Words by Lauren Van Schepen // Photos by Marie Ketring
We often tend to go to the top for counsel: The penultimate authority; the time-weathered leader. But who better to give frank feedback on what it takes to come into a leadership role than a recent recruit? A small group of YNPN-TC members and Pollenites met with Chad Kampe, executive director of Mid-Continent Oceanographic Institute, and picked his brain about his first year on the job. Here’s what he had to say.
“Being a supervisor is new for me, and I’m not supervising just anyone — they’re AmeriCorps VISTAs who make 5 pennies a day. I’m constantly asking myself what I can do to make sure they feel good about what they’re doing. To me, that’s just good management.”
“I’ve learned that there’s always room to talk to your supervisor about wanting more out of any position. Leadership simply won’t come to you; you have to find it yourself. You have to ask.”
“If you can coordinate airport pickups for summer program participants who are all in different terminals and arriving at different times; if you can rent busses and keep track of your kids while you go to club nights in Boston; and if you can handle the craziness and logistics of those scenarios, then you’ll be well prepared to be an executive director.”
“If you make something sound prestigious, people will think it is.”
“We didn’t ask for a volunteer to do our rebranding — we put out an RFP (request for proposal). We didn’t get a one-time volunteer — we got a full rebrand and plan for expansion from a leading creative agency.”
“It’s a great opportunity, when you get a buddy comedy dynamic with someone more seasoned.”
“I applied to be a secretary at a Jewish day school after I graduated. They told me they’d like me to teach, and put me in a classroom with a very experienced former head of school. Working alongside someone like that is the best kind of mentorship.”
“Make sure you have someone outside of your workplace you can vent to, who isn’t involved in the same way as a co-worker would be, who won’t judge.”
“I think more people should have something like that in their lives — something that’s pure fun.”
“Police your time. You should get things done, but burning out isn’t just unhealthy for you, it’s unhealthy for the organization. I DJ at Flip Phone and some people may say that diverts energy away from my job, but it’s a good exercise in segmenting my time and scheduling well. I think more people should have something like that in their lives — something that’s pure fun.”
“We take our jobs seriously. I know you do, and I certainly do. But if something goes wrong, learn from it and move on. We’re all here with the right hearts.”
This piece is a summary of a conversation with Chad Kampe, which took place at the Mid-Continent Oceanographic Institute on October 17, 2014, as part of Pollen and YNPN-TC’s joint Breakfast of Champions series. For more information, or to register for an upcoming event, check ynpntwincities.org.