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Leading People at SpringHill

There’s no other topic more written about, talked about, and blogged about in the entire world than leadership. It’s discussed, dissected, theorized, and analyzed in just about every facet in our society whether it’s government, business, education, church, or home.

Why? Because we believe that for any organization, from a family to the federal government, to be successful through making a positive difference in the world it needs leadership. Yet it’s also a term that’s used so much and in so many ways that people don’t always agree on exactly what it means, yet we all know it when we see it and know when it’s missing.

At SpringHill we’ve also identified “Leading People” as an essential personal quality and professional competency necessary for a person to have long-term success in our organization. To that end we’ve defined leadership at SpringHIll, including what it should look like, so we can move leadership out of the ambiguous into a more clarifying, and thus useful, description.

We see “Leading People” as requiring building and maintaining working relationships with those within and outside SpringHill. “Leading People” also requires excellent communication skills as well as building strong teams. Within this context a person needs to be able to effectively share responsibilities with others, then motivate and inspire them to be successful in those responsibilities by creating an environment where both individuals and teams succeed individually and together.

You see “Leading People” is so critically important at SpringHill because leadership is at the core of what we do when we create SpringHill Experiences (SHX’s). Because in every SHX we’re leading staff, including 100’s of summer staff, volunteers and, most importantly, our campers.

This is part 10 of 14 in a series of posts about what it takes to be successful at SpringHill.

Making Customers Feel Like Old Friends

You know it when you’ve interacted with a business or organization that has a serious focus on their customers and constituents. You feel as if you’ve interacted with someone who knows and understands you, your needs and wants. It’s almost like you’re an old friend. These are the organizations that you come back to over and over, and recommend to your family and friends.

These organizations have what we call at SpringHill a “Customer Focus”. And being customer focused isn’t just good for business; we believe its, plain and simple, the right way to treat people. Thus being “Customer Focused” is a critical quality all SpringHill staff must possess.

But we need to remember organizations are only customer focused if their employees and staff are customer focused, because it’s people who serve customers, design, build and deliver products and services, not organizations.

Now most of us know what “Customer Focus” looks like from the receiving end, but what does it look like from the giving end? What does a “Customer Focus” person do, how do they think, how is it expressed in their day-to-day work?

They dedicate themselves to exceeding customers’ expectations, which requires getting to know customers well enough to understand their expectations, needs, and wants. Then it’s using this knowledge to, not just meet expectations, but to do everything possible to exceed them, to surprise the customer, to make them feel like an old friend.

Finally, it’s important we understand who the customer is. It’s not just those who pay for our services but anyone who depends on us within or outside our organization. In other words, we all have customers. Our goal then should be to exceed the expectations of all our customers, not just the “paying ones”. And when we embrace that we all have customers and thus all need to have “Customer Focus” we’re creating the kind of organization that will make an enduring impact on the lives of others.

This is part 9 of 14 in a series of posts about what it takes to be successful at SpringHill.

Leading Others in the Most Important Things

If you’ve ever had someone invest in your life by helping you grow spiritually, assisting you in navigating the treacherous places where the eternal intersects with the temporal then you know the absolute necessity of having these kinds of people apart of your life.

As I look back on my life I’ve had a number of people who’ve invested in me spiritually, people with names like Neil, Wayne, Mark, Jack, Terry, and Steve. They’re all people who’ve cared for me and wanted to see me grow in the most important ways.

So as one who received such investment, I’m motivated to do the same for others. It’s one of the reasons I’ve chosen to work for an organization like SpringHill, because SpringHill creates experiences that facilitate this kind of investment by adults in the lives of children. It’s also why one of the personal qualities and professional competencies a person needs to possess to make an enduring impact on the lives of others through their work at SpringHill is what we call “Spiritual Leadership.”

“Spiritual Leadership” is the ability to mentor others, to help them grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ, and ultimately guide them to a life that honors God and expands His Kingdom. Spiritual leadership takes on many forms and can be expressed in many ways, from the ability to lead small groups, to one on one counseling, or teaching before large audiences. Even though the context of “Spiritual Leadership” may differ, the outcome is the same, helping others better live out their faith in Christ.

