What I Learned from Summer Camp

Summer camp is the highlight of many kid’s summers – no mom or dad, wearing the same clothes three days in a row and candy every night before bed.  What could be better? Our son just got home from a great week and made many new friends.  While we were at parent pick-up, I realized that they are doing some things right that organizations should remember.

Here are a few tips that leaders and organizations can learn from summer camp:

You Need a Cabin – Cabins are home base.  This is the place the campers go back to each night for fun and for Bible study.  They do skits together and evidently have a lot of inside jokes.  There is pride for their cabin and the campers brag when they are recognized as “best cabin” or “winner of Race Day”.  The bottom line is they are a team and count on each other for friendship, to excel and have fun.  This camaraderie builds commitment, pride and feeling part of something important.

Camp Counselors Matter – These Camp Counselors are college kids who are the glue to a great summer camp.  They are more than just responsible for getting their campers to the events and to pick up the cabin, they are role models and understand that each kid is important and an individual.   Camp Counselors are trained on how they create a great experience for the campers, not just the schedule and their “to do’s”.  They have an incredible combination of leadership, mentoring and fun.  My son still quotes the counselors and looks to their example even now that he is back home.  And, it’s an honor to be a Camp Counselor, after all.

Meet More than Your Home Boys – At camp, even if you go with your best friends from home, during the day you have to mix with campers from other cabins.  This is how you get out of your comfort zone and build relationships you didn’t have before.  It helps new campers make new friends.  And, because the camp has people from different places, you might just meet someone really interesting that you wouldn’t have hung out with at home.

First Impressions are Big – When you drive up to camp, there are welcome signs, the Camp Counselors are waving and greeters are assigned to be sure that parents and campers feel welcome and know where to go.  When campers get to their cabin, the Camp Counselors are there and already know where the boys are from, their names and have something fun planned as soon as they arrive.  This enthusiasm and fun welcome set the tone for a great week.  It also helps build the camper’s confidence to really take part and get out there to meet other campers.

Remember the Blob – Camps have learned that you have to do some things just because they are fun.  The Blob is a big trampoline in the lake or pool that campers jump on and pop off another camper and they both end up in the water.  This is fun and a highlight of the day.  Even on a busy day, a few minutes of fun can keep up the energy and keep campers happy and cool.

Organizations can learn a few tips from a great camp. It’s all about getting the basics right and remembering that leaders are more than organizers; they bring out the best in their ‘cabin’.  People need to feel part of something – a “cabin” is a way to feel that connection to the organization.  You have one opportunity to make a first impression with a new joiner to the company or a group as it  will matter for a long time.  Create groups or situations so that new bonds are formed across your business, as these relationships create new ideas and collaboration that might not happen otherwise.  And, finally, don’t forget the blob.

Patti Johnson is the CEO and founder of PeopleResults.  She can be contacted at PJohnson@www.people-results.com