Thursday, September 16, 2021

2010 - Leadership and "fatherly" Lesson


Lesa Culpepper (L)

(Fifty Nifty Years In the United States Series)

Lesa Culpepper – So this is the year after our last year working together in Florida and the reason I picked it was the true impact of Lesa’s influence on my life was felt. For most of our last three years in Florida; Lesa became a tremendous part in our lives.

I recall that we (several staff and I) were at a conference for camping folks in Orlando, FL and I was there to recruit summer staff as well. There was a bulletin board with plenty of resumes and fliers of potential candidates. None jumped out at me. I did notice what appeared to be a the word “tern” on a small 3x5 card under the corners of several other resumes.

There was something about that card that led to a phone call and a meeting and eventually that internship. It was buried beneath so much and I still noticed it like the bright shining object in a sky of so many other shiny things. It was a guiding hand that made me look deeper. That has been the lesson with Lesa.

Her camp name is “SuperNova” and I found that that has been how she leads. A bright light that explodes and leads you on a path. I have read a theory that the Star of Bethlehem was in fact a Super Nova and the wise man followed it to the Christ child. So it may not come as a surprise of how this wonderful servant leader helped me become a better father.

Lesa lived at Camp and then near-by as her internship became a full time position with our camp. Her faith led her to a church that actually met at the YMCA. I on the other hand, did not want to be a part of a church that essentially met at work and declined attendance over and over. Lesa never wavered and decided that my children needed spiritual guidance and would drive my kids to attend and participate. I did not see this as a issue and I enjoyed my Sunday mornings at home drinking coffee and watching the Sunday morning magazine shows on television.

It was only after leaving Florida and moving to a new camp in New York that my faith woke up again from a nap. I realized that Lesa was providing the fatherly example to Alec, Kelly and Brian that I was not. I see that as a lesson that has meant so much for me.

In a previous BLOG, I wrote about a call I received when I first became a father. I consider myself a servant leader and I learned and gained from Lesa what should have come naturally. I learned from that 23 year old how to lead and provide what I believe is the most important part of parenting.

This has led me to a path of taking on a leadership role in my church working with youth and developing their spiritual education. I am so grateful for “SuperNova” and her explosion into our lives and in my 50 plus years living in these United States I am blessed by her example of “fatherly” service.

Monday, August 30, 2021

2009 - Leadership and Influence


Myself (L) Jackie ( C - sporting cool 1968 glasses) and two of the 3 Little Pigs
(Bonus to those who can name the pigs?)

(Fifty Nifty Years in the United States)

Jackie has always been my older sister. It just worked out that way. She has always been there. That plays on so many levels.

I am not sure what it is like to depend on someone so much and then no longer have them there. My sister has been the example for me on how to allow your faith to carry you through what can be one of the most difficult life lessons.

I can’t’ mention Jackie without mentioning Tyler too. This was the year that Tyler turned for the worse with his cancer and later on we lost him. They were together for over 25 years and they both had a great influence on me.

Early in their marriage, Tyler told me one day that he was disappointed with the direction I had been taking and I should consider following a different path. His words turned me around and like being brashly scolded by an older brother; I changed how I decided to be.

And Jackie who has always led the way in my life, has changed how I see my faith life but watching her lose Tyler and come back from the loss with a fierceness that I would say is miraculous. Her faith has been an example and a light for me. I cannot imagine a time when she has not influenced my life.

It was her simple question about work at the age of 15 that led me into over 36 years of service to the YMCA. It was her and Tyler that allowed us opportunity with the early days of my family that led to a home. And it is her example in the face of massive grief and loss that shows me how faith can change your perspective on everything.

John Maxwell says “leadership is influence, nothing more, nothingless.” The leadership the Jackie has provided is powerful and profound. I remember my parents and grandparents telling us from an early age that in the end, we would be all that we have of our childhood family. Being just 13 months apart, we were often asked if we were twins. This was always complicated early on since our mother made a lot of our clothes and we were always coordinated. I recall thinking of t as a compliment since being younger, I was thought of as older.

