This past weekend my family and I went camping with 8 other families. The children, with ages ranging from infant to 12 years old, far outnumbered the adults. There were more boys than girls, however the girls made up for it when you consider the decibel factor. I have to admit it was a little chaotic at times. The kids were amped to be sleeping outdoors and the adults were moving a bit slow after a night spent sleeping on blow up mattresses. As I looked around, my mind was flooded with memories of my childhood and camping with my folks. Almost every summer we would pack up our camper and head to the springs or the beach. We would spend every weekend there and each time we arrived it was a new and exciting adventure. Campfires, sunburn, cold water and the occasional wildlife encounter all made for great stories when the school year rolled back around. Now as a parent it is my turn to give those memories to my kids. What my wife and I were doing there this weekend was not just camping, we were investing in our children. I am a firm believer that what we instill in our kids at a young age will become what they fall back to no matter where life takes them.
Camping is packed with life lessons. You must to have a plan before you go otherwise your trip will be ruined before your start.
- Where do we want to camp?
- How many days will we stay there?
- Do we have adequate shelter?
- Will we have access to fresh water?
- How much food will we need?
- What is the weather prediction?
- What happens if someone gets injured?
- In Florida, you never leave home without bug spray, it’s a given.
Funny thing about our personal life there is almost always a way to connect it back to our business lives. It is not a far stretch to tie my camping questions to leadership.
- Where do we want the organization or team to end up?
- What is the duration of this destination (is it a fiscal year goal or long range goal)?
- Have we given them all the tools they need to survive?
- What type of incentive will be needed to sustain the organization or team?
- What obstacles do we foresee?
- How do we compensate if someone leaves the organization or team (succession planning)?
- Bug spray…just fill in here anything that is a must have for your industry
As leaders, the plan is our responsibility. We should not necessarily write the plan, but we most certainly have to set the destination. Through asking questions, listening more then we talk, and by endorsing the plan, we set the team in motion toward the goal. Once we are on our way it is our role to look out for the team. We must ensure that the everyone is carrying out their role and that no one wonders off the path. If they do, it is our responsibility to usher them back. If the entire team gets off course we must correct the course immediately or we will not reach our intended goal.
One of the evenings while camping everyone decided to go out in the night and look for fireflies. As I said there were kids of all ages on this trip. If you have ever looked for these really cool creatures you know that they love to congregate in wooded areas. Armed with headlamps everyone commenced to head out into the night. About 15 minutes into the walk one of the Dad’s asked if we had counted the kids before leaving camp; no one had. So everyone shouted freeze and the group leader started walking through counting kids. The walk was not allowed to continue until the leader was confident everyone was accounted for. When they returned to camp the count was conducted again before the kids were allowed to disburse. The leader in this case had not set the plan, but she had endorsed by leading everyone out into the night. When the plan looked off course she stopped, everyone readjusted and we completed the mission without losing a single kid. We should all be willing to look at all aspects of our lives and see how those experiences can make us better leaders. The experiences do not have to be monumental, even in the mundane lessons exist.