Changes to the L2 Team Leader Certification

Written by Dustin de Leeuw
Level 3, Netherlands

Written by Dustin de Leeuw
Level 3, Netherlands

In this article, we look at the history of the Team Lead Certification, some improvements that have been made, some challenges we face, and a solution to those challenges. In short: the TLC is dead, long live the TLTP!

When the TLC was first created in April 2016, it was announced explicitly as Grand Prix Day 2 Team Lead Certification, and had two very clear goals: give advanced Level 2 judges something to work towards to and then grant them the opportunity to work in a new, advanced role, enjoying the challenges and growth this provides. As a very beneficial side effect, this means that new Level 3 judges will have had more opportunities to practice leading a team at a Grand Prix before they do so at Day 1, making the transition smoother and the experience for a lot of judges involved more pleasant.

Of course the TLC experienced some growing pains, and some adjustments, improvements and changes were made in 2017. We ran a survey amongst all judges holding the TLC at the start of 2018, and I can summarise the results quite easily: they liked the challenge, they liked the process (mostly), the documentation felt clear and fair. But there was one thing that almost every judge complained about: they never got the opportunity to use their TLC. They applied for a D2TL position for every GP they attended, and hardly ever got selected. Let’s delve into this problem a bit more, as it seems to be the core of what we need to address for the near future.

Opportunities to Lead a Day 2 Team after obtaining the TLC
A Level 2 judge has not been tested on the Level 3 Qualities yet, and hence has fewer authorizations than Level 3 judges. Specifically, as Level 2 judges have not proven mastery of Penalty and Policy Philosophy yet, they can’t approve back-ups and Hidden Card Errors, not even when they have the TLC and are leading a Day 2 team. This, obviously, is frustrating for all parties involved. In the past, at some GPs, any Team Lead could authorise a back-up or HCE, but it has now been decided by the GPHJ group that this is no longer an option.

This implies that we still need a fair amount of Level 3 judges on Day 2 of a GP, and the GPHJ group voiced their explicit wishes that some of the teams must be led by a Level 3 judge. Since the change to a 6-2 cut for Day 2, Day 2 has become smaller and so has the number of judge teams needed, with nowadays commonly only 4 teams. With 1 or 2 judges testing for the TLC, this leaves a very low number of slots available for judges with the TLC to Team Lead, typically in the range of 0 to 2 slots per GP. With 74 TLC judges and approximately 50 GPs per year, it becomes quite obvious why these judges hardly ever get to use their certification after obtaining it.

Judges who now test for Level 3, still don’t have much more experience in leading a team than they used to several years ago, and the experience they get is quite a limited one: while they may lead a team, they still need to go to Level 3 judges for back-ups and HCEs, limiting the value of the experience they get. We also don’t see that the TLC helped judges to prepare for and pass their Level 3 panels.

To summarise: we have a beautiful, fair, and clean process that I’m quite proud of. However, the result of that process is a certification that doesn’t do what it was intended to do. Specifically, we want judges with the TLC to Lead a Team on Day 2 of a Grand Prix, and we can’t make that happen as it is now. And with that, we can only reach a single conclusion: after two years of trying, it’s time to terminate the TLC.

The Grand Prix Team-Lead-in-Training Position (TLTP)
Most of all, we want this certification to be meaningful. We want judges with this certification be able to use it. And we want to reward judges who have it. This is something we can’t offer to a large group of people, but we can offer it to our future generation of Leaders in the Program: the prospective Level 3 judges. We want to take best of both worlds: like in the old days, with the Team Lead Check, the TLTP is only for people on their road to Level 3. Like in the NNWO, as the TLC intended to be, the TLTP grants judges the opportunity to use their certification.

Obtaining the TLTP is one of the later stages on the road to L3, and it is expected that a judge who obtains the TLTP will panel for L3 6-12 months later. In the period between obtaining the TLTP and testing for L3, the judge will be exactly what the title describes: a Team Lead in a Training Position, being granted at least one but ideally several oportunities to Team Lead on Day 2 of a Grand Prix.

A judge with the TLTP will be authorised to perform all tasks a L3 can, including back-ups and HCEs. This means however, that the judge needs to prove sufficient knowledge and understanding of some of the L3 Qualities already, which usually don’t get tested until the panel. This means a significant change in the pre-test requirements; the current TLC pre-test requirements will become the new TLTP pre-interview requirements. A judge who fulfills these requirements, can then apply for a TLTP-interview. After passing the interview, the judge can then test for the TLTP in exactly the same way as they can do now for the TLC, but with one very significant change: because they have already proven to be mastering the theory, they can authorise back-ups and HCEs even while testing for the TLTP.