And yes like most siblings we argued. And yes, there was the time she stabbed me in the eye with a butter knife. Or the time she threw a gasoline soaked towel in my face. And all those times she would sit on my stomach and tickle me while I laughed so much that I could not catch my breath and my lips turned blue. So much of those run of the mill, early and normal childhood events between siblings.

I maintain, as does John, that the Law of Influence should be required reading. It builds over time; there is a reset; and truly knowing and understanding it. Jackie has been that guidepost for me for the entire time we have been in these Unites States and for my entire life. She never has had a title other than being my big sister.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

2008 - Leadership and Communication Styles


Collin Pelletier (leading with song)

(Fifty Nifty Years in the United States Series)

I loved his communication style at camp (this was the YMCA Camp in Florida from 2004-2009). This camper was all about paint ball and he taught me a thing or two about communication.

Collin was one of our paintball campers (at least that’s what I called them). At 12 or 13 he spent about a month at camp each summer. Yes, we had a paintball program and when I arrived at that camp, I was not an advocate at all. It wasn’t until I met Collin that I was convinced that there were great outcomes for the program.

Matt “Copperhead” Sheah (who I blogged about recently) first brought him to my attention and asked me to come to a morning period to watch Collin in action.

At 13, Collin was in charge of his team. He was a foot shorter and thin as a rail and took over the minute he stepped onto the field. He talked and taught everyone about the need for communication and that actions were needed more than words. When I think of what he brought to the field, I think of his influence, his intuition, his magnetism and most importantly, his connection.

I was captivated by how he connected to his team on an emotional level. Collin left camp in 2008 and I have not seen him since that summer. I continue to hear from Collin regularly. His most recent correspondence reminded me about the power of prayer. (If you are not a prayerful person, perhaps thinking of prayer as the law of attraction.)

John Maxwell talks about communication being the greatest skill. Collin showed, clarity, continuity, and creativity in his style and manner. He reminds me that the things you need are there and you just need to reach out and ask for it and it will show up in your life. He is not the first to have taught me this. He is the latest to have reminded me that of which I already know.

I am so grateful that the Collins of the world continue to show up on my journey over the past 50 years in these Untied States. What a joyful and amazing thing it is to learn from the young people we are blessed to serve. Nelson Henderson said it best, “The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.” Thank you my friend, Collin.

Post Script: You can see Collin featured in this Outdoor Channel video from the series, Camp YMCA - Collin is mostly on the first episode and a bit into the second. Episode 1  Episode 2  Episode 3

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

2007 - Leadership Adding To Others


Josh (L) and family

(Fifty Nifty Years in the United States Series)

Josh Greene is an amazing soul that worked harder in one day than most people do in a week. He is from Georgia, USA (originally) and he was quiet and reserved; as well as an Eagle Scout. I know those things don’t seem to relate.

When I met him, I stayed in what was his home and became my family’s home. When you think of American, Southern hospitality, I think of Josh. I would ask him three questions and he would often answer with one or two word answers so I would often keep asking questions until I learned more about him.

He was always able to get things accomplished which I credit due to his Scouting background. I have been blessed with amazing young folks who work hard and I think of Josh when it came to working.

In my work with leadership development, I have used Myers Briggs as a way to determine not only personality types. It was a tool that l utilized with my support staff (what I call a directing team) on how they would work with one another. And more, it was great predictor on how they would communicate with one another.  During our support staff orientations we would spend an evening playing “Castle Risk” a version of the Hasbro/Parker Brothers RISK game. (I had mentioned this in previous BLOGs)

Knowing each person’s MB type allowed me to watch how they would potentially work together, collaborate and more importantly communicate. I could team Josh with anyone (with rare exception) and he would get things done and make his partner or alliances look good.

In one of my typical “standing” staff meetings, folks would share their top three priorities for the day. Josh would often go last and list how he had already take care of his top three and half of everyone else’s list before the morning program rotation at camp. John Maxwell calls this his Law of Addition.

