Coyote's Corner

Field Lessons and Games, Insights and Resources

Why bring office staff into the field?

by Brennan Gillis

Posted in |

Lots of laughs, some burnt coffee, and positive learning outcomes for the whole team!

“Swimmer, Rope!” Called CFI’s Reservations and Contracts Officer to a swimming Education Director. In Ruby Horsethief Canyon, Michele Johnson tagged Alex de Moor with a throwbag, braced for the inevitable tug, and was anchored in place by Jory Macomber as she swung Alex into the safety of an eddy. In 2022, not only are our new Apprenti learning swiftwater rescue skills, our administrative staff are practicing technical skills right there alongside them! At CFI, the administrative staff is hands on. While this is true for many nonprofits, our direct and interactive approach to management takes on a new meaning. Only at CFI will you find office staff practicing ferry angles, cooking up veggie spaghetti in a river kitchen and, yes, even cleaning out the groover!

sasha and michele navigate black rocks ruby horsethief
Sasha and Michele navigate the Black Rocks of Ruby Horsethief. Photo: Brandi Atene

In the field, CFI students thrive from a student centered, immersive approach to learning. Alex de Moor, CFI’s Education Director, is striving to integrate the same student centered techniques, not just in the field, but all throughout our organization. We believe that the same interactive techniques that create successful opportunities in the field can be translated back home to the office environment. The Ruby Horsethief training trip epitomized the hands on management approach of CFI’s leadership team.

How has this new approach to training affected office staff?

I asked Michele what it was like for her to be out on the training trip. She said: “Observing the techniques of educators gently and purposefully guiding our 1st years to comfort and independence and confidence in their abilities to navigate was inspiring and refreshing.” The effect that this direct observational experience can have on an administrative staff is profound: “Being out of the office and on the water with our crew to prepare for the 2022 season continues to validate that CFI represents my values and hopes for the youth that are placed in our care.”

CFI’s new Executive Director, Jory Macomber was also given a first hand view of what life is like on a CFI river trip: “I loved seeing how the Apprenti went from watching a camp run by our Program Managers to running a camp on their own.” CFI is aiming to lay the groundwork for successful teamwork, communication early on in the season. “Pairing field staff with office staff on the river in March builds a strong team for the whole year.” Michele also spoke of her increased ability to provide strong customer service: “I can share with our prospective teachers, student caregivers, and adult private trip participants with first hand knowledge of how we prepare to provide program excellence.”

guide training ruby horsethief 2022
Lashing the boats together for a closing ceremony. Photo: Brandi Atene

“You come to understand yourself through understanding others.”

Anyone who has been on a river trip knows the power the river has of generating conversation. As the sun set on our second night, the sounds a lively discussion between directors and apprentices mixed with the sound of dishwater pouring through the mesh screen into the river. I have heard people say that you can solve all the world’s problems while pushing through a few miles of canyon country flatwater. While I am not sure about the world’s problems, spending time together beneath dramatic monoclines and soaring fledglings created an invaluable connection spanning all levels of CFI’s organizational structure.

Michele said it best: “Every waking minute during the trip was filled with energy, creativity, purpose, sensitivity, situational awareness, quick thinking on your feet and your butt rowing, resulting in synergy with the land and river scape and each other. I’ve never experienced relationship like this in the workplace and our culture is simply wondrous! You come to understand yourself through understanding others.”