Super Seminar: What I Learned From a Conference Center Retreat

I’ve gone over to the dark side. Instead of spending my week working on camp (which is less than two months away), I spent the week hidden away at a conference center in Florida for the International Association of Conference Center Administrators’ (also known as IACCA) Super Seminar. I was extremely apprehensive beforehand (yes, I asked for a refund and tried to get out of it), but now that we’re in our day of reflection, I can tell you it was totally worth it.

Super Seminar featured three guest speakers who all taught for an entire day. The fourth day was a day of reflection for us to look back on what we’ve learned and see how we could apply it in our everyday lives. I planned to leave before this day, but I’m incredibly glad I stayed. You can read more about that later!

Each day was designed to build off the last, and we used the Arbinger books The Outward Mindset and Leadership and Self-Deception as our guides for the week.

Day 1: Bill Symes

Bill is a licensed professional counselor who laid the psychological foundation for the leadership techniques we talked about during the week. He has a book, Mastering the Art of Psychotherapy, and you can read more about him and his work on his website.

I won’t go through everything we learned, but here are some of the highlights you can apply to your camp and to your life.

  • Our energy level is related to our emotions. If we’re tired, we may just have underlying anger, guilt, sadness, anxiety, etc. that we’re choosing not to deal with.
    • This leads to our enemy: BURNOUT.
  • We feel the most joy when we are in our natural state. Anxiety, depression, etc. are anyone’s natural state.
  • People feel the most joy when they’re unfiltered, uninhibited, and say what they want to say.
  • It’s incredibly important to let emotions out. Emotions manifest themselves in symptoms (anxiety, depression, lethargy, etc.) if we hold them inside.
    • There are different levels of emotion:
      • 1-3: Socially accepted (It’s understandable to be a little angry about this)
      • 4-7: Blind spot (Push it away and don’t deal with it, but let it fester).
      • 8-10: The final straw (Blow ups)
    • It’s important to find a way to get those emotions out before they get to to the final straw level.
    • This can be done in different ways, from talking to the person, talking to a third party, to coloring, doing yoga, etc.
  • We all have “blink” moments where we know exactly what to do, but we often fight that urge.
    • This brings down our energy levels and prevents us from being our true selves. Trust that gut instinct!
  • Much more of the world is autistic (also known as neurodiverse) than we think. It’s estimated actually 20-60% of the world is neurodiverse.
    • This way of thinking isn’t wrong. It’s just different from the mainstream.
    • This means it’s likely you have neurodiverse people on your staff.
    • Wanna know if you’re neurodiverse? Take the quiz.
  • In group situations, it’s best to stay in the eye of the hurricane and not get wrapped up in other people’s problems or emotions.
    • This doesn’t mean don’t have empathy. It just means don’t get bogged down in other problems. If you’re bogged down with it, you’re probably being manipulated.
  • We get the relationships we allow.
    • If we allow people to treat us a certain way, they will. Set boundaries.

Day 2: Doug Walker

Doug Walker is the executive director of the Episcopal Foundation of the Diocese of Florida and the Bishop’s deputy for advancement and stewardship. My camp is owned and operated by the Diocese of Florida, so I work a lot with Doug. At Super Seminar, he presented on Leadership and Self-Deception. Here are the highlights:

Day 3: Bill Nelson

Bill is a retired conference center director and the new mayor of a small town. He spoke about The Outward Mindset.

  • The Outward Mindset coincides with Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle. Find your why, and let it guide your how and what.
  • Your camp and home life will be more successful if you take the time to look outward and see how you can adjust to make other’s jobs and lives easier and more pleasant.
  • Create a culture that allows others to have the outward mindset as well.
  • Wunderlist is a good resource.
  • To serve people better, get interested in other people’s whys.
    • Instead of rolling your eyes when a parent tries to get their child hired or asks an off-the-wall question, find out their real why, and you can serve them better.
  • Don’t change procedures, change mindsets.

Day 4: Day of Reflection

I’m sure none of us really have time to take one day for ourselves: to reflect, to read a book, to listen to things you want to listen to, or to focus on things that make you happy, but if you make the time for it, it’s 100 percent worth it.

We started our day of reflection in a small group by taking a walk on the nature trail. This nature trail had Bible verses (just references, not full verses) on different trail markers, and we stopped to read each one out loud. If you’re at a Christian camp, DO THIS. It was one of the coolest things ever.

Then, I reflected on the things we learned. Some things really jumped out at me for camp this summer. To be the best camp director I can be, I need to make sure I’m taking care of my emotions and getting them out in a healthy way. I also need to encourage my staff to do the same and to create a culture where the staff strives to serve our parents and campers and serve each other. Next, I wrote this blog to really reflect.

What am I going to do with the rest of my day? Sit outside. Read a book. Do some work things that I truly enjoy.

And tomorrow, I’ll be ready to go back to work less stressed and more determined than I was before.

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