Guest Column - September 2013
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Camp Leadership Tools
Working Toward Positive Camp Transformation

By Lisa Rudrud, Ed.D.

Conflict happens. There is always going to be a difference of opinion, way of life, a different way of looking at things and a plethora of different experiences from each camp employee that is hired. How the conflict is handled will dictate the outcome of the situation, setting the camp up for a season of either success or frustration. Skills for the camp director to regularly practice, as well as instill in employees, can make all the difference in the world.

There are three key skills that can help create a collaborative environment that will assist in bringing about a successful camp season. First of all, it is important to embrace the concept of universal cohesion rather than individual gain. This means letting go of the ego. The second step includes releasing attached thoughts, feelings and beliefs. And lastly, be positive; change the negative to a positive. The end result? Doing everything for the greater good. This is not a complete list of key behaviors, but they are the beginning practice of true group cohesion for the success of the camp. Looking at the issue of the ego will be the first task.

Camp employees bring different experiences and possess different strengths and weaknesses. As a staff member or camp director, it is helpful to figure out those differences and utilize them to the benefit of camp. A person's ego can obstruct a successful camp season. For example, a new camp counselor with fresh ideas may be viewed as a threat by the veteran camp counselor. The new counselor may want to implement new ideas while the veteran counselor wants to do what has been done successfully in the past. In this situation, the camp director can help the staff members recognize each other's strengths and find common ground by understanding how an egocentric view can hinder a successful camp season. It is important to remind staff that their mission is to act for the greater good of the camp by comprehending that personal desires may not always reflect the desires of others. When people approach an issue in an egocentric mind frame, it is often difficult to see the bigger picture.

The first step in handling this situation is to let go of egotistical thinking. A camp director must step in and remind the staff that it is not about them and that they need to let go of their ego. Once a person let's go of the ego, they are better equipped to see the big picture and the real issue at hand. In this case, it is the success of the camp season.

The next step after letting go of the ego is to let go of attached feelings or thoughts and be willing to open the door to other ideas. When we are faced with conflict, we have the power to deal with it. We can do this by accepting the situation and doing nothing more about it, we can get so angry that we explode, or we can change the way we react to the situation, thus creating a new behavioral pattern. In other words, let go of attached thoughts, feelings and beliefs.

It is a natural response to become addicted to the same way of reacting, and the same problems continue to arise. Albert Einstein said it best when he defined insanity: "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." At the workplace, when a situation is causing us to feel angry, staying angry will not help us, and we end up giving power to the person behind our angry feelings. Thus the angry person is the one who suffers. To end the suffering, we must become unattached to the situation, unattached to the same way we usually react and try a new approach.

We have the power to change. Our ability to change will define our situation. So, if you want to end the conflict, you will have to change your thought process by letting go of the attached thought or thoughts. This is not an easy concept to embrace and will take a lot of practice. However, with time it will make for a more successful camp season. Another step in creating a cohesive working environment is to be positive. This goes hand-in-hand with letting go of attached thoughts.

The task of being positive is to transform all negative thoughts into positive thoughts. Like letting go of attached thoughts, this task can be difficult, especially if being negative is a dominant trait in a person's psyche. One of my mentors, Tracy Jennings-Hill, a yoga teacher offers a simple phrase to handle negative thoughts: "Isn't it great that…?" Try replacing all negative thoughts or statements with "Isn't it great that…" This simple phrase will immediately bring people into positive thinking.