The Grand Prix Team-Lead-in-Training Position interview
This interview is a structured conversation between the candidate and at least one L3 judge, who has to hold the L3 Panel Lead or GPHJ certification. The interview should take between 30 and 60 minutes, and can be conducted at a Grand Prix or at any other suitable occasion. During this interview, the candidate will show to have sufficient knowledge and insight regarding Penalty and Policy Philosophy to pass a L3 panel. The interviewer may, at their sole discretion, decide to also discuss the following L3 Qualities:

  • Teamwork, Diplomacy and Maturity
  • Leadership, Presence and Charisma
  • Stress and Conflict Management

In order to pass the interview, the candidate may not have a deficiency in the Penalty and Policy Philosophy Quality, and they may not have a suspected major deficiency in any of the other mentioned Qualities. While the interview lead is encouraged to write a review of the candidate, this is not required; the interview lead decides whether to grant the candidate access to the next phase of the process or not.

After failing either the interview or the TLTP, there is a 3 month cool down period before the candidate can apply again.

The L3 Testing Manager and the TLTP project lead, together with the GPHJ group and the L3 Panel Leads, are still working out the details of this interview, and we are investigating the possibility of making this an online essay exercise like the PEI. We may start testing the new interview during 2018, and we will update the information in this article if more details become available.

After obtaining the TLTP
A judge with the TLTP can lead teams on Day 2 of a Grand Prix. In rare and exceptional circumstances, they may lead a team on Day 1. This may happen in regions where insufficient Level 3 judges are available to lead all teams on Day 1.

Judges with the TLTP certification are expected to actively work towards completing the rest of their L3 checklist, and submit their application to the Verification Committee preferably within 6 months after being granted the TLTP. If needed, this period can be prolonged for another 6 months. If after 12 months the judge still hasn’t submitted their application for L3, the TLTP expires, and the judge can re-apply for it after a cooldown period of 3 months.

Once a judge passes the L3 panel, the TLTP immediately expires: L3 judges are no longer Grand Prix Team Lead in training, they are Grand Prix Team Lead. A candidate who fails the panel, is granted a 12 month period of the TLTP starting from the day of the panel, so they can continue leading teams, learning, and honing their skills. If after 12 months the judge hasn’t paneled for L3 again, the TLTP expires, and the judge can re-apply for it after a cooldown period of 3 months. A judge who has had the TLTP in the past but lost it, may re-apply to test for L3 without needing to test for the TLTP again at the L3 Testing Manager’s discretion.

The transition from TLC to TLTP
Until January 1st 2019, judges with the old Team Lead Check (but not the current Team Lead Certification a.k.a. TLC) can still apply to panel for L3 without needing either the TLC or the TLTP; from that date on, there should be no more judges with the old Team Lead Check, as it hasn’t been granted since 2016 and it expires after 3 years.

Until January 1st 2020, judges with the current TLC can apply to panel for L3 without needing the TLTP or any additional requirements. Until January 1st 2019, judges can still apply for and test for the TLC in its current form. In 2019, judges can no longer test for the TLC, and there won’t be any TLC maintenance requirements in 2019. On January 1st 2020, the TLC ceases to exist.

From January 1st 2019, judges can test for the TLTP. We may offer TLTP tests before that date and we may beta-test the new process, but a candidate who wishes to test for the TLC instead of the TLTP can do so for the remainder of 2018.

Judges currently holding the TLC can apply for a TLTP interview by submitting an approved Self-Review; if they pass that interview, they will automatically be granted the TLTP without any further requirements. This option becomes available starting no later than January 1st 2019.

In Conclusion
Our team has spent a lot of time discussing and explaining it, refining it, updating it, making it better, polishing it… but up until when we conducted the big 2018 TLC survey, I had never realised how disheartening the current reality was for judges who put so much effort into obtaining the TLC. So, thank you all for speaking out, and making me aware of the biggest issue we all were blind to up until then.

I believe that being honest, with ourselves and with eachother, is extremely important. I want to express the hope that the TLTP will better suit the needs of the Judge Program and of its awesome judges. Please let me know how we’re doing!

Thanks to all the people who shared their feedback and ideas with me. Thanks to the Program Coordinators, who supported and approved my crazy ideas. And thank you to all the members of the TLC Project (who will receive a free upgrade to the new TLTP Project!) for going through these documents over and over again: