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14 Questions To Ask When Recruiting a Leader

I was inspired to write this post by Karin of Lets Grow Leaders when I read and commented on her post, Words With Teams, A Simply Insightful Team-building Exercise.  You should follow her on Twitter by the way…

On my Facebook page, I asked; “What’s your favorite question to ask when interviewing a candidate for a leadership position?”


 “Keep Crazy Out Of The Building” – Dave Ramsey


Here are the answers and explanations offered via Facebook.

  • “What is the most exciting thing you did over the past year?” The answer will give you a level of passion, energy and enthusiasm. – CW Toland.
  • “What’s the biggest risk that they have taken. What made it risky and how did they try to reduce that risk.” It’s also important that fear of failure is not so disabilitating that all risk is avoided or that the lack of that fear prevents proper planning that then causes real harm when things go wrong.- Robert Pappenhagen
  • “How will you earn the respect of your team?” I like asking this so I can see if he/she will be a dictator or try to lead by example. – Monicah Fratena
  • “And on a different page, I loved the questions; I am giving you magical powers and if you could have 3 people work with you at camp, living or dead, fictional or fantasy, who would you chose and why?  I loved to hear their answers and more importantly the why.  It made them think and gave real insights into how they saw leadership, teamwork and more importantly how their choices would affect the people they would be working with.  It really gives you insight. Good Luck.” – Camp Mo
  • “What does it look like for you to be a leader? …(is not the answer to serve) leadership is to put yourself under others and “wash their feet”. – Everett Troyer
  • “How well do you handle change? Accept it or ignore it? and how do you define a good leader?” – Kristen Wills
  • “What are you going to do if you are stuck in a position where you have no idea what to do?  You always want them to be able to admit they aren’t perfect and have weaknesses and are willing to ask for help!” – Amy Elizabeth
  • “What is your legacy? What is your 100-year vision?” – John Lowry (John won’t care if you Tweet That)
  • “How do you lead a group? You hope they won’t say from the front spouting orders…they should say from right beside my co-workers…I am no better than them and must be humble when I lead.” – Mary Gladman De Witt
  • “Explain to them the mission and vision of camp, then ask how that fits into their personal mission and vision.” – Corey Stocksdale
  • “Have you done dishes before or do you do the dishes at home.  To me it shows if a person will get dirty and do whatever is needed in any situation.” – Katie Krizek
  • “My very first Question no matter what the employment position and letting them sit there in silence for several minutes, is for that person to define Honesty. 2nd question to define team player… as they verbally define each I write down their definition and have them initial it after they read what I wrote. After 1,000’s of interviews I have found those two questions help with communicating with your employees.” – Larry Piorkowski


  • Instead of simply asking questions.  Have them perform.  When I interview a potential cook for example.  Their second interview consist of them actually cooking one of our recipes for us.  We consider:
    • time it takes to complete,
    • quality,
    • cleanliness,
    • could they multitask and still answer questions,
    • knowledge,
    • skill,
    • openness to suggestions, etc.



How To Make Feedback a G.I.F.T.


I recently heard a guy at church tell this story about his son, we will call his son Ted.

Ted goes golfing for the first time with some friends.

His friends were all hitting the ball more then 150 yards.

Image courtesy of pat138241 at

Image courtesy of pat138241 at

Now Ted, golfing for the first time, could only hit the ball 50 yards.  And, he had a terrible slice.  His ball kept landing almost off the fairway, but at least he was still in the open fairway and could see his ball.  One of the other kids had a pretty much equal slice.  But, he was hitting his ball about 200 yards…his ball was in the trees, in water, in the sand…pretty much anywhere it shouldn’t be.

The only difference at play between Ted and the other kid was distance.

We also see this principle in workplace leadership.

The further you allow someone on you team, or the team itself, to go in the wrong direction..the greater the error.

If you avoid a conversation with someone because it will be uncomfortable, the eventual conversation will just be worse.

If someone is causing dissension amongst the team with a negative attitude, negative talk, laziness, gossiping etc.  The longer you allow the issue to go…the greater the damage.


Error Increases With Distance.


  • Don’t wait for annual reviews to give feedback.
  • Have regularly scheduled one-on-ones with your direct reports.
  • Empower supervisors to immediately address problems.
  • Make Gossip a fireable offense.  (Here’s a post with more on that)
  • What gets rewarded gets repeated.  (tweet that) Pay more attention to positive decisions and beneficial attitudes then to negative ones.
  • Make feedback a GIFT:
    • Genuine – Don’t give blanket statements such as, “Good Job”.  Read Matt McWilliams post for more on this.
    • Immediate – Don’t wait, give feedback as soon as possible.
    • Friendly – Don’t be a jerk. You aren’t in your position because no one else can do your job, you are there because you got there first.  Check your ego at the door.
    • Tailored – Read The Five Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace.  Reinforce desirable decision making by showing appreciation to each person on your team in the manner that they most appreciate.  For some it will be a quick email.  For others a conversation at lunch.
  • Never put an end date on your training for new hires.  Training never ends.  Perpetual training, mentoring, coaching…whatever you want to call it…fosters the greatest teams.
  • ?What other Tips and Suggestions Do You Have?


  • Order The Five Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace. If you already have it, read or reread it.
  • List all of your direct reports.  Schedule a reminder for each person this week to check in with them.
  • Consider having a weekly or bimonthly one-on-one meeting with each direct report.
  • When’s the last inservice you had?  Maybe it’s time to schedule another one.
  • Subscribe to my blog so you never miss a list of suggestions and tips for better leadership.


  • What variations or alterations would you suggest?


Thanks For Reading

Avoid The Biggest Mistake In Setting Goals

The boldness in declaring this The Biggest Mistake in goal setting, is from observations leading several hundred staff and facilitating tens of thousands of people in workshops, conferences, retreats and other personal development experiences in 16 years.

Like many people, I use to have terrible goals. In fact, they weren’t even goals at all.

I had a list of desires I was working towards accomplishing.


Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at

Even using S.M.A.R.T. goals. ((see this post on Top Achievement for great information on setting SMART goals), I didn’t have good goals.  And my forward momentum reflected this.

For example;

  • I had a desire to get married.
  • I have a desire to raise kids that have happy marriages.
  • I have a desire to increase enrollment at events at work.

I’m not saying these are bad things to want. I’m saying I can’t accomplish them as goals.

  • I couldn’t getting married until someone wanted to marry me.
  • I can’t choose my kids spouse, nor can I choose the behaviors and decisions my kids or their spouses will one day make.
  • I can’t make more people come to an event at camp.

My goals use to rely on other people for success.  Which in turn really made them desires.

Now, I have goals for my desires.

Mark Batterson shares in his book, Circle Maker, that we pray as if it depends on God and work as if it depends on us.

For me, my desires are up to God to fulfill and my goals are up to me to accomplish, with God’s help of course.

My desire to get married. Is what I prayed for.
My goal was to better myself to become the person I wanted to marry wanted to marry. This is the work I did. And now I’m married to my best friend and the most beautiful woman of God I know.

My desire for my children to have successful marriages. Is what I pray for.
My goal: When I say, “I love you” to my wife, it’s only after I treat her in a way that shows her I love her; all in front of my kids, everyday. I remind myself daily; more is caught than is taught. This is the work I do.

My desire for increased enrollment at work is what I pray for.
My goal: Increase guest satisfaction at every encounter  by studying evaluations monthly looking for innovative solutions to improve quality of service, experience, communication, facilities and deliverables related to Mission and Core Values.  This is the work I do.


We Work Towards Goals, We Pray For Desires


  • If you haven’t, write down your goals.
  • Look at your written goals. Do they rely on someone else to accomplish them? If so, re-title your list Desires.
  • Pray hard for your desires, work hard for your goals.
  • Read the Circle Maker by Mark Batterson (affiliate link).
  • Review your Desires and Goals everyday.
  • Are you married? If so, do you and your wife share any desires for your marriage or, if you have any, your children? Pray together and work together. Couples who pray together stay together.
  • ?What other Tips and Suggestions Do You Have? Comment Below


  • If you don’t have time to work on this, schedule time on your calendar right now.
  • Write down 1 desire and then write 2 goals for that desire.


Thanks For Reading

Summer Camp & Other Seasonal Staff Training Ideas

Training summer camp and seasonal staff. Camp staff training tips and ideas.Before my wife and I decided to become church planters of Coastal City Church, I was a camp director for 15 years.  In that time, I was able to move away from doing any seasonal staff recruitment at job fairs.  In fact, we did very little promotion of open positions to hire approximately 30 seasonal staff.

Our camp staff culture was based on the development of the individuals, and this was the key to our success in returning seasonal staff retention, recruitment, and ultimately growth in our summer camp attendance.

As the seasonal staff became better at leading campers AND facilitating activities; our summer camp attendance increased.  The better the experience for the campers, the more word of mouth advertising their guardians would do….without being asked to do it.

I’m sorry, like it or not…your seasonal staff is the key to everything at camp.  As goes the seasonal staff, so goes the camp.  You have to get this right.

You need to have a view of staff training that goes way beyond the tasks on the job descriptions.  If you are accredited by the ACA, that’s great.  But, at least when I was a standards instructor and visitor, there wasn’t a standard that led me to consider the impact my staff training would have on the camp 5, 10 or even 15 years into the future.  The focus was on the immediate work that had to be done only.

Also, many of our staff are working their very first job at camp.  We have a responsibility to them and their future employers to set the staff up to succeed beyond camp.

If you are in leadership at a camp, you must focus on leading the staff and let them focus on leading the campers.

Now that I’m not leading at a camp, I have time during staff training seasons to be a guest facilitator or to provide coaching with you.  Just shot me an email with your staff training or camp leadership question, it’s free and I’ll answer the best I can.

