The weather report was calling for heavy rain beginning about midnight. It was our 5th day on the AT, and my son, MD, and I were standing outside one of the many hostels along the trail. MD’s plan called for us to keep hiking further up the trail and stay at a rustic camp spot. But because of the weather report we had to decide – stick with the plan and keep hiking, or stay at the hostel?
As I mentioned in my last post, MD had a well thought out plan for our trip. He knew where we would camp each night, how far we’d walk each day, where we’d leave our car and how we would get to the starting point. He was even thoughtful enough to send me a copy of the plan before we left so I’d be fully in the loop.
But unfortunately I didn’t look at his itinerary very closely (actually not at all) nor did I do any research about where we’d be hiking, what places we’d pass, even what the names of our planned campsites. There was no excuse for me not having a clue about this section of the AT, with MD’s written plan and all the details about every section of the AT readily available on-line and in books. So there I was standing in front of the hostel, with no clue, trying to help us make this decision.
Late in the day, after deciding to keep hiking, we found ourselves stumbling around in the light of dusk, trying to find this remote campsite. I was once again little help because I just wasn’t familiar with the details of the trail or the plan.
In other words I didn’t do my homework as good leaders (and followers) must do.
You see, when leaders don’t do their homework they can’t contribute to their team’s decision quality, potentially hindering success. In our case, it all turned out fine because of MD’s good plan. But what I did by not doing my homework was lay all the responsibility for our trip’s success on my son’s shoulders. That wasn’t right or fair. Because I was a part of the trip I owed it to him to have done my homework so when the circumstances called for it I could help us make the best decisions possible.
The lesson learned? Good leaders and followers must do their homework so, the situation calls for it; they’re ready to help their teams make the best decisions possible.
This weekend I watched our SpringHill Michigan team perform during our second Winter Teen Retreat of 2013. And frankly, it seemed like it was our seventh retreat because it went so smoothly. Yet I know this didn’t just happen, instead it was the result of our team’s good work before the first retreat.
So what was that good work our team did leading them to perform at a mid-season level in our second weekend? Well our team took four intentional and necessary steps to be ready. First, they created a plan, second they prepared, and then they practiced before they ever played the first Winter Retreat.
Let’s take a closer look at the four steps our team took look:
Planning: plans require setting measurable goals and then mapping out in detail how to achieve these goals.
Preparation: preparation is where the identification and the gathering of all the resources necessary to successfully work a plan takes place. A plan without resources is just a dream.
Practice: once the necessary resources are in hand then practice and rehearsal provides insight into what needs to be re-planned and what resources are still needed. It also builds the confidence and habits required to win. This step is the one most often skipped, yet as any coach knows, without practice a team will not be ready for the game.
Play: playing is the outcome of the first three steps. And, as coaches know too well, how the team plays is 100% dependent on the game plan, the preparation, and most importantly, the practice a team’s had before the game.
And so, because our team worked through the first three steps before taking the fourth, this second retreat went as we’d expect our seventh one to go, which a good for our team, but even better for our campers.
The hardest part in painting a room is the prep work. Prep includes all the things I dread so much in painting – taking down pictures and then patching the walls, taping the trim, moving and covering the furniture, and finally cutting in all the edges with a brush. Only after the preps competed do you get to use the roller. And using the roller is fun because you get a lot done in a short period. But the prep, on the other hand, is just plain hard and tedious work.
A friend who farms for a living reminded me of this fact recently. We were both sharing how busy our springs are as we prepare for our big summer seasons. He said that he always felt that farming was like painting a room, spring was the prep and summer was the rolling of the paint.
It’s also describes of our work at SpringHill. Starting around April 1 we’re kicking it into high gear doing our final prep for the summer. I always tell people that spring prep is busier, more stressful and more pressure filled than actually running of summer camp – if we do a good job of prepping. And that’s a key “if”. Because to have a smooth summer, like painting, requires doing a great job in prep. The better the prep, the easier and better the painting, the better the spring, the smoother and better summer camp will be.
So the SpringHill staff is in the middle of prepping – hiring our last staff, filling our last camp spots, making sure our property, facilities and equipment is ready, finalizing training, and completing our programs and curriculum. But when the preps done, we’ll get to paint, that is, we’ll get to provide life transforming experiences to over 20,000 campers, and that makes all the prep worth it.
For over twenty years Michael Perry has made it his mission to bring young people closer to Christ through his Bible study publications, his capacity as the President and CEO of SpringHill, and his recent book, Experience = Everything. Over the last fifty years, SpringHill has changed over half a million lives—proving that it is more than just camp, or a place, SpringHill is a transformative experience.