Fall Reset for Camp Leadership

It’s widely known that the summer camp season wipes out even physically strong and emotionally resilient leaders. Camp leaders work long, hard hours doing physically demanding tasks and supporting staff and campers through growing and sometimes challenging situations. It’s rewarding but demanding work.

According to Authentic Recognition, “Besides the performance and tasks completed, there is a lot of personal and emotional investment put into a project by each person on the team.”

In addition to working the summer season, there are steep expectations (from yourself and others) that when September comes, you’ll be fully focused on what’s next. Frankly, that can be tough. That expectation sets you up to be behind from the get-go. 

Think of it like this. When campers move from activity to activity throughout the day, they require transition times. It might be a quick five-minute walk from one thing to the next, or a debrief with their counselor or a song to reset.

We are adults. But that doesn’t mean we don’t also need that transition time to take a deep breath, debrief, and then move on. So why do we try to rush from one season to the next? 

This year, consider a new approach.

I hope that when September hits, you’ve had time to take a week or so off after the summer camp season. Your body and brain need rest time. Then, consider the next three weeks as a reset season.

Week 1 – Summer Debrief

Gather all those on your year-round team. Take intentional time to ask questions and capture all responses. 

  • What worked?
  • What didn’t work?
  • What do we let go of?
  • Where do we need to forgive?
  • What do we need to capture so that we can do better next summer?

Be sure to capture notes and put them in a place that is accessible for this team. Do this activity at the beginning of the week and then spend the week wrapping up any loose ends.

Here’s the critical part. When this is complete – bless it, put a bow on it, and ship it. Then, it’s time to move on.

Week 2 – Fall Dreaming

You can only do this stage well if you did the summer debrief well. If team members bring summer baggage into this conversation, you may need to discuss this with them further.

Encourage your team to come to this conversation with an open mind. Limit the “yeah-buts” and “we’ve done that before.” Instead, consider what might be possible in this new year. If you run into an idea that the team is struggling to navigate, write down the facts, assumptions, and hopes. This simple task can help to eliminate guessing, exaggerating, and some speculation.

Some ideas to consider:

  • Go off-site
  • Pair up with another camp or similar organization and share ideas
  • Get out on your site – pair up for a series of walking meetings. 
  • If possible, chunk discussions by mission or strategic directive areas. Example: If your latest strategic plan pushes you to consider more adult retreats, leadership training, and partnership development with local agencies, brainstorm these things one at a time. 

Once you’ve captured ideas and energy around the Fall season, could you step back and let it ruminate? This time can help bring clarity to what best aligns with your organization’s mission and vision. So, for the remainder of this week, work to develop the best ideas more fully. Notice if doors open for these ideas or roadblocks seem to keep popping up. Please don’t assume that either of these things is your answer to whether or not to move forward, but note that they provide insight you need to consider.

Week 3 – Now What?

Now that you’ve had time to sit with these new ideas, it’s time to create an action plan. It can be tough to move from dreaming to the reality that you have limits on time and money, and not every idea is possible. So work together to pick the ideas that best meet your mission and strategic directives, are doable, and excite your teams the most.

With each idea you decide to implement:

  • Create full marketing plans and budgets 
  • Invite others into the conversation
  • Create a summary report to share with the board and donors

Sure, you can do September like you always have – half-awake, with everyone in various moods and attitudes. Or, you can work together as a team to do an intentional reset so that you set yourselves up for a successful Fall/Winter season! 

Of course, if you need help facilitating this process, our team at Kaleidoscope may be able to help!

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