Leadership Lessons Learned Camping

Original post from 2012

Last weekend my Husker loving hubby and I went camping just past the small town of Silverthorne.  The landscape was covered in amazing shades of greens, purples and yellows, truly proving the whole “Welcome to Colorful Colorado” motto you see on the signs when you cross the state lines.  The snow capped mountains in the distance were like the type you see in pictures and the eagles, hawks and birds dotting the skyline gently reminded me to relax and enjoy the moment. 

I’ve realized there are a few leadership lessons that can be gleaned from getting out and enjoying the great outdoors while camping, so here are three to chew on:

1)      Be resourceful and creative to produce memorable results! 

During our camping trip we found ourselves needing to find solutions to meet needs we hadn’t planned for.  For instance after the first day and a half we ran out of plates (note-to-self: buy some actual camping plates that can be reused silly!).  this was a problem at dinner the second night.  It was: eat out of your hand or make plates out of something on hand. 

Our choice?  Tin foil plates!  Not ideal, but functional, and dinner was wonderful!  Others: Vase for wildflower centerpiece = beer koosie.  Entertainment = Brother-in-law scaring the crap out of Husker loving hubby by pretending to be a rabid wolverine in the dark.     

Strong leaders constantly think of creative, new ways to approach business challenges and opportunities.  So many people think they aren’t creative.  I beg to differ!  Everyone has the ability to tap into their imaginations!  Just let go and let the ideas flow, even if they sound a little funny!  You just have to be willing to put yourself out there.  I’m sure we looked silly eating dinner off our foil plates, but it got the job done and it was fun trying to create them!  But I’m also sure inventors and scientists of today’s most amazing technology were viewed as crazy at one point or another too.      

Camp cooking = great opportunity to be resourceful and creative!  Here is one of my favorites called “Omelets in a Bag”:

Large quart or gallon freezer bags that zip

Eggs (2-4 per person)

Shredded cheddar cheese

Your favorite omelet fixings like Ham, Sausage, onion, green pepper, tomatoes, etc.

Salt & Pepper

1) Fill large, fire-safe pot half-way with with water and bring to rolling boil over fire

2) Have each person put their favorite omelets together inside the bag, zipping tightly.   Combine ingredients by squeezing bag several times.  Just remember, the more eggs you use, the longer it will take to cook.  2-3 is ideal. 

3) Place bags in boiling water, trying to avoid sides of pot.  Boil for 15-20 minutes or until eggs are cooked through. 

The eggs will be fluffy and flavorful, but HOT so be careful!

    *Use prep cooked sausage and cut up lunch meat ham to keep things super simple.

    *Try this at home with the kids for a fun breakfast adventure!


2)      Leaders who consistently create “thinking time” win more!

I turned off my cell phone when we arrived at camp and didn’t turn it back on again until we left town.  Did the world end since I wasn’t accessible?  Nope, and I didn’t expect it too. 

I just finished reading “Crazy Busy” by Edward M. Hallowell, M.D. and he speaks about American’s addiction to gadgets and how it’s impacting our lifestyles and thinking patterns.  His assessment is that people get so busy because:  We can be, we want to be, we must be, we imagine that we must be, busy is fun, we let our technology run us instead of running our technology, being busy is a status symbol, we are afraid of being left out or missing something if we slow down, we are afraid that we will not keep up our standard of living unless we are super busy, we can avoid the pain of life, everyone else is busy, we don’t have to feel guilty about doing nothing, you don’t know how to not be busy…and lots, lots, more.  All of these things resonate with me, but at what cost to our well-being and creativity? 

This is a simple lesson.  Put down the gadget once in a while, and give yourself some space to think.  Technology is grand, but it shouldn’t rule your life or get in the way of your next best idea!  Disconnect, enjoy the beauty around you and be open to new possibilities.  By the end of the weekend I was moving with a more grounded pace, my attitude was WAY brighter and had some great new business ideas!  Not having an agenda or a third-arm gadget was SO worth it.  I know I’ve blogged about this before, but I really believe in the power of unplugging.

3)      The proper bait is important, but good bait doesn’t guarantee success.

I’m not much of a fisherman at this point in my life, but I enjoyed casually watching the fam fish over the weekend while I read Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister.  Over the hours of fishing, no fish were caught for our camp.  One guy standing right next to us put in one cast and boom, he caught a fish.  His young sons caught fish.  People across the river were catching fish.  Cast after cast yielded a few bites, and one close call for Team Bohnenkamp, but at the end of the day, nothing came to pass for our camp.  We even asked those who were “winning” for bait advice, but it still didn’t help. 

My guess on this one:  It was the technique and the energy, not the bait, that kept the fish away. 

The boys were so focused on catching a fish right away, that they didn’t seem to be enjoying the moment or the process.  I’m quite sure the fish could sense the forced nature behind each cast and as a result they threw up a big the middle finger. 

There is a new country song out by Trace Adkins that I love and it talks about going fishing.  He takes his daughter out and while they’re dropping a line in the water she tells him all about her days, her kittens, etc.  “She thinks they’re just fishing,” but to dad, this time together, enjoying nature and each other was the real good stuff. Check out the video here.
The point here is that good leaders are completely present in the moment with their staff and enjoy the ride.  Your company might offer the right type of “bait” to attract high quality employees, but that doesn’t guarantee success.  Employees have to feel safe, supported, and valued and leader’s actions will greatly influence these feelings.  As a leader, how do you show that you’re present and human?  Sometimes the need to produce results can blind us. Strike a balance.   
That’s all for now.  What leadership lessons have you learned from camping?  Please share and thanks for stopping by my blog!


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