Feedbag #7: Leading a Horse to Water

image.aspx_1_croppedHello and welcome to the latest edition of the Feedbag! Last time, we covered the subject of review drafts. This month, our question is about how to help enable feedback when you’re in a leadership role:

I’m team leading at an upcoming event, and I’d like to encourage my team to review each other. Do you recommend any strategies or approaches that have worked well in facilitating review exchanges and/or making sure that the reviews are actually written after the event?

This question is actually particularly relevant to me. As I write, I’m just a few days away from head judging a multi-judge event where many of the staff have expressed a goal of working on their L2 pre-test requirements. As those familiar with this process will know, a big part of the L2 advancement process is the review and feedback requirement.

It’s easy to get judges to agree that reviewing each other is a good thing. It’s considerably harder to make reviews happen. Sometimes when we finish an event, we just want to be done with it. As a result, taking the time to follow up with feedback just doesn’t stay a high priority.

If you’d like to actually get your team members to produce some reviews, try focusing your efforts on these three pieces of advice:

1. Any exercise or discussion should be relevant to the event.
It’s common for team leads to come up with some kind of group exercise or discussion to get team members interacting with one another. If you’re planning something like this, it should be appropriate to the experience level of your team as well as the format of the event. A well-selected scenario can be a really good springboard for discussion that can expose strengths or weaknesses in a judge’s understanding of policy.

Conversely, a corner-case topic might be fun to discuss, but it doesn’t really hold much value, especially when generating material for review. I like to come up with questions about recent policy updates. Every judge should be keeping up with updates, so this kind of question has the practical benefit of ensuring that judges understand policy relevant to the event while also giving me insight into each judge’s reasoning process.

2. Provide concrete, reasonable goals.
“I want you all to review each other” is a nice goal, but it lacks direction. Furthermore, it can be intimidating to someone who is just testing the waters when it comes to providing feedback. Vague goals are more likely to scare someone off than actually produce written reviews.

Instead, focus on providing your team members with specific direction about who they should review and then help them identify talking points. For my own upcoming event, I’ve asked each of my staff to choose a judge they’ll be working with and plan to identify one thing that judge does well and one area for improvement. This puts them into the mindset of looking for ways to provide feedback from the start of the day, while also keeping things manageable: I just want people to start feedbacking. Writing a review the length of War and Peace is optional.

3. Follow up and facilitate.
Even with specific, useful instructions, you should still plan on being a resource to your team members. Check up on your team throughout the day to make sure they’re observing a judge with the goal of providing feedback. Feedback can be a pretty private thing, but in your role as both leader and mentor, it can be good to ask what points your team members have identified for each other. “What did Judge A do well? What can they improve on for next time?” is a good way of forcing people to turn their observations from the day into deliverable feedback.

This can be an iterative process. First talk with one judge; identify what feedback they have for their subject; and then put the two judges together to ensure that the feedback is delivered. Finally, follow up with your staff after the event to make sure those reviews actually get into Judge Center. The most important part about feedback is that it’s delivered, but there are many benefits to having written records of it, not the least of which is level advancement requirements.

Ultimately, you can’t force people into anything. But your goal as a lead should be to help your team members find a path to providing feedback that is achievable for them. Keep your instructions specific, manageable, and relevant to make participating in your nefarious schemes viable for judges who, let’s not forget, still have a tournament to run. Follow up during and after the event to help make sure people are delivering their feedback.

Thanks for another great question this month! It’s definitely helped me plan how I want to interact with my staff for my own upcoming events, and I hope it’s useful for all the team leads and head judges out there!

If you’d like to submit a question, comment, or smart remark to the Feedbag, please contact me via JudgeApps.

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