Letters from Summer Camp | Gagen MacDonald

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Letters from Summer Camp

Jan 23, 2015

Our 12-year old son is away at summer camp. By no means a newbie to the sleep-away camp experience; this is, however, the first year that he will be gone for one month. Understandably daunted by the prospect of this length of time away from home (and from his electronic gadgets), we tried our best to prepare him to make the most of this time.

Within the first week we received seven letters from him — handwritten missives, protestations and pleadings for us to shorten his confinement. Our pre-departure conversations needed some reinforcement.

We had explained that the camp organizers have created a framework of activities that he can choose to do while at the camp; and that his counselors are there to see that he’s taking full advantage of what’s offered and giving him guidance on what he might want to do based on his interests. And then there was his role – taking accountability for his enjoyment by choosing and actively participating in the things he wants to do.

It’s not terribly different than the concept of “Let Go and Lead” –leading by empowering individuals to bring their own skills, passions and approaches to bear on outcomes. In the case of our camper, the outcome being having a fun camp experience.

It got me thinking about a client I’m working with, who’s about to introduce a new leadership model which identifies observable behaviors within a framework. They are confident that – once embraced by every level of the organization – this model will drive innovation and growth. Seems straightforward enough, doesn’t it?

Of course, until you consider the long-standing definitions of those behaviors, which may or may not align with the future intent. Or, the confusion that arises when you move from a traditional, patriarchal culture to one of empowerment and self-direction. Or, leaders who simply aren’t willing to let go of the old model.

It’s possible to get most everyone aligned with the business strategy and foster a culture of commitment and accountability. My client’s employing a thoughtful, deliberate approach that considers the following:

  • An internal communication strategy that drives a common understanding of the new model and its connection to delivering strategy
  • Supporting performance development processes linked to the new behaviors
  • Communications that inspires employees about their role and empowers them to act

Not to suggest that multi-national corporations are like 12-year olds, but my client has inspired us to employ a similar approach with our unhappy camper. We will remind him of the framework that his camp leaders’ created to help him have an amazing time in an incredible setting with some of his closest buddies. And, we will also remind him of his responsibility for his own fun — to lead himself and to take accountability for his time at camp.

/ Jan 23, 2015

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