Turning Up the Heat: Moving Your Camp From Great to Greater!

by Carl L. Harshman, Ph.D., and Tom Etzkorn, M.B.A.

The vast majority of you reading this article are knowledgeable, experienced, and highly successful in the camp business. Hopefully, you enjoy that well-deserved recognition because of your dedication, hard work, and thoughtful decisions. In our many years of working with employees at all levels of responsibility, we have found that those performing in the top tier are often, like you, driven to strive for even better performance and greater achievement.

The question then becomes . . . how can we help these great employees become even greater?

Given the projected audience of high-performing camp owners, managers, and staff we thought we would begin by attempting to offer some insight and perspective from those already addressing and illuminating the path to the greater.

The 212° Principle

We recently read a short book entitled, 212°: The Extra Degree by S.L. Parker. The theme of this work is that when dealing with water, the single degree between 211° and 212° is the difference between simply having very hot water and . . . producing powerful steam that can drive a locomotive engine.

We like the analogy because it is possible that the fundamental difference between your camp being good and being great may be just a matter of degrees, not major leaps in technical expertise or substantial professional development within a discipline. So, we proceed under the assumption that the knowledge and practices we describe in this article represent that extra degree that will increase your potential to take your camp from good to great or even, from great to greater!

Power of Your People: The Source of the Extra Degree

When asked to describe why your camp is the "best," you often cite location, programs, facilities, and experiences . . . and almost in passing, acknowledge that you have a great team of committed and well-trained staff. While this is certainly easy enough to say, it is most difficult to deliver consistently year after year. In your organization, if you have the right product/service and strategy, the real secret to your success is your people, and each one determines your camp's results, reputation, and rewards . . . every day. The three types of people who are key to your success are: (a) those who execute day-to-day; (b) those who provide essential support to the people who execute; and (c) the people who lead both groups. The efforts and attitudes of all three groups are deeply interconnected and highly important to ensure total success.

 Even the best camp in terms of facilities, programs, and strategy is not likely to survive very long with poor to mediocre staff and unmotivated, ill-prepared leadership. Jim Collins, the author of the best-selling book Good to Great argued that staffing . . . "getting the right people on the bus" . . . was the essential first step in the journey from just being good to being great.

 None of us sets out to hire mediocre or non-performing staff and leadership. We're all looking for high performers with a large proportion of superstars among them. In pursuing high performers, the critical hurdles are: (a) how to attract the best candidates; (b) how to select the best of those you attract; (c) how to manage and motivate those you hire; and (d) how to develop staff and leaders—that is, how to help the best get better.

The Purpose of This Article

We begin with the principle that "hiring entails a lot more than just making a surface decision about whom to put on the payroll." Rather, effective hiring is a multi-phased process—one that begins when you announce the job opening, it gathers momentum in the screening and selection of applicants, and continues well beyond the point that a job or promotion offer is made and accepted.

Thus, the aims of this article are manifold. We seek: (1) to provide an objective, criteria- based, reference model within which you can evaluate candidates; (2) to describe the role of assessment in screening and selecting candidates; and (3) to show how the information collected in the screening and hiring process can be used in managing and coaching after the person is on board and a functioning member of your team.

Begin With the End in Mind

Steven Covey in his classic Seven Habits of Highly Effective People says that one of the seven habits of highly effective people is to "begin with the end in mind." While Covey refers to the bigger picture—personal mission and vision—in terms of hiring, we mean that you start with the outcomes you want from a staff member or leader.

The best performing organizations have answers to the following questions for each role in the organization:

