I am Approachable because of Summer Camp
A camp is a business. The camp organization may not always visually look like a business that operates out of a tall office tower, but there are some similarities between the two.
In any business, there are junior employees, mid-level employees, and senior employees (who are sometimes business owners or camp directors). One common problem felt by the junior employees is that they want to do good work for their bosses without looking like they need too much coaching. Not only do they want to look good (perhaps it is more so avoiding looking “stupid”), they are also sometimes afraid of the senior employees, who have lots of experience and knowledge that make them experts in their field.
In staff evaluations at camp, the area staff (senior staff) would regularly hear feedback that encouraged them to be a little more approachable and open to the CITs. This was sometimes strange to hear as we thought we were always open, friendly, and available for all staff to approach us. I’ll ask this question then: Were we, as senior staff, not as approachable as we should have been, or were the junior staff just too shy and scared to approach us?
At the time I always thought the correct answer was the latter. I do believe both senior and junior employees need to work together to create an environment that is safe and accommodating for everyone. When the junior employee can feel more confident knowing the senior person is available and open to listen and support, they are more likely to approach that person.
Camp taught me this lesson about the employee hierarchy and the communication challenges that sometimes exist. I am still confident that camp is the friendliest place on earth, yet I do recognize, from my own experiences as a young counsellor, that it can be scary to talk to a more experienced and popular senior counsellor. We sometimes get tricked into thinking the senior staff will ask us to do stuff for them, when really they are looking for us junior folks to show initiative and volunteer to help out or ask if anything needs to be done.
It might only take a quick interaction, initiated by the senior staff while entering the dining hall to say “Hey, anytime you have something on your mind or any question, come talk to me”.
Lead by example. Become approachable by approaching.
Last weekend I launched my book “The Cabin Path: Leadership Lessons Learned At Camp” and I invite you to grab a copy for yourself at www.cabinpath.ca!