My Dad would say this phrase to me all of the time; after dinner, after playing in the backyard, or after hanging out in the TV room. It would be said to me and my sisters on vacation or long car rides in our big family van. The best part about that quote is that we are the opposite of the "Camping Family". Although, for some reason this one saying has always stuck with me. It has a much bigger meaning than just picking up after yourself - it's a way to live for the good of the group, team, and organization.
Instead of trying to fully dissect this phrase, I figured I would ask my Dad what he thinks it really means and how it connects to work and life.
Who did you learn it from?
Boy Scouts, but it can and should apply to every location...and relationships!
What does the quote really mean to you?
It speaks for itself, though i'm happy to add it's all about being a thermostat not just a thermometer; it's important to read the temperature - situational awareness - of where one is and with whom, buts it's even nicer to positively impact them based on your presence before you leave the "campsite". I heard one of our clients told my colleagues they were impressed with our staff in caring for them including us picking up some garbage on their ground when presumable no one was looking! Put another way, everybody brings joy! Some by leaving :) (because they are negative or takers) others by coming (with a positive attitude or providing a net gain to the conversation, event, game etc.)
How can anyone leave the campsite cleaner than they find it at their work?
In addition to literally cleaning up others mess, they can mentor someone, lend an ear, to those who need one, offer prayer and kind work to someone in need - all those are tiny things not related to your job, and while they take just seconds, can give a profound impact on an organization's people and thus the organization. Besides, they can be fun too!
Additionally, they can leave work "cleaner" than when they found it by, individually or collaboratively improve the productivity usually through one of these three levers
Those three are generally positive improvement steps; however, one can also mitigate or eliminate what might be normal "polluters" of poeple being there with "Toxic" behavior. Keep ones volume down so as not to bother others, same for eliminating untruths, gossip, etc. around the workplace. The ways to clean the campsite at work, positive acts or mitigating the negative ones, are nearly endless in all workplace - because they are made up of human, and humans aren't perfect, but with the right attitude, we can strive for perfection!
To me, leaving the campsite cleaner than you found it, relates to Simon Sinek's School Bus Test: If the founder or leader were to get hit by a school bus and die, would the business be affected? The challenge isn’t to cling on to the leader forever, but to find a way of keeping the vision alive and clear. Is the leader going to leave the campsite cleaner than he found it by empowering others or is it going to be doomed when he steps away?
Don't just pick up after yourself, pick up for those who are soon to replace you.