Scaling Feedback

Erik AliffYou know how excited parents celebrate their children’s first tottering attempts at walking? How they ooh and ah and cheer and gasp and take dozens of pictures to post on social media?

When I visited my parents recently, they did not cheer even though I walked quite well. Obviously my parents love me, but they no longer celebrate when I walk across a room without falling. Why not?

They now expect me to walk proficiently. While I may have been clumsy as a teenager, with a pair of designated crutches due to frequent accidents in basketball practice, walking is no longer cause for celebration. In the same way, feedback that we once received for being commendable or exemplary may have dwindled or even stopped altogether after further involvement in the judge program.

Do you wonder why you don’t receive as much positive feedback as you used to? The reality is that you’ve changed over time, hopefully for the better. As a result, the feedback you receive has also changed or even diminished. That can feel unexpected and a bit disappointing. Especially if positive reinforcement is particularly motivating for you or if you feel like your hard work isn’t being recognized anymore.

In reality, expectations of a judge’s performance change over time, and those changing expectations affect feedback. I’ll call this concept “scaling feedback.”

To understand how scaling feedback works, we first need to see people as more than a judge level. When all we do is look at level number, we can miss out on some of the most significant factors that influence the kind of feedback we should expect to give or receive.

Understanding the past experiences of a judge is crucial to providing feedback that isn’t redundant (this person has already received this feedback and acted on it) or overzealous (this judge needs further development of foundational skills without an overwhelming list of areas for improvement). In fact, understanding past experiences is helpful even when you evaluate yourself.

Especially after changes to the program over the past few years, feedback has to take into account both a judge’s performance and their experience within their level.

For example, after an experienced judge observed me head judging my first Super Sunday Series, he asked me how many PTQs I’d judged. The answer? Zero. PTQs were phased out just as I was becoming more involved in the judge program. As a result, his frame of reference for advising me had to change. He used to expect an experienced L2 to have judged numerous PTQs before advancing to the Super Sunday Series. However, restructuring has now made this impossible.

This chart demonstrates the current flow of progression within each judge level, from newly certified to very experienced. Let’s take a look:

New Regular Very Experienced
Level 1 Recently certified and inexperienced as an L1 Consistent local store experience Early large event opportunities/L2 aspirations
Level 2 Recently certified and inexperienced as an L2 Consistent large event experience Early large event leadership opportunities/L3 aspirations
Level 3 Recently certified and inexperienced as an L3 Consistent large event team-lead experience Large event head judge experience/Greater community leadership opportunities

This list provides a good starting point for our discussion. When we first start our journey within the judge program, we are evaluated with a much lower bar for exceptionality. Appropriate feedback for a judge candidate/new L1 might be

I appreciated your willingness to learn and ask questions throughout the event.

You came to this event with an understanding of the JAR/portions of the MTR

For a judge/judge candidate at this point in the program, it can be relatively easy to impress a more experienced judge who is providing feedback to you—the bar is comparatively low! I say this not to devalue encouraging feedback that you received early in your judge career, but rather to put it in a better context.

We have differing expectations of judges based on their level, role at an event, prior experiences, and stated goals. What does this mean when you are reviewed?

It could mean that high praise for your work diminishes over time. What was once commendable has become expected of you. I expect an L2 on my team at a Grand Prix to have an understanding of the JAR. As a result, I am highly unlikely to praise an L2 for coming to a Grand Prix with an understanding of the JAR. So what is more appropriate feedback for an L2?

You handled that call quite well. You kept both players calm when it was evident that both players had been growing increasingly frustrated with each other.

I appreciate your proactivity in helping complete End of Round procedure as efficiently as possible. You helped the judge with the clipboard keep up with incoming slips and find the missing slips with efficiency and calm.

Notice that this feedback is unlikely for an L1, and I wouldn’t hold that against them.  

When we receive feedback, we must keep expectations for that feedback in line with our progress within the program. Appropriate expectations come from honest self-evaluation (Riki might have a few things to say here) and from clear communication with our reviewers about our goals in the program.

On the other hand, when we review others, a lack of communication can produce friction during the feedback process. The reviewee might express frustration at the simplicity of the review (“I was hoping detail on what I needed to improve—I already knew I was doing well in those areas!”) or the harshness of the review (“You seemed to completely miss the good things I did all day.”).

Scaling feedback might require more effort on the part of the reviewer—perhaps looking over the reviewee’s event history in JudgeApps or discussing their goals before writing the review. But a little extra preparation is likely to produce more relevant and actionable feedback.

In my next post, we’ll look more specifically at the progression chart to identify choke points that tend to trip up judges looking to advance in the program.

Until then, try using these questions to start discussions with judges in your local area, or comment below to share your perspective.

  1. Where do you see yourself currently in this chart, and what kinds of feedback would help you in your progression?
  2. What kinds of useful and appropriately scaled feedback have you received or given?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

You will not be added to any email lists and we will not distribute your personal information.