New Camp Director Pro Tip

Sending out an S.O.S

So here’s a (well-known?) fact about me.

I hate asking for help.

I hate it. Seriously.

Especially in my career. I don’t think it makes me look weak or anything like that, I know it doesn’t. I’m just stubborn I guess.

I was “brought up” in a camp culture where we powered through things, and made due, and solved problems with creative solutions… and laughed the whole time at the ridiculousness of the situation.

I still do all of those things, in fact, I pride myself on being able to do all of those things. I consider myself one heck of a creative problem solver, and it typically takes A LOT to really freak me out, and I spend most of my days laughing at the utterly ridiculous things that happen at camp.


As you may recall from my post “When your best just isn’t good enough” I mentioned that one of the things I’ve identified as an area to work on this summer was asking for help when I need it. So I’m really making an effort to stay true to my word and I’ve reached out for help.

We were in our second session of camp and our campers were having a blast, and our staff were so wonderful – they were working their tails off to make sure their campers had an amazing experience. There just weren’t enough of them.

For reasons that aren’t relevant here, I’ve had a few staff who’ve had to push back their start dates, and a few more staff who had to step away from their positions last week, so we were short-staffed.
And even though the staff were rallying together, and powering through, and all of those other wonderful things that camp staff do, it’s not sustainable. They were going to burn out, fast.



Especially since the counsellors that work at my camp have one of the most exhausting, taxing, challenging (and rewarding) jobs out there!
Take all of the running around, programming, and dealing with the emotional and physical well-being of campers that a typical residential summer camp counsellor would do, and then throw in being responsible for the complete physical care of your campers including bathing, dressing, feeding, lifting, and anything else you can imagine a human being might need over the course of a week. And you’ve got what my guys do.
Yep. They’re pretty great. I’m a fan.

So, I decided to ask for help.

And it was hard.

I know how busy everyone else is and I felt terrible about putting one more thing on their plate – and I have to be honest, I was a little worried that my request for help would be “pooh poohed” and I’d look like some sort of drama queen.

I sent out an S.O.S to my ED and CEO (literally, the subject of the email was S.O.S – don’t know why I was worried about looking dramatic… haha) and explained that we were pretty short-staffed and because of that I was spending a lot of time “out in the field” if you will, helping the counsellors, but that meant that I couldn’t be in the office posting jobs, interviewing, and hiring staff. It actually took me really long to write that email, because I had to step away from it about 3 times to run and help out with 3 different campers.

And they were GREAT!

They took my email very seriously, there was no pooh poohing at all!

They called me on a conference call right away and asked me what they could do, started brainstorming solutions to get people up here for the time being (so I could at least get my feet on the ground and do some hiring) and they even called an all staff meeting at the office to see if anyone could come up for a few days to help out.

They were able to free up two people (who both have camp experience – so that was a huge bonus) who came up and jumped right into the fray. My ED started posting jobs for me and the CEO asked that everyone else share the job posts with their network.

I was able to step back long enough to actually do *my job* (and not just the “other duties as required” parts) so I set up quite a few interviews and hired some staff.

It was great. It really was.

Next time I won’t be so worried about asking for help when I need it, because their response was immediate and so supportive.
It got me out of a jam and I am incredibly grateful for how they handled it.

Now the next time I’m encouraging my staff to ask for help, I won’t feel like a total hypocrite!

I wish I had gotten on the asking for help train years ago, it might have made me life a little easier, and wouldn’t have made me any less “hard core”. If you’re a new or aspiring director out there, take it from me, it’s not nearly as scary as it seems!!

What about you guys? Do you have a hard time asking for help? Has there been a situation when you bit the bullet, asked for help and it worked out great? Tell me about it in the comment section below!

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