Posted on January 24, 2011 by spreston

By Bob Wiebe, Manitoba Camping Association

In a cogent column in the November 20, 2010, Winnipeg Free Press, John McFerran addresses the topic “It’s safe to hire people smarter than you.” The article encourages ambitious leaders to select as part of their team people who are “smarter” than they are. There is more to be gained than lost by surrounding oneself with good, smart people. Examples are provided of wise leaders who have done this. McFerran says that wise is the leader who is able to admit that not all the knowledge of the enterprise, or the reasoning ability, or whatever emotional intelligence is required, needs to reside between the ears of the manager!

This is wise advice for camps, for several reasons. Firstly, it opens up the possibilities for key information and new ideas to flow freely in the organization, regardless of rank. Status or role need not be a barrier to the exchange of intelligent critique, comment and creativity. Secondly, it positions the camp for success. An emphasis on developing a smart team will result in a ROI, or return on investment. It will also result in a ROS, return on smarts!

McFerran’s advice is ever timely. Some virus seems to infect the brains of camp directors as well as other leaders. That virus affects the wisdom portion of the brain, spreading the false message that we are weak when we admit we need help. Wrong!

I would suggest that the process of finding smart people can be aided by defining “smart”. Following the work of Bob Wiele (not me, though the spelling is very close), intelligence can be categorized into a number of useful descriptors. These categories have been scientifically measured by Wiele, but are also well known to common sense camp directors.

The categories of “smart” are: Creativity, Understanding, Decision Making and Personal Spirit. Starting with the last category, they are defined as follows:

– Personal Spirit is the ability to view situations, people and problems in a positive light, determined to exercise whatever control is available, resulting in initiatives for positive action. Positive Spirit is as much a thinking skill as is reasoning or understanding. Think of the benefits to a camp if one or two “personal spirit smarties” were allowed to infiltrate the thought streams of planning, working and implementation!

– Creativity is the thinking skill used to create new options, whether through brainstorming and problem solving, or through challenging assumptions and visioning. Even the intuitive brain gets put to work, by recognizing that an “aha!’ flash of insight is a form of creativity to be valued. We can take a cue from the seasoned camp director who used to encourage his summer team leaders by giving them a blank sheet of paper and asking them to fill it with new ideas for the upcoming season. The same director asked at the end of each season `What are the `sacred cows ‘we should eliminate`!

– Understanding skills help camp leaders understand both information and people. In many organizations, the understanding of people lags behind the processing of information. Do you have a listener on your team, and can your team provide empathy to persons in need of it? Who among you is good at expressing feelings when conflicts cloud judgment and obscure cooperation?

– Decision making is the preferred activity of many directors, as it leads to action. If your team members have the skills of finding the root issue, using logic and listening to experience, that is great. All the better if you have people who consult their heart and their values in the choices that are made.
To make your camp organization more fruitful, spend five minutes underlining the smart skills above which your organization most needs. Then check your observations with others. This will be the start of admitting that you as leader will be happier, smarter and more successful in your mission if you make recruiting of smarts a priority.

Your organization is both smarter than it thinks (has unused assets) and is as smart as it thinks (will act smarter if it intentionally uses these assets)! Sometimes these assets are as easy to find as the person next to you!