Leadership,  Living as a Leader

The Stupid Bucket and the Smart Bucket

In one of our last summer staff meetings two of our summer camp directors, Jason Hoffer and Matt Casburn, challenged our staff to finish the summer strong. They did it by using a simple but memorable illustration. They told our staff “everyone carries around two buckets – the ‘smart bucket’ and the ‘stupid bucket’ – and every day we can take something out of one of these two buckets.”

The question they asked was “which bucket will you grab from during the last days of camp, the stupid one or the smart one?” The message to our summer staff was clear – you’ve been taking from the smart bucket all summer long, so don’t start grabbing from the stupid bucket in the last weeks of camp, meaning don’t start using poor judgment and making poor choices when all summer long you’ve used good judgment and made good choices.

And Matt and Jason, being the leaders they are, made this brief dialogue funny and, more importantly, memorable. So memorable in fact that, over the final days of camp, I heard numerous summer staff half-jokingly and half-seriously saying to each other “don’t take from the stupid bucket” or “let’s not do a stupid bucket thing”. Some of our staff even bought two buckets to remind every one of the two options they had before them.

It’s a sign of great leadership when you can give your team a warning or directive that isn’t threatening or demeaning, but instead funny, memorable, and effective because it gains your team’s commitment, not just their compliance. And even better is when the message is continuously repeated by your team creating a climate of self accountability and encouragement in making the right choices.

So what bucket will you take from this week?

One Comment

  • Shawn (Ade) Miller

    Mike – sounds like you’ve got a great leadership team there. Nice job with the buckets–encourage you all to keep up the good work!

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