From Bunkmate to Boss: The Transparent Shift

From Bunkmate to Boss: The Transparent Shift

Transitioning from a peer to a supervisor can be a challenging experience. You may find yourself in a position where you now need to manage people who were once your colleagues and friends, and that can be so isolating and hard. On one hand, you want to make sure you step up to the responsibilities in your new role, but on the other hand you want to maintain relationships with people who are important to you, and you’ve grown close to. That fine line is tricky to navigate. 

When I was first making this shift in my camping career, I attended a conference session from Sarah Kurtz McKinnon about this. She shared personal testament about her experience making the jump from a seasonal staff member to an Executive Director, and what challenges she faced in that move. I learned a lot of valuable things in that session, but one thing that stood out and stuck with me was her focus around transparency in leadership. Kurtz detailed a moment where she had to do a course correction with a staff member that was a close friend, and that moment inflicted a bit of conflict and stress on their relationship. At the core of the conversation though, Kurtz grounded her message in transparency, and explained that she was just trying to do a good job, and hoped that her friend/ supervisee could understand that.

Why Transparency Matters in Leadership

However, being a transparent leader can be intimidating. It means admitting when things aren't going well and taking responsibility for mistakes. It can also look like  sharing sensitive information that may be uncomfortable or difficult to talk about. Transparency calls for a whole lot of vulnerability.

Despite the challenges and scariness though, transparency is essential for effective leadership. When you are transparent, you create a culture of trust where your team feels comfortable approaching you with questions or concerns, which more often than not leads to a more positive work environment, increased employee engagement, and improved productivity. Transparency also helps to prevent misunderstandings and rumors from spreading. When you communicate openly with your team members, they are less likely to make assumptions about your intentions or actions. This can help to prevent conflicts and misunderstandings from arising, which can save time and resources in the long run. By being transparent, you can create a culture of clarity and accountability where everyone is on the same page.

Being transparent can also help you to make better decisions as a supervisor. When you involve your team members in the decision-making process and share information about your thought process, you can gain valuable insights and perspectives that you may not have considered otherwise. This can lead to better decision-making and more effective outcomes for your team/organization as a whole, but more importantly, people feel good working for/with you. 

Strategies to Kickstart Your Transparent Leadership

Developing a transparent leadership style takes a lot of time, energy, and readjustment. If you’re interested in starting small, try these strategies to dip your toe in the waters of transparency:

  • Share your vision and goals with your team: Be open and honest about your plans and what you hope to achieve. This will help your team understand your priorities and make more informed decisions.
  • Communicate regularly: Schedule regular check-ins with your team to keep them updated on important developments, such as changes in strategy, new initiatives, or upcoming projects.
  • Encourage feedback: Create an environment where your team feels comfortable sharing their thoughts and opinions with you. This will help you make better decisions and build stronger relationships with your team members.
  • Be honest about challenges: Don't sugarcoat the difficulties your team is facing. Be open and transparent about the obstacles you're encountering and work with your team to find solutions together.
  • Share information: Make sure your team has access to the information they need to do their jobs effectively. This includes sharing data, reports, and other relevant materials.
  • Lead by example: Model the behavior you want to see from your team. If you're transparent and open with your team, they're more likely to follow your lead and be transparent with you in return.

The Keys to a Successful Role Transition

The key to a successful transition from peer to supervisor however, is to establish trust and respect with your team. Start by acknowledging that your role has changed and that you are now responsible for their performance. Take the time to get to know each team member on a personal level and build strong relationships with them. This will help you understand their strengths and weaknesses and enable you to provide effective coaching and support.

Establish clear boundaries. You need to ensure that you are not showing favoritism towards any team member and that you are treating everyone fairly and equally. Be clear about your expectations and standards, and hold everyone accountable for their performance. This will help you establish yourself as a strong and effective leader who is focused on achieving results and driving performance.

Finally, don't be afraid to seek feedback and guidance from your own supervisor or mentor. They can provide valuable insights and advice on how to navigate this transition successfully. Remember that it is normal to feel overwhelmed or uncertain during this time, but with the right mindset, support, and approach, you can successfully transition from a peer to a supervisor and lead your team to success.

This blog is inspired by a podcast episode.

Which episode? Our First Time Camp Directors episode.


Maggie MitchellMaggie Mitchell

Resource Lead

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