  • What are the standards for performance? What outcomes or impacts is the person who occupies this role supposed to create or affect? (Notice we are not talking about the job description or what they do—we are talking about the impact of what they do on the people and world around them!)
    • Example: Camp Counselor
    • Role: To organize, manage, coach, and counsel a team of campers.
    • Impacts:
      • Campers leave the experience with defined skills they did not have upon arrival.
      • Campers indicate that their counselor was kind, helpful, and supportive.
      • Campers indicate a strong desire to return the following year.
  • What behaviors and characteristics are most likely to produce the impacts or outcomes you described in the answer to the prior question?
    • Behaviors:
      • Counselors exhibit a strong interest in "people" and in interacting with them.
      • Counselors exhibit the ability to "listen" in the broadest sense (e.g. to recognize nonverbal calls for help).
      • Counselors are able to work effectively in a "team" model and environment (with other staff and their campers).
  • How do you assess the potential, capability, and/or existence of various motivators, characteristics, or competencies?
    • People: How would you know if someone has both an orientation toward or motivation for dealing with and the skills for good interpersonal relationships?
    • Listening: How would you know if someone had good listening skills? Would you know if they had the filters for observing nonverbal behavior in others (as opposed to a filter for listening only to the words communicated)?
    • Teaming: How would you know if someone was motivated to work in a team or social environment? Would they be expected to operate under a shared responsibility premise? Should you know if they had the interpersonal, communication, and emotional skills to be an effective member of a team or to be the leader of a team?
  • Finally, how do you use the important information gathered during the recruiting, hiring, and selection process to manage and coach to greatness after employment?

The remainder of this article expands our focus by addressing four key questions:

  1. Why would I care about anything other than an individual's competencies? After all, isn't getting the job done the only thing that matters?
  2. How would/could you know that someone had a certain attitude, motivation, value, or skill that was either required or missing to perform well in a role?
  3. How do we measure characteristics like attitude and motivation that are not easily quantified?
  4. Once I learn or know some things about a person or group in the hiring process, how can I use that information for: (a) future recruiting and hiring; (b) managing the individual; and (c) coaching/training for improved individual and team performance?

Is Anything More Important Than Competencies?

We're not sure that in a given situation there is anything more important than competency. We are certain, however, that competency is a necessary, but probably not a sufficient sole condition for top performance.

What does that mean?
It means that talent or competency is often not enough. How often have you read about the athlete, with all the talent in the world, who "crashes and burns" at the pro level? What about the talented individual who "chokes" under pressure and fails to perform. Or, what about the candidate you hired who looked great on paper, sounded terrific in interviews, but turned out to be mediocre at best in the job?

We suspect that the people who come to mind when we ask these questions were all quite talented, but something else
contributed to their inability to perform in the actual job. We have to assume that none of them would have gotten as far as they did without demonstrating adequate levels of knowledge and/or skill.

In his work with emotional intelligence and performance, Daniel Goleman points out that merely having an ability does not guarantee that we will be able to make effective use of it in the performance of our jobs.

So what else matters?
We answer that question with the performance formula in Figure 1.

As you can see in the formula, there is more than the Competency factor that contributes to "Results," or what we called "impacts" or "effects" earlier. The two other factors are Attitude and Motivation and Values. Values include our criteria for what's important in life and a given role or context as well as our personal goals and principles.

Attitude and Motivation, in this case, refers to a set of "filters" that unconsciously help us interpret and manage the experience going on around us. These filters have the following characteristics:

  • Unlike factors like personality that tend to be stable over time and situations, our Attitude and Motivation filters may shift according to context and situations. An individual's filters may be different at home than at work. On a personal note, think how your attitude and motivation can vary depending on context (work or home, work or social). Context (work or a specific role) can be the reason that someone recommended by a good friend for a position turns out not to be very good in the job.
  • Our filters are the important first stage of the performance process and impact the other factors downstream as well as our emotional state (and conversely, our emotional state can also temporarily impact our filters). How our filters process reality turns out to impact whether and how we make use of our competencies.
  • We may not even be aware of our filters! That is why two staff members can listen to the same instructions from a supervisor and hear different things and respond very differently.
  • In a practical sense, if you want to change behavior, you may have to address Attitude and Motivation issues as much as or more than raising the level of Competency.
  • In analysis of the relationship between Attitude and Motivation and performance based on performance ratings, it is common to find that these two filters account for up to 60 percent of the performance rating!

Once again, Attitude and Motivation can account for up to 60 percent of job performance . . . a compelling reason for camp owners, directors, and senior staff to consider something other than just Competency when making hiring decisions.

How Do We Know What Attitudes and Motivation are Important in a Job or Role?

First, it is important to have some basic understanding of how the Attitude and Motivation filters differ from how we think of motivation based on common language and practice. Second, it may be important to understand how different Attitudinal and Motivational filters would impact thinking and behavior.

When you have a framework for understanding the Attitude and Motivation filters, there are basically three ways to gather information about what is important in a role:

  1. You can do a logical analysis of important patterns based on your knowledge and experience of high performers in your industry and in certain roles. For example:
    • You might want someone in a sales and marketing role to be proactive and somewhat aggressive. You might want someone in a counselor role to be more patient and responsive.
    • You might want someone in a top management role to have a preference for dealing with options and alternatives while someone in an accounting or bookkeeping role might be more effective if they had an orientation toward procedures.
  2. If you have a known group of what one camp called "Superstars" in a role (in this case, counselors), you can do an analysis of the Attitudinal and Motivational patterns to see what is common among them.
  3. The third method is to create a "Model of Excellence." A Model of Excellence is a thorough analysis of the top performers and lower performers in a role to establish statistically the Attitudinal and Motivational pattern differences between the two groups. For a description of a Model of Excellence, see Building a Model of Excellence by The Institute for Work Attitude & Motivation. For a copy, write to info@iwaminstitute.com.

Any of these approaches can yield the definitions needed to understand what Attitudinal and Motivational patterns are important to the performance of a given role in your camp organization. Once you know these patterns, you can combine that information with your knowledge of what competencies are critical to design your recruiting, screening, and hiring practices for various roles in the organization.

How Can We Measure Attitude and Motivation?

At present, there are two widely-used global tools for assessing the kinds of patterns we describe here. One is called the "Language and Behavior Profile" or LAB. It is a structured interview technique developed by a psychologist in the U.S., the rights to which are now owned by Success Strategies, a Canadian company. The LAB is described in depth in a book entitled Words That Change Minds (Charvet 1997).

The second way to assess attitudes and motivation is with the Inventory for Work Attitude and Motivation (iWAM). The same psychologist who created the LAB Profile developed the basic iWAM. The rights to the iWAM now belong to a global company called jobEQ, www.jobEQ.com. jobEQ expanded the basic iWAM to its present level. It measures more Attitudinal and Motivational patterns than the LAB, but is highly consistent with it. For example, the iWAM Model of Excellence can include questions based on the LAB Profile and other scales to check in interviews for the presence or accuracy of a pattern.

The iWAM is available in several languages and is online for easy access. In addition, there are a number of Standard Groups for different countries as well as a body of research on the instrument and its application to various aspects of individual and organizational effectiveness.

How Can We Use Attitudinal and Motivational Information in Our Camp?

While there seems to be more and more specialization in the field of social and psychological assessment, the iWAM and LAB Profile information have several applications. (See Figure 2) Here is a brief summary of each application in the world of camps.

Recruiting It turns out that the key to "activating" Attitudinal and Motivational patterns is language. Certain words and phrases "push the buttons" of people with certain patterns. So, if you know what patterns you are seeking in high performers, you can use certain words and phrases in your camp and recruiting literature to attract candidates with those patterns. The result is that your candidate pool will be closer to the definition of high performers than a randomly recruited pool would be.

Selection The selection process is perhaps the most difficult and time-consuming aspect of camp administration. Further, because of the nature of seasonal staffing, we have to go through it year-after-year. One of the recommended uses of a Model of Excellence is to pre-screen candidates for the selection pool. Based on the analysis of high performers, you can identify and quickly evaluate how candidates compare with your current definition of high performers. By using the Model of Excellence as one of the up-front filters in the process, you can decrease the amount of time and resources you invest in the selection process and increase the quality of staff that the process eventually yields. The Model of Excellence is not a stand-alone selection tool. It is one of the tools that can be used in the camp's overall recruiting, screening, and selection processes. Further, the extent and manner of use depends upon how you defined the patterns that are essential to top performance in a role.

Orientation There are two ways to make use of the Attitudinal and Motivational information in the staff-orientation process. One camp reviewed the group profile of the staff they hired to determine how they structured and delivered the staff orientation and training based on the "receptor" factors of the group. They used "Convincer Patterns" and "Convincer Processes" as one source of information for this effort. In addition to the group strategy, the camp used a portion of the person-by-person information in the individual sessions conducted with staff prior to the opening of camp.

