I love Wednesdays. 

During the day, Susie Ma’am and I meet with each of the three Senior Camper groups: those who just finished 9th grade (7-11 and 007), 10th grade (CATS and 008) and 11th grade (SCATS and 009).  In these talks, we discuss a wide variety of topics.  In some, we talk about ways to improve their leadership and interpersonal skills.  Other times the topic is intentionality and living a life of passion and service.

As I have said before, it is wonderfully encouraging to see young people who are willing to work hard and to strive for service.  While articles will tell us that the Millennial Generation is lazy and self-absorbed, I see a much more inspirational group of teens.

But that is not the only reason I love Wednesday.  Wednesday is also Dance Night.

Camp dances are odd, quirky and delightfully inclusive, not at all like the school dances of my youth.  At the typical school dance, the goal was to persuade the right person to dance with you.  If you did not have enough dances with other people, the event felt like a failure.

At camp, the dances are more like performance art on a large scale.  OK, “art” is a wild exaggeration.  It is silly and often awkward, but almost everyone is doing some kind of dance-like activity.  Some campers are dancing in a group with their cabin and counselor (this is the favorite of 8-9 year-old girls).  Others are doing the “Robbie” – following Robbie Sir in his ultra-remedial but funny dance steps.  Others are forming conga lines.

Oh, and a few are dancing in pairs.  But they are clearly the minority.

Virtually everyone has fun being active to music – laughing and showing off.

But there is yet another reason I love Wednesday.

We have our weekly counselor meeting.

A few years ago, I was discussing organizational effectiveness with a friend that is an international consultant.  During our chat, he shared a thought that really stuck with me:

“I do not like hiring “problem solvers”.  Don’t get me wrong, they get work done, but once they solve their problems, they are quick to point out everyone else’s problems.  When you are a problem solver – you are looking for problems.  That can be demoralizing and weaken an organization.

Instead, I value people who create situations in which problems are unlikely to arise.”

I asked him what he meant.  He explained that managers create an environment that inspires people to excel rather than one that discourages people from doing poorly.

His thoughts reminded me of what I learned about training killer whales.  One of my former counselors is now one of Seaworld’s top whale trainers.  She told me this, “If a whale does something wrong, you cannot hit it on the nose with a rolled up newspaper.  It is too big to train like a dog.  Instead, you wait for behavior that you want to see and reward that.”

These ideas led us to create the Wednesday night counselor meeting. No one is off tonight, so it is a great time to get together.  First, the counselors put their campers to bed after the dance.  Then several members of the leadership team and the Senior Campers keep an eye on the cabins as the counselors come to our counselor lounge for the meeting.

The meeting is a celebration of our culture.  We break it into three segments.

  1. Shout-outs.  Counselors acknowledge and praise each other for extraordinary work with campers and other counselors.  This has several effects.  First, the praise helps create a culture of appreciation.  Second, the specific examples gives other counselors ideas of ways to improve.  Finally, the shout-outs create a positive atmosphere for the staff.
  2. Tigers and Tigresses.  Each week, we announce three outstanding counselors who most exemplified excellence the previous week.  They are the Tigress (outstanding female counselor) the Tiger (outstanding male counselor) and the Outstanding Activity Instructor.  For each award, a member of the leadership team does a formal introduction.  These intros are like mega-shout-outs with the leadership team member giving very explicit examples of excellence.
  3. Finally, a few of the directors will share an inspirational thought or two with everyone.  We want to wrap up the week on a positive note that will send them into the next days with excitement.

Former counselors often write us to say how much they miss these meetings.  As they have gone other places, many miss the uplifting environment of camp.

The only thing bad about this particular Wednesday is the fact that it means that we are halfway done with camp!  It does not seem like we have been here that long, but we clearly have.   I guess we can just focus on having great and safe second half of camp!

Steve Sir

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