This is why SpringHill needs people who demonstrate “Spiritual Leadership”, because it’s through spiritual leadership that our mission’s fulfilled and young lives transformed for eternity.

This is part 8 of 14 in a series of posts about what it takes to be successful at SpringHill.

Being a People Centered Person

A significant part of being a contributing member of a community dedicated to achieving something great and enduring is being able to see the world through the eyes of others. It’s the ability to relate to where others are at so to know what it’s like to “walk in another’s shoes.” In my last post I wrote about one of the essential personal qualities and professional competencies a person needs to be successful at SpringHill is to be “Community Focused”, in other words, to be a team player.

But to be truly “Community Focused” a person also needs to demonstrate a quality we call “Compassion and Sensitivity”. It’s a personal quality and professional competency necessary for a person to demonstrate if they’re to make a long-term impact at SpringHill. We believe it’s not just enough to be committed to the mission and vision of SpringHill but to be committed to the people who work for the mission, who support the mission, and those for whom the mission serves.

A person who is compassionate and sensitive to others shows genuine concern for other’s welfare, sees and anticipates their needs, and seeks to build relationships with all kinds of people regardless of where they’re at spiritually, physically, intellectually, emotionally, or socio-economically. In other words, it’s being a person whose “people centered” that will find long-term success at SpringHill.

But it’s important to see that being compassionate and sensitive looks different in different people. And it’s also important to avoid the common belief that compassion and sensitivity is a personality type. Instead it’s an attitude accompanied by observable behaviors, in other words, it’s something a person does.

So we expect all our staff to demonstrate the qualities of “Compassion and Sensitivity” regardless of their personality, because it’s a necessary ingredient in being “Community Focused”, thus for making an enduring impact through their work at SpringHill.

This is part 7 of 14 in a series of posts about what it takes to be successful at SpringHill.

A Centered Life

Everyone centers their life on something. Whether it’s on a pursuit, purpose or goal, our lives become energized by our “center”. Some people center their life simply on surviving day by day, while others, on the opposite extreme, center their lives on consuming material goods, experiencing pleasure or living for excitement and highs. Yet others center their lives on an idea or a cause. But regardless of what it is, everyone’s life’s centered on something, something that drives them and gets them out of bed every day.

At SpringHill we expect our staff to be centered on a person – the person of Jesus Christ. Of all the personal qualities and professional competencies a person needs to have to make an ongoing, positive impact at SpringHill, this is the most important one, because it’s who we are and what we do. We call this quality “God Immersed”, which simply means that a person is Christ centered and thus living their lives in a Christ like way and from a Biblical perspective.

When you consider our mission and our core values this only makes sense. If our mission is to create life changing experiences where young people can know and grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ than our staff has to being growing in their own relationships with Christ. And if one of our organization’s highest values is “Jesus Christ and His message of grace”, than it needs to be a living value of our staff as well.

So what do we expect to see in a person’s life to know they’re “God Immersed”? It’s simply participating in such spiritual practices as prayer, Bible reading and study, as well as attendance and involvement in a local church. All of which leads to a Christ centered life that reflects Biblical and Kingdom values, and, in the end, multiplies the fruitfulness of our work.

This is part 5 of 14 in a series of posts about what it takes to be successful at SpringHill.

Always a Student – The Essential Need to Learn

When you learn, you grow and change, and when you grow and change, it’s almost always a result of learning. There’s an undeniable relationship between these concepts. So if a person or an organization wants to grow, whether it’s in a career, a relationship, or in their impact on people and the world, it almost always requires ongoing learning. Because the reality is growth and change will stall or burn out if not fueled by learning.

This is why one of SpringHill’s core values is to be a learning and mission-driven organization. Without learning we would not experience the necessary change required to grow in our influence, outreach and effectiveness in fulfilling our mission and achieving our long-term goals. As we often remind each other “if we’re not learning we’re dying.”

It’s also why one of the qualities and competencies a person needs to have long-term success at SpringHill is what we call “Personal Learning”. It’s that personal and professional curiosity and inquisitiveness which leads to continuous improvement in one’s self and in the organization.

Personal Learning is evident in people who read, listen to others, ask lots of questions, and seeks out other people and organizations to “go to school on”. It’s also evident in people who take mistakes, defeats, and crises and see them as opportunities to learn , grow, and change. Struggles are an ally to people who love to learn.

