In this article, I hope to be able to share some insights on what I consider to be one of the vital Qualities of Regional Judges: Attitude and Maturity. Before we start, I’d like you to read its definition as provided by the L3 Advancement Procedures Manual:
Regional Judges maintain a positive attitude when interacting with other members of the Magic community and demonstrate a solid and consistent work ethic. They are mature, trustworthy, punctual, and enjoyable to work with. They are rarely, if ever, regarded as being difficult to work with, negative, tardy, lazy, etc. A deficient candidate may have a history of negativity, tardiness, poor work ethic, or reliability. He or she may display a problematically low maturity level that affects his or her performance at events. An exemplary candidate is frequently sought after by fellow judges and tournament organizers for his or her exceptional attitude and contribution to events. He or she is generally regarded as a pleasure to work with.
– L3 Advancement Procedures Manual
This is a pretty basic definition, which pours into words what many of us intuitively view as the concept of having a positive attitude and acting maturely: is this a person people want to work with? It talks about the way people perceive someone, and it highlights some of the key features of a mature person with a positive attitude towards judging. It also defines some boundaries on what we consider deficient behavior, or, at the other end of the spectrum, what someone with exemplary skills in this area would be like.
But you didn’t come here to just read that definition, so let’s dig a little deeper, shall we?
What is maturity really about?
As I said earlier, the definition given above basically boils down to “is this a person people want to work with?” I’ll immediately note that this goes beyond the superficial “being, but not smelling, funny”: it also covers punctuality, for example. It’s about professionalism. It’s about meeting certain social standards. Morality. Self-reliance. And well… on a certain level, it is about being, but not smelling, funny.
That’s all still quite broad though, and frankly, very focused on the behavior that’s associated with attitude and maturity, rather than those qualities themselves. Also, evaluating oneself in terms of “do people want to work with me” is anything but easy. Therefore, I’d like to explore the core concepts of attitude and maturity a little more. Let’s start out with maturity.
A mature person is someone who is able to respond in an appropriate manner to his or her environment. This doesn’t really depend on age—or at least, a young age does not preclude maturity and an old age doesn’t imply it. What this so-called appropriate behavior exactly constitutes depends on culture and environment, which means maturity is something that needs to grow; needs to be learned. This learning process is what creates a link with age. People also become more moderate and careful in their actions as they become older, which adds a lot to a person’s maturity.
Some important concepts that I’ve found are often associated with maturity are:
- the ability to make one’s own decisions
- the responsibilities one bears
- an innate calmness that helps avoid drama
- knowledge and acceptance of oneself
Being capable of making decisions implies realizing the consequences of those decisions (in fact, this aspect of maturity comes very close to the legal definition of adulthood). With this ability to make informed decisions comes a sense of confidence that a mature person will often display when in a position of authority.
Responsibility is another matter. Having responsibilities breeds a need to act maturely. Having a child, being a team leader at work, owning a house or even just a car are all prime examples of responsibilities that require you to act maturely. Another way of looking at the link between maturity and responsibility is examining the opposite: immaturity. Acting immaturely can only (at least, only successfully) be done when one has no responsibilities. Although immaturity is a chance for experimenting and is crucial in growth (hence the above-mentioned learning), adult environments are often unforgiving when it comes to immature behavior, and a large part of that is linked to responsibility.
The ability to moderate passion does a lot to a person’s maturity. Being able to care about stuff is important, but when emotions start driving your actions, it’s easy to get lost in drama. People tend to act the most emotionally aggressive when they are facing unfairness or powerlessness.
Teenagers often display irrational behavior when acting in a group, simply because of the way they believe this group should perceive them. The need to feel accepted and the uncertainty that comes with this need is something that disappears as they grow older. The key here is knowing who you are, and accepting yourself for who you are. It lessens the need for approval, which translates to less irrational, more mature behavior.
Attitude: the theory
Let’s take a look at attitude. I think we actually need to make two different, but equally important definitions here. There is what is usually called “positive attitude”, which I’d say is mostly about optimism and enthusiasm, and there is “good attitude”, which comes closer to professionalism or reliability. These are clearly very different animals, yet we’re looking for both in regional judges.
On the surface, attitude is not very different from maturity as you’ll often find both qualities working in conjunction, strengthening each other. Yet, there are some differences.
Attitude (the “positive attitude” variant) can be compared to moods. A mood is a basic psychological state which, in a rather narrow definition of the word, can be positive or negative. A negative mood is generally unconstructive since it inhibits a person’s ability to process information due to a lack of focus on the messaging. A bad mood also negatively affects social interactions, for obvious reasons. A good mood will usually influence your environment positively, but may have some negative consequences as well, again related to focus: being in a good mood may make one careless or distracted, and feel overly confident. People in different moods also have a tendency to annoy each other.
