Staff Encouragement & Motivation

Supporting your staff – Part 1- Take a break

Being a camp counsellor is an awesome job. It can be a hard, exhausting, emotionally and physically draining job – but man, it’s awesome! Camp counsellors are on duty 24 hours a day everyday while their campers are on site. They are expected to be patient, kind, understanding, fun, silly, full of energy, responsible, leaders, teachers, authority figures, role models, friends, confidants, and so much more – all at the same time. It’s a big job, and there are thousands of counsellors every summer who accomplish this and go above and beyond to give their campers an amazing summer. They are rock stars.

It’s up to the camp director and the leadership staff to make sure that camp counsellors are able to be rock stars for their campers.

Obviously orientation, risk management, and training are all hugely important parts of developing excellent staff, but motivation and encouragement are the focus for this series.

Sometimes counsellors have a hard day (don’t we all?) they get tired, frustrated, sad, tired… (it’s worth saying twice) there are a million reasons why a counsellor might feel that way, being human is at the very top of the list. These reasons could be camp related or not, it’s hard for anyone to be “on” all the time. So it’s up to the camp’s leadership staff to recognize when a counsellor (or any member of the staff for that matter) is feeling low and give them some support.

Here’s my favourite pick me up for a staff member who seems a bit low.

Approach frustrated, tired, sad, etc. counsellor and say “pssst. c’mere for a sec.” while doing a shifty head motion for them to join you, the counsellor will think you’re A. coo coo bananas or B. up to no good (likely due to the shifty head motion – you know the one, chin up a bit, right temple toward right shoulder, bonus points for raised eyebrows). Then hand them the paper bag, smile and say “I’ve got you covered, now go.”
You’ll have to shoo them away, because they’re going to be confused and stand there for a minute, looking at you like you’re coo coo bananas. Rightfully so, but that’s part of the fun.

Kit Kat Bag

Once they arrive in a private location and open the bag, here’s what they’ll find.

Kit Kat Note

Kit Kat Note Opened

Taaa Daaa!!!

“You’ve been working hard!
You seem like you could use a break.
Take 5 minutes.
Take a break, and have a KitKat!”
<3 (Insert name here)

It’s a really fun way to mess with your staff have fun with your staff and encourage them when they’re feeling low. It lets them know that you see them working hard and appreciate them (even on the off days!)

I’ve never had a staff come back without a huge smile on their face. Let’s be real – a surprise break + chocolate… umm… yes please!

Just remember that when they get back, you need to do the universal “shhh” signal to remind them that it’s a secret. Feel free to add a wink if you can pull it off without seeming super creepy.

There are so many ways to encourage and support each other, but this is by far my favourite.

What are some ways you support your staff/ have been supported? Tell me about it in the comment section below.


  • What a great blog! I worked at camp for 19 years and it was/is pivotal in defining who I am as a person. Thanks so much for following my blog. I don’t know how you found it but I’m glad you did! You might enjoy this post
    Or the one just before it about Oprah and Cancer. The story I share is with an old camper of mine who is now 25 and facing pancreatic Cancer.

    Thanks for reading

  • Hi goddesstale,
    Thanks for commenting, lessons from a camp counsellor is actually the post that led me to your blog!
    I’m so sorry about your camper/ friend, I’ll definitely check out your post about it.

  • […] It’s awesome to step in and give the staff a little break sometimes, but unless you’re giving them tools to deal with this in the future and teaching them skills for situations like this – they’re never going to be able to deal with that challenging camper.  Support and encourage them, teach them the tactics that you use, let them see how you deal with the situation, then be around if they need your help. Coach them. And from time to time – hand them a Kit Kat bar and take over for them. (If that last sentence makes no sense to you, see my post Supporting Your Staff – Take a Break) […]

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