Hello and welcome to the latest edition of the Feedbag! Last month, we discussed how to encourage judges on your team to review each other. This time, we’ll look at managing teams from another angle, with our question coming courtesy of Jeremy Stoermer:
I recently was Head Judge of a large event that had teams of judges. One of my goals of the event was to be able to provide a useful review to each team lead as well as several staff, but as the event began and issues began to manifest, I found myself pulled in too many directions to be able to focus on any one person long enough to find good areas for review. Do you have any advice or strategies that you use to help you identify areas for review quickly and efficiently without taking too much focus away from your event?
It can be challenging to successfully run an event while also observing your staff closely enough to provide feedback. As the head judge, some of your critical objectives at the event include time consuming components such as appeals, cheating investigations, and organizing/re-organizing staff to fit the event’s needs. This multitasking can limit your ability to collect observations for feedback. The event has to come first, but it feels unsatisfying to have nothing to say to your judges afterward except “great job, see you next time!”.
In answer to Jeremy’s great question, I’m going to list four strategies I use to help me generate reviews while I’m head judging:
1. Don’t get greedy. Jeremy mentions wanting to review “each team lead as well as several staff.” That sounds like a lot of people! Go into the event with a realistic target number of judges to review, and prioritize your list. The more people you try to review, the less likely you are to write a quality review for any of them. You don’t want to set goals too high and then disappoint yourself for not making them.
2. Stay accessible and involved. Don’t spend all your time near the stage (or your event’s equivalent). Get out onto the floor, circulate among your judges, and watch them take calls. You’re unlikely to get any good observations if you’re never in a position to watch your judges do their jobs. There’s a balance to strike here between finding a good position for observation and staying accessible to your staff. Find a way to accomplish both so you can spend some time in the trenches.
3. Review for a reason. If you go into the event deciding to review a specific judge, you should know why. You might want to evaluate them for their first-time performance as a team lead. Or you might want to provide feedback about investigations, which you know has been an area of struggle in the past. This framework should help inform when and how you interact with that judge — if you want to focus on investigations, then you probably don’t need to track that judge very closely when they’re posting pairings. However, you should try to keep an eye on calls that they take. If a call is going on for a while, there’s a good chance it’s an investigation and would be a good observation point for your goal.
4. You’re not alone. As the saying goes, no one is an island. (Yes, I realize one of you jokers wants to put a Spreading Seas on a Dryad Arbor to prove me wrong.) You have other staff. If your review target is going to interact frequently with another judge whose feedback abilities you trust, loop that judge in on your plan. Be clear that you want to write a review for your target, and explain what you want to cover. Now you have another pair of eyes and ears. You can collaborate to make your feedback is stronger by sharing observations. In the worst case scenario where you do really get too busy to write a reasonable review, that other judge can pick up the torch and carry on.
In order to run a successful event as a head judge, you need to plan. Choosing review targets is the same way. Figure out who you want to review and why. Keep your goals reasonable. And budget time during the day to put yourself in the best position to get useful observations.