This post is part of a digital book club of summer camp directors and recreation professionals reading Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? by Seth Godin. To see all the posts in the series go to our linchpin start page. You are welcome to join in at any time.
Week 3: Becoming the Linchpin
Pages 49 – 79
How You Be a Linchpin?
Becoming a linchpin is going to be one of my staff training topics this year. If you’re like me, you have a lot of returning staff and can’t run the same training each year. I do have a job with Charthouse where I run Fish! For Schools training for teachers around the country. While each event is slightly different, for the most part I can get away with the same training every time since each audience is new. Not so with camp staff. This year, as a group, we are going to put together the recipe on how to become a linchpin.
As Seth Godin says, linchpin’s solve problems that people haven’t predicted yet. In this week’s reading, Krulak’s Law was explained. In the area of always-on cameras, social networks, and cell phones, General Krulak hypothesized that the front line Marine would potentially have the most influence on the immediate situation as well as at the strategic level. Krulak’s Law: “The closer you get to the front, the more power you have over the brand.” page 61 That has never been more true than at a camp and for me is the reason that young staff makes the leave into a higher rank. The kids and parents see my front line staff 97.5% more than they see me. The kids tell stores about the connections with their camp counselors, not about their director. It is the camp staff who notices someone being left out or teased. When they don’t, kids suffer and it is a reflection on our entire program.
This time of the year I am inundated with requests from my junior level counselors requesting to be interviewed for a higher position. At 17 years of age they typically have had 3 years “working” at camp and if we have kept them around it is because they do a good job. At 17 they make good judgment calls about 70% of the time. What I am looking for is the other 30% that comes with age and maturity. Being on the front line, they can make or break camp for a child. In many ways they are on their way to remarkable. They are just not fully cooked. They are remarkable at their level. This is a very hard concept to get across because the teenager is biologically blinded from seeing that they are missing that other 30%. It is imperative to reward and recognize the junior staff for their remarkableness or they turn into a Steve, the character described on page 77. You know Steve, the staff member that does not really work hard because you are not paying him enough. I actually had an 11th grader tell me that, “If you pay me more than you will see that I can work hard.” Needless to say that was his last day with our organization. He did not understand that you work hard, connect, and engage first and the rewards will follow.
Pictured above is one of my young energetic high school junior counselors who brought her whole self to work every day. I am sure you all have this sort of remarkable staff member who musters enthusiasm for their work even when tired or cold, even when they have heard that same dance song six hours a day for the last 2 weeks! That is the sort of individual you reward and even try to clone. Who is that person in your camp or rec program?
The Law of Linchpin Leverage
From the director and administrator perspective, I am perpetually working with my admin team on being useful throughout the day. We talk a lot about MBWA (Manage By Walking Around) and being visible and available to solve problems as part of the job. I too can go through the day an not feel like I have done much, having delegated most of my tasks away. I do like the camp to run without me and it does quite well, although the staff say it is just not the same without me. I always thought that was flattery. What are they supposed to say, “We didn’t even notice you were gone.” The Law of Linchpin Leverage is, “The more value you create in your job, the fewer clock minutes of labor you actually spend creating that value.” page 51. That quote pulled it together for me and explains why I can feel like I don’t do much all day yet know I am necessary. It is why my admin team is also necessary and can also feel like they are not doing much. A high level staff member, a linchpin, “solves problems people haven’t yet predicted.” It comes so naturally that you just do it, but if you weren’t there, who knows how many fires would have to be put out because you were not there to solve the pre-problem. Just by “being there” a linchpin makes a difference. That is why “being there” and mentally showing up is so important.