‘Regional Judges understand that organized play requires teamwork with other judges, players, stores, organizers and venues. They can follow as well as lead. They are worthy ambassadors of the Judge Program who work closely with their Regional Coordinators and the Judge Manager. They are recognized as fair and firm arbiters of disputes and display significant diplomacy in disagreements, both in person and in other venues such as the internet.’ – L3 Advancement Procedure Manual
Teamwork and diplomacy are core qualities for a level three judge – a large part of your role is going to involve interacting with other individuals in a number of capacities, and the ability to work and communicate with the effectively is essential.
Leading a team involves much more than just giving orders, and playing any other role within a team requires much more than just doing what you are told – whether this is on an event, in the course of a more general project, or in life in general. Recently, I was eating at a restaurant with a visible kitchen, run by a team of people covering a number of roles:
- Servers took orders and queued them up on the hatch.
◦ Horizontal communication between teams – each team has a specific task and functions as part of a larger team to accomplish something greater. Communication between these teams is vital to achieve this larger goal.
- The head chef would take an order and shout what was needed to the three sous chefs.
◦ Vertical communication – communication between the team lead and the rest of the team, so that everyone knows what is expected and what they need to do.
- Each sous chef had a specific task (the pizza oven, the grill, etc.) and there were a number of more general tasks (such as assembling salads). The sous chef would call back to the head chef what task they were doing and an estimate of how long it would be until they were ready as they started working on the order. This let the rest of the team plan around their task.
◦ Delegation – Rather than trying to do everything herself, the head chef ensured that tasks were distributed among her team, and that everyone knew what they were meant to do. Their feedback allowed her to keep overview on the situation, as well as giving her the space to mentor members of her team and to deal with problems when they cropped up.
This example shows many facets of effective team work. The team leader delegates tasks and then trusts team members to be able to get on with them without being micromanaged. Other team members perform their particular duties, but if something else needs to be done which is not one of their specific jobs, they can step up to other tasks as long as they are not involved in their own role at the time or if these other tasks are more important than their normal tasks. All the members of the team communicate constantly with one another, so that everyone is aware of what needs to be done and on the progress of other members.
A detail about teamwork which often causes confusion is the role one is meant to play when one is a member of a team which they are not leading. Many individuals, afraid of accidentally overstepping the line and undermining their team leader, step back and take a very passive role, doing little more than the bare minimum that they are asked. This tendency is explicitly called out as a sign of a deficient candidate in the L3 advancement procedure manual! So, how to avoid it?
The most important thing to remember is that if you are capable of leading a team, then you still possess those skills and knowledge when you are playing a support role and can still put them to good use; you can communicate your thoughts and observations to your team leader. If you see something that is not being done, have observations on another team member, or can think of a better way to do something, pass this on to the team leader – as advice rather than commands. Which brings us nicely round to…
Diplomacy is frequently though of as being needed for settling disputes; while this is true, it is much more than this! Wikipedia phrases it rather nicely…
‘…Diplomacy is the employment of tact …to find mutually acceptable solutions to a common challenge, one set of tools being the phrasing of statements in a non-confrontational, or polite manner.’
The ability to apply diplomacy and tact is vital within a team, both when you are in a leadership role and in a support role. Diplomacy makes people enjoy working with you and helps everything run much more smoothly. It is also important in managing disputes and conflicts, whether those involve judges or players; diplomacy allows people to talk to one another, to understand one another and to come to resolutions which, even if they don’t please everyone, can at least be accepted by everyone. Finally, diplomacy is important in your capacity as a representative of the judge program, in whichever medium it is demanded. It is hard to understate the central role that phrasing plays in diplomacy – there is a world of difference between “I’ve noticed X – have you considered Y?” and “You need to do Y.”
Back to Judging
So – how does this all tie into judging?
Pretty much everything that you do as a judge requires collaboration with other people. The obvious example is when you are working on a large event, such as a GP. If you are team leading deck checks 1, for example, you are part of:
- deck checks 1
- the united deck checks teams
- the ‘team leaders’ team
- the judge team
- the event staff team
Defining a team as a group of people working together for a common goal. The principles of communication, delegation and diplomacy are vital within all of these nested teams, and it is important not to lose sight of the larger picture by getting overly focused on the tasks of one of these ‘levels’ of team to the detriment of your role in another! Outside of events you are also likely to be involved in a number of teams, whether this involves working with other judges to achieve a goal as part of a project, or else simply taking on an active role within your region to help develop the judge community there.
Improving Teamwork and Diplomacy
In the theme of this article, I attempted to crowdsource ideas on Twitter and on Facebook, asking people about practices and resources that they would recommend to people who were looking for information on teamwork and diplomacy. At the point that someone suggested Captain Picard and someone else suggested themselves as good resources on teamwork and diplomacy, I was beginning to question whether this might not have been one of those things it would be better to work on alone…
With teamwork centering so heavily on communication, the best way to work on it is simply to talk to people – and then to pay attention to their reactions. This can be as simple as touching base with your teammates regularly when you are working together in order to let them know what you are doing and to find out what they are working on and how they are doing. Taking a genuine interest in the people with whom you are working and making sure that you are available to them, whether as the leader of the team or as just another team member, helps you to communicate with one another more and to work together more closely and more effectively.
One of the easiest ways to improve diplomacy is to take a little bit longer to prepare what you are about to say. Think about the way that you are going to phrase it, and try to avoid just giving naked commands where they can be avoided. Adding a couple of moderating words can turn a command into a suggestion, often leading to the other person considering and possibly accepting an idea rather than rejecting it out of hand if they feel that they are being bossed about, or that they are having their authority challenged. (‘Have you thought about…’ may be the most traditional approach, but there are many alternatives.) While this can seem like quite a lot of effort at first, it quickly becomes a habit!
It is very easy to talk at someone, delivering advice or instructions, and then instantly turn away to get on with something else. Making the effort to slow down and pay a bit more attention to the other party can help you learn a lot about how your words are perceived. Additionally, taking that extra moment can give them the chance to feed back to you, whether with problems or with their own ideas, allowing you to work together more effectively as a team. Making a point to actively reflect on these interactions and the reactions that your words received later can allow you to see how you could have rephrased or acted differently and how this might have changed the result of the exchange.
The next steps…
Writing an article on Teamwork and Diplomacy as part of a series of articles on the Regional Judge Qualities is pretty complicated – this quality is tightly tied in with a number of others, such as Leadership, Attitude and Maturity, Mentorship, Communication Skills and Stress and Conflict Management, to the point that there will likely be some amount of overlap. As such, I strongly recommend that you also read the articles about those other qualities, to make sure that you have a complete picture!