What Organizational Performance Skills did you Learn at Summer Camp?

Summer camp on the waterThe summer time is fast approaching here in Canada, and many of you might be preparing to send your children to summer camp for the first time. Or maybe you are thinking back to your youth, remembering those weeks you spent at camp. You may be recalling all the fun you had, great friends you made and new skills you learned there.

For most, attending summer camp involved a drive away from an urban area to a camp located on a beautiful lake, and if you live in Canada, it usually meant a trip north. As soon as you stepped foot onto the camp property, you were welcomed by the camp staff helping you locate the registration area where you would be told about the week ahead of you and what cabin you would be in. You might even recall feeling overwhelmed knowing that for the first time you would be away from your home and your parents, and not knowing anyone at camp, and thinking, “What have I got myself into?”.

Summer camp for most people is where you first learned about teamwork, leadership and communication skills. However, while attending summer camp, you were learning much more than just the basic skills from the camp program. In fact, you were also learning some essential performance skills necessary to thrive within our new global economy.

For example, moving beyond your comfort zone is a performance skill everyone has learned while at summer camp. Saying good-bye to your parents for the first time and watching them drive away moves a first-time camper well beyond their comfort zone, which in turn ensures they have a rewarding time at camp. Summer camp offers a safe and secure place to learn great performance skills. Councillors and instructors always have your best interest in mind, and help you stretch beyond what you thought were your natural abilities.

My greatest camp memories come from being a staff member at Muskoka Woods, a sports resort camp, 2 hours north of Toronto. And to no surprise for many of you that know about my athletic background, Muskoka Woods is one of Canada’s foremost sports camps, where for my summer months I was surrounded by high-level performers.

In today’s fast-paced world, change management, organizational change and performance improvement are terms we hear often. Businesses and organizations are on continuous performance improvement paths, always trying to elevate performance levels. However, if you stop and think back to your summer camp days, you may recall many skills you learned there that can be applied in your business or organization as you try to improve performance.

Here are a few performance improvement skills I learned while at summer camp:

When change happens, look for the opportunities

Many camp activities are subject to weather conditions, and even when your day starts off sunny, your afternoon can turn out to be the wettest, windiest and most rainy day you have ever seen. Great performers and great camp staff leaders always lead people towards the greatest opportunities when conditions change. They know they cannot change the weather, so they look for opportunities, revise plans and make the absolute best of the situation.

Speak the language of performance

During our busy days, we are inundated with communication. Often the information can be negative about management issues, challenges and changes within our organizations. Communication is important, but the quality and use of communication is paramount for any high-performing organization. As I learned at camp, great camp staff leaders have the ability to speak the language of performance, whether it is to motivate a camper trying a new skill for the first time, or to address an issue about something that needs correction. Through good performance language, camp staff leaders can keep motivation levels high, and keep moving campers in a positive direction.

People want to see great performance

With lots of organizational policies floating around many organizations, and meetings pertaining to those policies, somewhere along the way the actual follow-through and actions surrounding those policies can become lost. It’s the old saying: “People want to see a sermon, not just hear about it”. During my summer camp days, I was surrounded by fellow staff members who “walked their talk”. They didn’t just talk about great performance or endeavours, but they actually lived it on a daily basis.

Our summer camp experiences have taught us many performance skills essential for organizations that thrive on being innovative and looking for growth in today’s modern business world. So as the summer months approach, stop and think about all the organizational performance skills you learned while attending summer camp.

Turn Your Knowledge into Action

1)      Determine the way people and teams in your organization can leverage summer camp performance skills.

2)     Take one action this week based on a skill you learned at summer camp that will help you elevate your performance in your organization.


If you would like to learn more about how I can assist your organization to elevate their performance, please contact me at 416-429-1247 or email at paul@actusperformance.com.

To learn more about Muskoka Woods, please visit: muskokawoods.com

All the best in achieving your highest performance.