Go to camp enough times and nearly every camper will pick a favorite counselor. Someone they look forward to seeing every time they show up, and has watched them grow from a confused newbie to a confident veteran. As a director, you can’t be playing favorites, but you can work to build an environment in which everyone feels like they stand out. There are several ways to go about this, but they almost all start with…
Getting to Know Each Other. During orientation or counselor-in-training weeks, you likely interact with your staff several times a day. Using this time to practice names and establish yourself will pay serious dividends later that summer. Maintaining authority is important, but taking the time to go a little deeper shows the counselors you care about them as individuals and not just as employees.
A Consistent Chain of Command. Nothing is more irritating than starting a task, suddenly being switched to another, than being berated for not sticking with the first. Issues like this occur when people in charge do not communicate with each other, which is quickly solved with a chain of command. Making it exceptionally clear who should be contacted when keeps events running smoothly while keeping some degree of independence.
Big Goals/Small Goals. In the average camp week, there are countless small jobs that need your attention. Together, they make up the machinery that keeps everything running smoothly. Acknowledging when these jobs are done well recognizes the people responsible and places them into the larger framework. With everyone on the same page, they can all reach for the same goal: a memorable camp experience.
Letting Go. It can be tempting to check up on your counselors regularly with advice and recommendations. While being present is good, and playing an active role is better, micro-managing is not. There comes a time after training when it is ultimately up to the staff to prove themselves. They’ll likely perform better with their earned freedom, and you can always be there to help and encourage when needed.
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