Much of the same is true for attitude, but where moods are volatile and don’t necessarily have a direct cause, attitude is linked more closely to personality and personal history and is often more permanent in nature. Attitudes are also more closely associated with culture than moods: someone from northern Europe tends to be more closed than someone from the southern countries (and I’ve been told this is similar across different regions of the US). This will translate in their attitude being a bit colder, even if they’re quite positive or enthusiastic.
When talking about the “good attitude” variant, I like to think about this quality as a determining factor in a person’s long term suitability for a job. Of course, keeping a job requires skill, experience, knowledge or physical fitness. But besides those easily measurable qualities, being punctual and professional, reliable and trustworthy are key factors in professional success. And that’s exactly what a good attitude is all about.
Back to the surface
Well, that sure was a dive into deep water—if you’re still reading: thanks! And congrats: you’ve survived the theoretical part! In this section, I’ll try to share some more practical advice here, rather than the philosophical musings you’ve endured so far. Let’s get to it!
- Act like you’re the least important person in the room. Take care of people, learn to understand the things they care about. It’s important that your interest in people is genuine. If you don’t mean it, people will feel it.
- Don’t draw attention to yourself; be humble. Someone who always makes a scene or acts like they’re the center of the universe is never perceived as mature.
- Suppress your need for immediate gratification, and focus on what’s right. Sometimes you just have to do something you dislike for the greater good.
- Don’t let criticism ruin your day. Likewise, don’t let a compliment distort your self-view. Appreciate that (constructive) feedback is seen as the truth by the people giving it. It’s not easy to give feedback, so realize that they do it because they care, and they believe what they say.
- Control your anger. Don’t act too quickly, and when you act, do so with diplomacy and moderation. Seek out knowledge first, think things through and consider the bigger picture. The world isn’t perfect; maybe you need to let this one go?
- Take responsibility for your mistakes. Apologize when apologies are due.
- Be thankful. Appreciate how your success is based on the people around you—and let those people feel that appreciation. Success is meaningless if it can’t be shared.
- Finally, be honest with yourself.
- Get up early, but get a good night’s sleep, too. Don’t skip breakfast. You’re more likely to be in a good mood and you’re more likely to be productive.
- Don’t procrastinate or let things slide. It’s easy to delay something, and we all do it. It’s hard to overcome procrastination, but you must do so if you want a reputation of being professional.
- Do things for others. A good attitude requires you to think about the greater good and about the well-being of people around you.
- Be friendly; smile. This one might seem obvious, but it’s the first thing people notice and first impressions go a long way.
- Show respect for people around you, but also for cultural differences or for an opinion that differs from yours.
- Don’t discuss confidential information. When people trust in you, you need to earn that trust.
So, what do I do with all of this as a Magic judge?
This is the point where you should probably go and re-read the paragraph at the top of this article, quoting the L3 Advancement Procedures Manual. We need our L3 judges to be mature. They’re the cornerstones of the judge program, the community managers, and the regional leaders. They set the example, and if that example is a bad one, other judges will follow. It can’t be disputed that L3s need to have the hard skills (rules knowledge, tournament operations, investigations …) but they also need to simply be good people. We’re building on them, so they need to be reliable. We’re depending on them, so they need to be punctual. Acting appropriately as a judge is much more than dressing well or being fun to be around.
I hope that this article helped you understand what attitude and maturity entail. I’ll even go a bit further: I hope that it’ll help some people understand why they’re being told they need to act more maturely, and that it’ll eventually help them improve.
There are countless articles and books on these topics; any good psychology course will teach you much more than I’ve talked about here.
There is one specific resource I’d like to point out though; it’s a book that I was given by Judge Manager Andy Heckt briefly after becoming L4. It contains some really good advice on attitude; while it is aimed at professionals, it’s written as a story that’s quite enjoyable to read. The book is named “Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box”, from the Arbinger Institute. You’ll see personal and professional relationships in a very different light after reading it. The basic premise of the book is that people can feel it when you don’t mean something. From there, it explores the way relationships work, and it teaches you how you can improve those relationships. I’ve re-read this book a few times, as well as its companion, “The Anatomy of Peace”, and I have to say they’ve been eye-openers.
Thank you for reading! I hope it has been an enjoyable and interesting journey. If it was (and even if it wasn’t), I hope you’ll also love the rest of the series on L3 Qualities!