Managing When asked about the value of using assessments including the iWAM in the selection and management of employees, one manager of a corporate customer service group said:

“Since we put the selection and hiring process in place, it has been interesting to compare the results we got from the assessment tools to the on- the-job performance of the individuals we placed in the positions. I have found the results to be very accurate. In addition, the findings have helped me in the way that I can better relate to each person, communicate ideas, and understand their methods of working.”

Her experience resulted in using different approaches with different staff, based on what she learned about each of them through the assessment process.

The application of the Attitude and Motivation information is important in creating versatility among leadership. It is often a mystery to a manager or supervisor why he or she can be so effective (often translates to "relate so well to") with some staff and have so much difficulty with others. In many cases, we attribute the cause of the problem to the staff member's "flaw" or insufficient characteristics. As it turns out, it may be a difference, not a flaw. That is, the language of a manager may be a mismatch for the Attitudinal and Motivational pattern of a staff member resulting in behavior that is either below expectations or counter-productive to team and or organizational goals.

Coaching There are two aspects to the application of the Attitudinal and Motivational data to the performance coaching process (the process of helping individual staff members improve their performance). First, if there is a performance issue, one of the first places to look for is "why" there is a difficulty (Is it a motivation issue? A competency issue? A supervisor/relationship issue?). The second place to use it is with the supervisor or manager doing the coaching. If your leadership has been trained in the fundamentals of the strong connection between Attitudinal and Motivational patterns and language, then the leader as coach may be more effective in getting the desired improvement from their staff.

Development Unlike trait-based factors such as personality and native abilities, there are two ways to address performance mismatches between Attitudinal and Motivational patterns and performance:

  1. It is possible to help individuals shift or change patterns.
  2. It is possible to develop some skills or competencies to compensate for Attitudinal and Motivation patterns that are likely to be fairly permanent.

The strategy or application to an individual is a function of the person, the supervisor, the situation, and the resources available.

As you can see from the sections above, Attitudinal and Motivational pattern data can be used in several aspects of the development process from initial orientation to coaching to training. What's important is for the camp industry to become aware of the possibilities and to consider how the information and practices might be applied to a given situation.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Let's go back to the beginning and look at the basic premises:

  • Jim Collins says, "First who, then what." Who you have on your camp bus is absolutely critical to long-term, high-level performance.
  • Daniel Goleman and the emotional intelligence community argue, based on their research, that factors such as intelligence and competencies are not sufficient in many cases to predict performance. There is something more involved and that something seems to have a great deal to do with our ability to use our abilities. Think, for example, about how effective you are when you get really upset.
  • We assume that there is a vast storehouse of knowledge and experience among camp owners and managers in the recruiting, selection, and development of staff and that this storehouse has great value in addressing future challenges.
  • We also used the 212° analogy to propose that going from good (hot water) to great (steam) was often a difference of only one degree. We are asking if there is a possibility that the one degree could be in the application of Attitudinal and Motivational patterns to the performance process.

Where you choose to go from here is entirely up to you. There is a long history and tradition that underlies the camp industry in North America and elsewhere. So, on one hand, it is important to know and respect what it is about the industry and of each camp that makes it and them great. At the same time, you might want to consider what will be involved in reaching the next level of excellence for your camp for as one person said: "In this world, if you are standing still, you're losing ground." Perhaps there is a way to keep moving your camp toward greatness or the next level of greatness in the work cited in this article.

Regardless of what you do, remember that the defining key to your camp's success really is your staff . . . take advantage of all the tools to ensure that you have the best team possible . . . at the very least, it is what your campers and their families expect.

Charvet, S.R. (1997). Words that change minds: Mastering the language of influence. Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company, (2nd edition).

Carl L. Harshman, Ph.D., founder and CEO of The Institute, is a former executive, professor, academic dean, a published author, and speaker. For twenty-five years, he has consulted to major corporations on change, leadership, and culture. He can be reached at carl@harshman.com.

Tom Etzkorn, M.B.A., director, Strategic Initiatives for Wyman, a teen development agency located near St. Louis, Missouri, has a long history of developing youth through camping and multifaceted leadership initiatives. He can be reached at tome@wymancenter.org.

Originally published in the 2007 May/June issue of Camping Magazine.