Last year my New Years’ Resolution was to make use of Scott Arizala’s wisdom about unloading buses. As a camp director for years he had been frustrated by the lack of coherence and organization at his camp as kids arrived on buses and their stuff was carted to their cabins. While the kids were doing get-to-know-you activities and eating dinner, the bags would all be brought to cabins. One or two kids would “lose” their stuff for hours every week.
Scott hated how unwelcome it made the kids feel when they walked into their cabin and couldn’t find their bag. For years he would remind staff on change day to be careful with the bags, but would spend his day all over camp while someone else coordinated the bag moving. It all changed when he got in the face of one young counselor who had made a mistake and the counselor cheekily replied: “If you care so much about the bags, why don’t you do it.”
So for the rest of the summer and all the years since, Scott has directed camp from the parking lot on change days. Personally welcoming every camper, and making sure no one’s stuff gets lost. It may be a little trickier to deal with problems that arise with just a radio and a quick wit, but the kids feel welcome.
The lesson he taught (and I tried to internalize) was twofold: As a manager you have limited time, you can’t be in charge of everything, and have to balance which things you do based on what needs to get done and what will give you satisfaction to complete. Secondly and more importantly, you will get better results from people if you realize that they may not care about the same things you do and calibrate your leadership accordingly.
Scott had many solutions available to him, and likely tried some or all of these:
- He could have added an object lesson to his staff training by having several of his staff’s possessions get “lost” en route to a staff trip and then getting them to talk to the rest of staff about what that felt like (thus increasing staff motivation to do a good job with the bags).
- He could have created or helped another staff member create a more organized method for bag moving – like drawing chalk lines in a grid on the pavement for each cabin (thus adding agency to a staff member).
- He could have organized the registration communication with parents to include a request for color coded tape/ribbon on each bag depending on the child’s cabin (thus showing parents his camp cared how their possessions were treated).
In the end, he chose to take charge of the task himself. This past year, I tried hard to listen to myself when I got bitchy and either take charge of the project or task that was making me upset, try out an alternate method for fixing it like mentioned above, or let it go.