It is what I learned from Josh in his steady, calm quiet resolve to do more than anyone else. It was never competitive in anyway; it was his gift to the team. Leaders aren’t always the loudest or most outgoing and the center of all things. As a leader, he was adding value to others by serving others in addition to his own work.

He captured alliances in what he did by being the one that got things done and could be relied upon to often solve the issue or challenge. When we had early morning programs, Josh was often the first one there who had everything ready to go. I imagine Josh continues to be that in all that he has done and all that he will accomplish.

I often think of one evening when Josh had a particular challenge in life and there was a knock on my door. Given the circumstances and knowing who he allowed in to his inner circle, I was astonished to see him and honored that he came to me for advice and support. I knew in that moment I had just become a member of a very special group of people. John Maxwell 11th Irrefutable Law of Leadership talks about a leader’s potential being determined by those closest to them.

Josh adds value to all and he is still adding value to his family and those he serves in his community. I met Josh in 2004 and for just over five years he helped determine and support all that I was determined to do and be great as a member of my team. I am honored to have been allowed in his inner circle for that time. For this I am thankful to Josh as I have traveled the past 50 plus years in these United States.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

2006 - Leadership - It's Not About Me


Matt' Copperhead" Sheah

(Fifty Nifty Years in the United States Series)

Several times I have tried to update Wikipedia – I have submitted Matt’s name and profile to go with the word “Loyalty.” I am unclear why they do not accept this. Anyone who has worked or known Matt Sheah knows of his loyalty and devotion. His camp name is “Copperhead."

He got that name on the third time I met him. He had just arrived at the camp I was running in Florida from 2004-2009. Several of us were down at the spring trying to figure out how to remove a snake from near the pier. Matt walked up, assessed the situation and moved to action. He walked up to a utility truck, took out a large screw driver, walked down to the water, stabbed the snake in the back of the head and removed it.

Not actual picture of Matt and the Copperhead (shown for size estimate only)

It has long been noted in my family (Ferreira) that we are heirs to the throne in Portugal. Some circumstantial evidence supports that – at best. In the knights of old, there was always a knight that protected the King’s family. Loyal to a fault and would give anything and always had the royal family in his best care. So, should some series of circumstances all for my family’s  return to power in Portugal, I would have Matt as my Minister of All Things.

All joking aside, Matt is one of the best people I have had the opportunity to work with in all my years. That has been Matt Sheah and did I mention he is a black belt; and an Eagle Scout; and a teacher; and a husband; and a exceptional father; and a great person; and so much more including my friend.

It was at our second camp that we officially adopted INAM as a staff philosophy. For those who are unfamiliar with INAM - it stands for "It's Not About Me." Several dozen (maybe hundred) times in my career and life, I have had moments where I made the mistake to focus on what I needed and lost focus on how to serve. At the camp in new York, it was a dominant culture with the leadership. Upon my arrival, I met with no less than 17 different folks who informed me that they had "director" in their title. It was in those conversations that I asked about who actually worked directly with children and not a single one of those folks did.

Matt and I began a culture change process and formerly adopted the INAM as a way to instill focus on our mission, "serving youth." 

When I think about the terrible things that happen in the news about our world, I know that Matt is hope for the future. His influence with young people gives me great hope. When I was offered a position to change camps and move 11 states away, Matt was the first person I asked to help me move and in my mind, I thought if I could just get him to come along I would get to continue working with him. Somehow that plan ended up working and I got to work with him for two more years.

It was his loyalty and his fervent support of whatever agenda I had. In private we would discuss and disagree. And when we were in front of our team, he would always forward the agenda and culture. It is a value that I learned from him and I did not consider how much I valued that until I was no longer working with him. 

Matt has always furthered the mission of sharing the outdoors and leadership with so many youth. John Maxwell's 11th Law of Leadership is that of the Law of the Inner Circle. John talks about it being the company you keep and how that reflects back on you. I have been so fortunate to be in Matt's inner circle at two different camps serving thousands of youth and leaders. If my potential is determined by those closest to me, than I am better for having Matt influence my life and work,

I have had the fortune of working with Matt, who is an exceptional person and I am extremely grateful for having had him as part of my 50 plus years in these United States.

