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.

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