One of the tell-tale signs a person (and organization) embraces Personal Learning is that they’re humble. You see Personal Learning requires people who accept and acknowledge to others, and to themselves, that they don’t have it “all figured out” and never will.

So, as you can see, Personal Learning is an absolutely essential part of SpringHill, which also means it is an absolutely essential quality of our staff, board and volunteers, especially if, together, we’re to make an enduring impact on our world.

This is part 3 of 14 in a series of posts about what it takes to be successful at SpringHill.

The Beginning of SpringHill Indiana – A Reminder of God’s Working

This past weekend we had a SpringHill board meeting held at our Indiana camp.  Keith Rudge, our Indiana Operations Director, gave a devotion to kick off the meeting. In his devotion he shared this video he found packed away in his desk and thought it was a great illustration of God’s faithfulness, His timing and His direction in guiding our lives and our work.  It was an excellent way to start to a productive meeting.

 

Being a Part of Something Bigger Than Me

Somewhere early in my career is when I decided I wanted to work for something (organization or cause) that’s bigger than I am. I wanted to be a part of something that’s making a difference in the lives of people, making a difference in the world, and ultimately, making a difference in God’s Kingdom. But what I discovered was that just being a part of something bigger than me isn’t enough, nor, as I’ve also discovered, is it enough for most people.

What most people want to know is “what do I need to do to contribution to our organization’s success – the fulfillment of its mission and vision?” This question is the final question every organization that desires to make an enduring difference in the world needs to answer, not just for its self, but for the people who work, volunteer, and support the organization. As a good friend said to me recently “I want to know what piece of the SpringHill puzzle God wants to me to be”.

Unfortunately most organizations, including many times SpringHill, don’t always provide clear answers to the people who, not only want to be a part of something bigger than then themselves, but also want to make a meaningful contribution. Yet helping to bring job and role clarity becomes essential for the organization’s ultimate success, because it’s people who make visions and BHAGG’s reality.

At SpringHill we help staff, volunteers and others answer “what do I need to do to contribution?” by clarifying the answers to these simple but critical follow-up questions:

  • Where do I fit into the organization? Position, job title, team and reporting relationships
  • What am I responsible for? Defines the scope of the position
  • What do I do to meet my responsibilities? Goals and objectives (aligned with the answers to the other organizational questions)
  • What are the personal qualities do I need to fit within the team culture and be successful?  Defined leadership competencies
  • How will I know I’m being successful? Evaluations and performance appraisals

Helping people understand how they can contribute to an organization’s success may be the last question to answer, but it’s also the most important one.

This is part 6 of 6 in a series of posts about the questions every organization needs to answer to achieve their vision.

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?

The Tension in Strategic Planning

This month we’ve begun our annual work of updating the SpringHill strategic plan, or as we refer to it, our ministry plan. The process includes most of our staff and board at some level and culminates in our leadership team’s offsite annual planning meeting where we bring all the input and pieces together and update our plan.

And every year, during our annual planning offsite, we find ourselves in this tension between detailed calculated planning verses faith driven, visionary planning. This tension is particularly strong in Christian organizations where we “want to leave room for God” in our plans because we know He can do more than “we could ever ask for or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20).

But too often “leaving room for God” is an excuse for not doing the hard work of planning. We need to accept that planning clearly is a godly pursuit, the Scriptures are full of admonishment to “count the cost” and that “the noble man devises noble plans; and by noble deeds he stands” (Isaiah 32:8).

On the other hand, planning can quickly replace sensitivity to God’s leading and having the faith that can “move mountains”. This most often happens when we’ve create well thought out plans because we move our faith to our plans and away from the God who makes the plans a reality.

So how have we tried to reconcile this tension between planning and faith?

We’ve accept that we need both – it’s not an “either/or” proposition but a “both/and” (like many things of faith). We’re committed to prayerfully creating the very best plans we can, using the very best tools, knowledge, and insight available to us. Yet, at the same time, we prayerfully set long-term goals and vision that we can’t always calculate our way too, knowing we have to move forward in faith, trusting God will provide what we need when we need it.

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