Friday, July 9, 2021

2005 - Leadership and Learning

Megan with Stanley (A future BLOG story - Megan's the human)

(Fifty Nifty Years in the United States Series)
I always want to be there when she learns new things. One of the most delightful people I have had the opportunity to know and work with. It is clear the she is and always will be a lifelong learner. And that contagious learning makes me smile to this day.

I have always considered myself a life-long learner and to this day, I know that as I get older, I realize the less I know. Megan came aboard our lives at the Camp in Florida. She was an intern that I am sure I had work on multiple projects including our new grant funded after school program and our accreditation with the American Camp Association.

Our conversations always gave me a “pick me up” when it came to learning leadership. I felt I always walked away with more than I left. It was her exuberance to learn and grow that is one of her most compelling traits. I cannot recall a single conversation that she wasn’t sharing something other than what she had just learned about herself, a class or a life lesson.

Several years later she recounted a time where she wanted to buy radios for camp for us to have better communication. I challenged back that we needed to have better communication with our team to even consider using radios. She called it a “lesson in communication.” Truth be known, I thought of it as a, “oh my gosh we can’t afford radios at this moment.”

And by the way, she led the way and improved how we all communicated as a team.
Support Staff (aka Directing Team) circa 2005

At that time, I had been utilizing the MyersBriggs personality assessment to determine how best to place co-leaders in a cabin. (Click the link above to take a free test and comment your type)

I had originally had a less complicated system by determining how to do so by watching leaders interact during our staff orientation week and then having a late night gathering with support staff (what I called my directing team) and arguing sometimes for hours about who would best fit with whom. We seldom had 50-50 odds that it would work out.

After I began using Myers Briggs, our odds shot up to 80% success rate. There are some MB personalities that work amazing together and some personality types that you do not ever, ever place together. I also began using the Myers Briggs assessment to determine how best to predict how our support staff team would work and communicate.

Knowing their types, I employed an evening of playing Castle Risk (a variation of the Hasbro/Parker Brothers RISK) with the support staff team. Megan, as I recall did not enjoy the experience. Matt Sheah reminded me that it wasn’t so much that she disliked the experience; it was more a hesitancy to “thin out” our teammates in the game. She did not want to go against the team. The end result of an evening of play, was that it would magnify the leadership communication styles for each person. It was a great predictor of how communication would occur.

As a lifelong learner, Megan demonstrated and continues to do so, a purpose driven life. She approaches everything in that manner and it allows her enthusiasm to be contagious and for those who are learning along with her, to reach a higher degree of success.

Matt and Megan helped redesign out Leader-In-Training program into the three year arc that I have used at multiple camps with a greater degree of skills based learning. I long have maintained that camping is in the child development (leader development) business. I took that program to two subsequent camps and ultimately designed a leadership training week. At one point in time, 100% of our new junior leadership staff, came from that program. Growing our own leadership.

John Maxwell says that his 3rd Law of Leadership is all about Process. "Leadership is learned over time. Leaders are always learners."

Having someone who enjoys learning and applies that enjoyment to helping others learn is Megan’s gift to me. I am so grateful for her and for sharing that with me as I have traveled 50 plus years in these United States. I am thrilled to continue having her (and her husband Brian from a previous BLOG) be a part of our lives. Together they continue to serve in different leadership capacities and I love to hear from them and their amazing family

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

2004 - Leadership Using Leaders and Enders

John (L) Peggy (R)

(Fifty Nifty Years in the United States Series)

It was a fateful lunch just a few months into my tenure as the Camp Director for a YMCA camp in Florida. The CEO who had hired me had an unexpected turn of events and was gone. Peggy, who had started about 5 months prior to my arrival was being appointed the interim CEO (and eventually became the CEO) had asked me to lunch to “talk.”

Circumstances were not optimal at all. She knew I had moved my family from California and that the situation was not what I had signed on for.

