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As social creatures, human beings naturally organize themselves into hierarchies. As people in tech, it is imperative to develop our leadership and organizational skills at every opportunity. Inevitably, these skills and experiences will be valuable in the future.
I recently organized a camping trip for my son's Cub Scout pack. Over 100 people (50 adults and 50 kids) signed up. When I told people I was planning this big camping trip, many said, "Why?", “Can’t you have somebody else do that?”, and "Shouldn't you delegate these responsibilities since you have a full-time job?"
Yes, it's true. I have a full-time job and organizing an overnight camping trip for 100 sounds like a daunting task. Still, I do this twice a year because I benefit greatly from the experience. The process has taught me several valuable lessons about leading and managing. The tips that I want to share with you fall into five buckets: vision, resources, expectations, delegation, and celebrating and learning.
Part of being a leader is inspiring people to do more than they thought was possible. It's having a vision and getting everyone to support that vision. Part of being a manager is organizing everything and ensuring that all components work well together. In the case of a camping trip, I've learned that the vision of kids outdoors playing in the dirt and spending time learning how to survive in the wilderness is easy to get families behind. The more challenging part is managing that experience. Having a clear vision of what you're trying to do is critical. If you don't know what you want, it's tough to get started, and inspiring people to work hard for you is impossible.
A vision is only good if you have the resources to make it a reality. I book the campsites a year in advance to ensure we have a space. Understanding and organizing resources for a project is critical to its success. You may not have everything you need upfront, but you should have a good idea of what you will need, a plan to obtain those resources, and a plan for handling your last-minute needs.
Next, I think it is essential to set clear expectations. This involves making your schedule for the camping trip and ensuring everyone knows what will happen. By setting clear expectations, you are indicating what success is. You may change some things along the way but having that outline of what success looks like is a critical template and management tool.
Once you have a plan and a schedule, you need to delegate. The nice thing about 50 adults is that I have 50 people to delegate to. I had a Dinner Team, a Hike Team, a Breakfast Team, and an Activity Team. Each team had a small specific task that they oversaw.
I was not prescriptive on specifics around the teams but gave a general outline of what was expected. I then let the teams run with it. It is a bit harder when you have a set of volunteers that you have not met before, and all they did was indicate their preferences. This is part of the fun, though, seeing if a leader will rise, and the creation of ideas you would not have imagined. If you find a great leader for the team, you can just let them go off and do the assigned task without needing to micromanage them. You may need to give more prescriptive advice to some groups, but it is always a joy when you don't need to—you can have new ideas and plans that you would not have thought of yourself. We had a fantastic dinner with hot dogs and pulled pork sandwiches, and I would have never picked that as our dinner, but the team devised a great plan and executed it well. So, giving your team or the people you've delegated authority the opportunity to determine the right path allows for potentially better ideas than you might devise yourself.
Also, you can recognize your group's natural leaders—those who take ideas and make something more, great workers who support and make a difference by getting stuff done, and those who do what they're told but are not particularly prone to doing anything independently. Delegating and watching while supporting is a great way to evaluate and understand the strengths and weaknesses of your team.
After your event, it's important to celebrate all the great work that everybody’s done and to thank everyone for the energy and effort they put into creating a successful camping event or executing successfully on a team project. I love that my volunteer experiences help me create great experiences for my children and help to reinforce or teach me important lessons about leadership and management. I think it's valuable to reflect on all the places in your life that guide you and truly do help you improve because it's not just in the workplace that we grow.Karna Nisewaner has served as General Counsel and Corporate Secretary of Cadence since September 2022.