and is standing around, I reassign them quickly to go elsewhere.  The D.O.T. has 3 guys to watch one guy dig a hole; we just dot workers have one guy dig the hole and the three other guys are on a different project.  Don’t let the idea that “he is only being paid minimum wage” allow someone to slack off; he is hired to do something, so make him do it.
  5. Touch base with every staff every day.  We only have about 25 regular year-a-round employees, but rarely is the day that I have not had some type of conversation with them.  Face to face times gives me a general sense of the mood of the staff.  It helps me see their expressions regarding responsibilities for the day.  I hear what has been accomplished, and I hear what is ahead for the day.  If they have questions or concerns, this gives them an informal time to clarify a situation with me without scheduling a meeting.  Consequently, I have very few office meetings with staff.  I approach them on their turf and not mine.
  6. Correct and redirect when needed, but have a short memory to general screw ups and mistakes.  Allow the staff to fall forward a few times without them feeling fearful.  Expect mistakes, miscues, bad choices, and for staff not to follow your train-of-thought regarding your vision. Mistakes happen; be there with a helping hand and a solution when someone falls.
  7. Constantly use the We word instead of the I word.  Never act like you built the entire camp yourself, but talk about how the team of employees accomplished hosting the weekend or planning or building a new building.  Never refer to the staff that you oversee as “my” staff; refer to them as our staff.  Unless you are personally paying them from your own checkbook, they are not your staff.  I see it as an ego issue when a director talks about my staff.

John Maxwell writes in his book, The 360 Degree Leader, “The whole secret is to think influence, and not position.”  Concentrate on enlarging your influence and worry less about your position as the director.  Positional directors are bosses; influencing directors are leaders.

2 thoughts on “Seven things that successful directors do nearly every day!

  1. Hi Earl,
    It looks like we have a lot in common! I, too, am a camp director (although you’ve got a couple of years on me…almost 20!! hahaha)
    I agree with everything you’ve written so far, especially #1- getting down and dirty to set an example for the staff, that no job is too meanial – in fact I believe that there are some jobs that I wouldn’t ask my staff to do at all (there’s a hilarious story about me climbing into a dumpster, perhaps that’s for a future blog post!)
    Anyway, just wanted to say hello and that I’m looking forward to future posts.


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