I recalled a story about how in parishes when a new Pastor was appointed, the entire staff would offer their resignation. (The point being that the pastor would have the option to decide who they wanted and thus helped create their own team.) As I shared the story, Peggy stopped me and said, “I don’t want to do this without you.” It was a frank discussion and one that set the tone for our relationship for nearly five years with that organization.

“We feed things.” This is one of my favorite Peggy terms. The story behind this is that we inherited several back invoices from the previous administration. One was for a local feed supplier for the horses that we owned. (A beautiful barn and somewhere between 7 and 15 horse year round for lessons and trail rides and eventually a drill team led by another amazing person who just happened to knock on my door one day.) They had a back pasture to feed, but they also had grain to supplement the sandy terrain that is Florida (essentially one big sandbar).

We also had two other vendors where those that supplied food for the dining hall for the summer season. This was not as easy because we owed well over five figures to these two vendors and we needed to get food supplies for that current summer. I met with one of the vendors and the other basically wanted nothing to do with us.

We arranged a pay schedule that would keep us current with any new purchases and basically made a $500 to $2000 payment along with those new invoices to pay off the past. Peggy made this equitable arrangement and then did something even more amazing. She kept her word. I am not implying that others had not. I have worked with several non-profit senior staff that liked to tell others what they thought they wanted to hear. In fact, that was the case with most of the past leadership I had worked with. (With the exception of the folks I have previously mentioned in past post from my Blog and specifically Fifty Nifty series)

Peggy approached everything with a certain resolve. She utilized everything and everyone around her. She would often cite the movie Apollo 13 (and you all know what a fan I am – ‘She had me at Apollo’) and the scene where the engineers at the Johnson Space Center would throw a bag of items on a table to determine everything that the astronauts had in their damaged lunar capsule. The result was that they figured out a way with limited options to make sure that those astronauts where able to keep breathing – no pressure.

Peggy took this and the ability to work in difficult and critical conditions and those were our great lessons.

Peggy was also a quilter. Someone who liked to make quilts. It wasn't until a while after our time together that I started to connect her passion for quilting with leadership. I had hear the term "leaders and enders" in reference t o quilting and had no idea what that was.

As I've come to learn, a leader is where one will put a small piece of scrap fabric under the foot to start the sewing off. It helps prevent thread from bunching up and essentially ending up with a bird's nest at the end of the fabric. An ender is a small piece of scrap fabric at the end of the piecing that ensures a ¼″ seam to the edge.

                             Use a piece of scrap fabric as the ender

You may have heard quilter’s talk about using leaders and enders. I had heard these terms many times and didn’t have a clue what they were talking about until I went to a trunk show last fall and was enlightened as to what they were. In the picture above you can see the different fabric at the start and finish of the chain – the leader and ender.

A quilter shared with me that "Leaders and enders are a great way to help ensure the ¼″ seam is accurate at the start and finish of piecing as well as eliminate some of those other issues we sometimes have. The best part is that you can create another quilt at the same time or at least get started on one."

These preventative or leading measures are how Peggy looked at leadership as well. Preventing issues that form as a result of early decisions; saving by eliminating what needs to be cut off; consistency; forcing you to clip what is not needed; pieces together additional items; and making things more efficient.

I have worked at camp and many of you know the 24/7 or as I call it 25/8 cycle of a summer season. Imagine that going on for nearly two years straight. And in the middle of all that Hurricane Katrina happens and Peggy decides to pack up half the staff and go help run a shelter for hurricane victims. This lesson that when you think you have troubles and strife; to be able to seek out those in worse conditions and say, stop what you’re doing, and we are going to help those in true need. That single action was one of the greatest lessons I gained from Peggy.

I am so grateful for those five years and those constant new challenges. It has given me a great appreciation to know that miracles happen every day. I learned that and so much more from Peggy as I have spent these past 50 plus years in these United States.

P.S. A link for actual quilting with leaders and enders.

2010 - Leadership and "fatherly" Lesson

  Lesa Culpepper (L) (Fifty Nifty Years In the United States Series) Lesa Culpepper – So this is the year after our last year working togeth...