Tag Archives: loyalty

The Power of a Shared Vision

A few weeks ago, I participated in my favorite annual activity: attending summer camp.  The camp is for abused children and is part of a national effort organized through Royal Family Kids’ Camps, Inc. (www.rfkc.org).  I have two main passions in life.  One is teaching, and the other is helping children.  The camp scratches that itch for me every year.  But the reason I’m writing about it has less to do with the children than with the adult volunteers who organize and conduct the camp.

Camp is a tough commitment for many of the volunteers.  It requires a six-day trip, which usually requires the volunteer to use vacation time.  Our camp is located in the middle of Texas during a week of July, when temperatures are scorching.  Each camp guide takes responsibility for two campers between the ages of 7-11 and spends 22.5 hours a day with them.

Every day of the week starts at 7:30a (earlier if the adult wants to get a shower in) and runs until 9:30p, when the camp guide is allowed to take a 90-minute break before stumbling into his/her comfy camp bunk.  Camp guides follow a tightly-packed schedule and do their best to make camp the ultimate experience for each of their campers.

I’m not doing it justice, because many volunteers spend hours and hours in preparation for camp – submitting to an invasive interview process, participating in two days of on-site training, attending meetings, shopping for cabin decorations, loading trucks, inventorying supplies, attending fund raisers, etc…  Suffice it to say, this camp requires a unique and demanding type of commitment.

Each year, it takes over 60-70 adults to host the one-week camp for approximately 60-70 abused children.  That’s a one-to-one ratio of adults to children – almost unheard of at a summer camp but absolutely essential for preserving the safety and creating the experience for the kids.  Sixty adults is a tough number to muster for a volunteer opportunity, but this camp has done it successfully for the past twelve years.  This year, most of our 70+ adults were returning volunteers.  Twenty-two have been with us for five years or more, and seven of those have been with the camp for all twelve years.

I have never seen a team operate as smoothly and effectively as the one that comes together each year to put on RFKC #47.  Personal differences are set aside.  Egos are checked at the camp gates.  Individual agendas are abandoned…all in an attempt to serve the kids.  All this while volunteers are being tested to their physical, mental and emotional limits.

How do the camp directors generate such loyalty, commitment and sacrifice from the volunteers?  Simple.  The power of a shared vision.  The camp directors don’t have to cajole these contributions from their volunteers, because the volunteers give them freely.  They don’t have to offer incentives, because the volunteers believe that the work is reward enough in itself.  They can elicit extraordinary effort from their volunteers just by asking, because the volunteers are passionate about the goals of the camp.

Can this power be put to work on your team?  YES!  To do it, you will need to create a vision that all your team members can get excited about.  Even if the work your team does isn’t viewed as intrinsically rewarding in and of itself, you can create incredible synergy by identifying your team’s uniqueness.  What is it that your team wants to be known for?  What makes it different from all the other teams?  Why would anyone outside the team want to come be part of it?

Everyone wants to be part of something excellent and extraordinary.  They will work for less money, put up with inconvenience and hassle, step out of the spotlight…all to be part of something unique and worthwhile.  So, no more excuses!  Every team is capable of being excellent in some way.  Find out what your team values the most and then go to work creating that reputation for yourself!


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Filed under buy-in, commitment, motivation, ownership, sacrifice, Service

Don’t Be the Last to Know

When World War II ended in 1945, Japan had about three million troops overseas, about a third of them dug in on islands throughout the Pacific. These men were thoroughly trained in the Bushido code, which held that it was better to die than to surrender.  Many Japanese soldiers had been cut off from the main army during the Allies’ island-hopping campaign and continued to resist. Sporadic fighting continued for months and in some cases years after the formal surrender.

Lieutenant Hiroo Onoda had been stationed on Lubang Island in the Philippines when it was overrun by U.S. forces in February 1945. Most of the Japanese troops were slain or captured, but Onoda and several other men holed up in the mountainous jungle. The others were eventually killed, but Onoda held out for 29 years, dismissing every attempt to coax him out as a ruse.

In 1974, a college dropout by the name of Norio Suzuki was traveling the world, looking for, as he told his friends, “Lieutenant Onoda, a panda and the Abominable Snowman, in that order.”  He found Lieutenant Onoda and became friends with him.  (While he may have since seen a panda, reports suggest that he is still looking for the Abominable Snowman.)  Despite Suzuki’s encouragement, Onoda refused to come out of the mountains unless ordered by a superior officer.

Suzuki returned with photographs of him and Onoda and convinced the Japanese government to go after Onoda (they had declared him officially dead years before).  Finally, the government officials located his commanding officer, who went to Lubang in 1974 to order Onoda to give up. The lieutenant stepped out of the jungle to accept the order of surrender in his dress uniform and sword, with his rifle still in operating condition.  Surprisingly, he wasn’t the last Japanese soldier to surrender.  Teruo Nakamura was discovered in December of the same year on Morotai Island in Indonesia.

Sometimes we become so invested in fighting our battles that we fail to recognize that everyone around us has moved on to other goals.  They knew (long before we ever recognized it) that the battle was lost, that it was no longer worth fighting.  Leaders need to know when to cut their losses and move on – sometimes even from a good cause.

As Christian leaders, we have a Superior Officer who will tell us which battles are worth fighting, but we have to evaluate, and we have to ask.  When our activities stop producing fruit, we should consult God before we redouble our efforts.  It may be that He has moved on to other priorities, and there is no sense wasting time on our pet projects when there won’t be an impact at their completion.  In addition, it is also good to ask God to order our priorities when we are in the process of transition or when we’ve reached a natural stopping point.

Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails. (Proverbs 19:21)

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Filed under Change, christianity, God's Will, priorities, Prioritize, Priority