We previously looked at how positive feedback can prompt you to make changes in your actions. Now let’s continue our series on the good, the bad, and the ugly of feedback by discussing how negative feedback can be useful. We all know that an “Area for Improvement” lists a thing that we can do better, but the question is often, how? Let’s consider a few specific ways to turn negative feedback into actionable items.
Ask for Help.
When you’re struggling with a thing, there is a good chance you know someone who excels at it. If you don’t, ask a friend or mentor to point you in the right direction, or look for resources online such as tournament reports or blogs posts, then contact the author. Whether it’s a local judge, someone you know on Slack or the author of a great forum article, reach out and ask for advice. Most judges are thrilled to share tips, answer questions, or provide mentoring, especially regarding a skill in which they are proficient.
For example, when my deck checks took too long, I talked to a friend who consistently completes them quickly. He offered me several different sorting options and practiced with me at home to improve my times. He also showed me the Australian method of checking a deck, which can be faster in some situations. With his coaching, my times quickly improved.
Prepare for success.
Many problems can be avoided or minimized with good preparation. By knowing what skill you want to improve and planning ahead on specific steps you will take, you can focus your efforts during an actual event on executing the task. Preparation can include reading forum posts, working with mentors, or writing notes to jog your memory.
For example, if you want to become more proficient at using WER to scorekeep your next PPTQ, take some time before the event to log in and try out features you haven’t used. Ask your favorite scorekeeper some questions and make notes of features that may be helpful to you. Then arrive 15 minutes early to the PPTQ and spend some extra time setting up your event in WER and tape your notes sheet to the bottom of the screen. These steps will set you up to be ready to solve problems as they arise.
Make a Change.
As scary as it may seem, try something new and different. Doing it the same way every time is likely to produce the same results. If you want to see improvement, you have to be willing to change. Maybe tardiness at 0/10 will make your event go faster? Maybe trusting that new floor judge to run end of round will let them shine? Maybe giving that Head Judge feedback won’t make him hate you? Maybe the change won’t go as planned, but the results could be even better than you anticipate.
For example, if you’ve been criticized for cutting off other judges to correct them while discussing a situation, try taking the time to ask them about what they are saying instead of accusing them of being wrong. While you may be concerned that it will slow you down, taking the time to understand can reveal many things. In answering your inquiry, the other judge may realize their own error, or you may see that they were correct. Even if you do need to instruct them, understanding why they believe the way they do can shape your feedback for them and enable you to communicate more effectively.
While receiving “bad” feedback can be difficult, using it as a tool to help you grow and improve is essential to your continued development as a judge. Sometimes it will make you angry or frustrated when you initially read it, but take a few minutes to relax and consider, you’ll often find that you already knew that you needed to improve in that area. Take a deeper look at those areas for improvement and implement changes.
Whatever you decide to do with your negative feedback, try doing something different!