It’s important to keep in mind that staff training begins during the interview and ends when the summer is over.

One of our church operational core values is Principles Before Practice.  We always want to know why another church or business does something before we copy it.  Often, we can develop a better practice for our culture and community if we truly understand the principle behind the practice.

Here are some camp staff training principles to understand before we get into the actual activities.

Download four 5-minute activities to help staff think “like an owner“.

Helping Seasonal Staff Succeed

  • Start training starts during recruitment.  Carefully evaluate your job postings.  Are you promoting for “Male Camp Counselors”  or for “Guys Who Want To Do Work That Matters”.  Hire your staff based on the one thing you can’t train them on, their character.  You can train someone to take campers canoeing.  But you can’t train them to not steal from the camp store.  You can train them to lifeguard or facilitate a ropes course.  But you can’t train them to make decisions based on a high ethical or moral code. If you are a Christian camp, hire based on spiritual gifts.  Add a spiritual gift inventory to your application.
  • Don’t promote the wrong people.  Avoid promoting your best counselors to be supervisors.  I often found that my best counselors were the best for a reason, and often made terrible supervisors.  Part of this is also influenced by pay structure.  I don’t believe a camp salary structure should be based on the job title.  When I started at camp I inherited a system where supervisors were paid more than counselor and that created a culture where counselors felt like they had to “move up” after a year or two or not return.  Counselors should be your cream of the crop, the best of the best…and you should pay them accordingly.
  • Rule of 6.  Develop an organizational structure of your staff so no person, including the camp director, has more than 6 direct reports.
  • Lead out of relationships.  Build time into each day of actual training for supervisors to meet with the team they lead.
  • Set your supervisors up with healthy habits.  Equip them to perform one-on-one evaluations with everyone on their team starting in week one of staff training.  Don’t wait until the campers arrive.
  • Utilize the Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace. (I lead a workshop called, The Love Languages Go To Camp if you’d be interested in that)  Based on Manage By Appreciation program.
  • Be prepared with the tools you need.  Prior to camp, create agendas for meetings your supervisors will have with the teams they support. The agenda should start the meeting with a time of sharing and conversation to strengthen trust. Then, have the agenda guide the meeting through the camp’s core values. For example, our first core value was Safety First. Our first agenda question, “Does anyone have any safety concerns or celebrations?” We do this with every core value. (Check out my post on this topic)
  • Create safe spaces.  Assign sleeping accommodations to resident staff so supervisors and the staff they support don’t sleep in the same space.  It’s harder to coach someone when you share a bunk bed.
  • Model well.  Check out this post: More is caught than is taught.
  • Train both ends of leadership. The leading and the following.  Remember, most of your staff have never had a supervisor.  Train them how to respond to leadership by equipping them with clarification questions to ask, what to do if they think something is unfair, etc.  The intention here is to kill gossip.
  • Equip the team with understanding.  Use the DISC profile assessment to help your leaders and staff relate better to one another.
  • Bring in returning staff 24 hours before new staff. Bring them up to speed on changes. Get all of the “but we’ve always done it that way” out of their systems. I also gave out assignments of who would be leading what during training. I require all supervisors to lead one thing during training and encourage all other returning staff to do the same.
  • On the first night of all staff training, cook together. We use a menu with lots of different items that need to be prepared. Individual Pizzas with all kinds of toppings, taco bar, pasta bar, fondue etc. While everyone is cutting veggies, rolling dough, making sauce etc…they are free to talk. Check out my post on Distracted Listening to see why this is effective. In the past, we have also created scavenger hunts and hid the ingredients all over camp. This accomplished a camp tour for new staff at the same time. You can do this with a large staff. We’ve done this type of activity with up to 50 people.
  • Play lots of games in the first 24 hours. This both teaches games to lead with campers, and it develops the staff as a group.
  • Kill last summer.  Ask your returning staff not to tell stories of “last summer” until day 3 of training.  You don’t want to create false expectations for the new staff based on stories they hear without context. Also, new staff can feel overwhelmed with the idea that they are never going to be part of “this place”.


  • Begin with the end in mind.  Have each supervisor write a letter to each staff member they support. The letter is to be given to the staff member at the end of summer. It should include promises and goals about the kind of leader the supervisor wants to be.
  • Avoid camp cliche training.  I avoid the low ropes course during training, my supervisors. Most likely,they’ve all been through it. And, most of them are trained facilitators by this point.  Besides, they aren’t a separate team.  You don’t want an “us” vs “them” mentality.
  • Telling isn’t training.  Make training hands on and active as much as possible.
  • Read my comment about the popcorn kernel experiment I gave in reply to a question on a previous post.

I’ve avoided putting actual activities here as much as possible.  Why?  Principles before Practices.  However, I do have four 5-minute activities available here that you can use during seasonal staff training or in-service meetings throughout the season.

Here are some other posts created for camp leaders:

  1. Avoid Mid Summer Blues
  2. Consider The 3rd Option
  3. Getting Core Values to Become Your Organizations Culture



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