Team Leading

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Although you might think there’s no way one can put everything about team leading into one document, I’m going to try anyway. This document will give my perspective about how a good team leader would plan, execute, and evaluate his/her performance.

Of course, there are differences between team leading at a Pro Tour and team leading at a Grand Prix or other big tournament. This article will not compare these events. In this article, I will also not take into account any slight differences such as the size of the team or the language capabilities of the team.

The teams

Normally we use three, sometimes four, different teams during Magic tournaments:

  1. Logistics
    The job of this team is to take care of everything that needs to be moved and/or setup during the tournament. This includes everything from table numbers to pairings/standings boards to draft product.
  2. Paper
    The job of this team is to take care of everything that involves paper. This includes pairings, standings, and results entry slips.
  3. Deck checks
    The job of this team is to take care of everything that has anything to do with decks. Mainly, this involves collecting and counting deck lists, and performing deck checks.
  4. Feature Match Area
    This team is only used when there is a Feature Match Area. Its job is to take care of that special area in the tournament where the popular and/or skilful players play their matches for the round for which they have been selected.

You might be missing some tasks, for instance “End of round Procedure.” The tasks that aren’t already mentioned are usually integrated in one or more of the teams listed above. It is, however, very unlikely that the Deck Checks Team will get any extra tasks. They are usually quite busy throughout the round with the actual checking of decks.

Planning

It is common that you already know about your team leading position before you come to an event. Therefore you can already start planning what you want your team to do during the event, and, more importantly, when they are supposed to do it. In my personal experience, planning all the tasks has saved me some very important time during large events.

Example
The schedule below is an example of how a plan for team leading logistics (with end of round procedure) on a limited format Grand Prix could look like. Having a print out in your pocket during the event enables you to peek at it from time to time and compare the real thing with your schedule. You can even make notes and/or adjustments on it for next the time. The columns give, from left to right, the most optimal time in the event to perform a specific task, with some elaboration.

Time Event Progress Task Explanation
21.00 Friday evening Table numbers The hall will probably be set up without table numbers
07.00 Set up Breakfast Get the energy you need for the day
07.45 Arrival on site Explore the site Ensure you know exits, restrooms, etc.
08.00 Judge meeting Get informed The Head Judge will hand out tasks
08.30 Team meeting Get informed / Inform Get to know the team / Explain the team’s tasks
08.45 Team Leader meeting Communication Discuss combined tasks with the other team leaders
08.55 Registration Prepare product You’ll need to set up for product distribution
10.00 End of registration Check # players Check if you’ve prepared enough product
10.15 Merging files Set up Set up pairings and standings boards
10.45 Seat all players Product distribution HJ makes announcements; you provide the product
11.00 Deck registration Trash collecting Collect the wrappers from the product
11.20 Deck swap Deck swapping Perform the deck swap with help of the other teams
11.30 Deck construction Set up land stations Players will need extra lands for their decks
12.00 End deck construction Man the land stations Help out the deck check team with collecting the lists
12.15 Start of round 1 Float the floor While deck lists are being counted, your team floats
13.00 5 min to end of round End round procedure Make sure all result entry slips are accounted for
13.15 Start of round 2 Float the floor While deck list penalties are handled, the team floats
13.30 Round 2 Team meeting Deck checks done and you have the chance to talk
14.00 5 min to end of round End round procedure Make sure all result entry slips are accounted for
14.15 Start of round 3 Float the floor While deck checks are being done, your team floats
15.00 5 min to end of round End round procedure Make sure all result entry slips are accounted for
15.15 Start of round 4 Float the floor While deck checks are being done, your team floats
16.00 5 min to end of round End round procedure Make sure all result entry slips are accounted for
16.15 Start of round 5 Float the floor While deck checks are being done, your team floats
16.30 Round 5 Team meeting Deck checks done and you have the chance to talk
17.00 5 min to end of round End round procedure Make sure all result entry slips are accounted for
17.15 Start of round 6 Float the floor While deck checks are being done, your team floats
18.00 5 min to end of round End round procedure Make sure all result entry slips are accounted for
18.15 Start of round 7 Float the floor While deck checks are being done, your team floats
19.00 5 min to end of round End round procedure Make sure all result entry slips are accounted for
19.15 Start of round 8 Float the floor While deck checks are being done, your team floats
19.30 Round 8 Team meeting Deck checks done and you have the chance to talk
20.00 5 min to end of round End round procedure Make sure all result entry slips are accounted for
20.15 Start of round 9 Float the floor While deck checks are being done, your team floats
20.30 Round 9 Collusion look out Last round always has more chance of collusion
21.00 5 min to end of round End round procedure Make sure all result entry slips are accounted for
21.15 End of round 9 Team meeting Evaluate the team and thank them for their efforts
21.30 End of day 1 Judge debriefing Head Judge evaluates the day
22.00 Preparation day 2 Personal evaluations You can use this time for personal evaluations

As you’ve probably already noticed, the times given in the table are quite optimistic. This is because the timeframe isn’t that important for you as a team leader; this is the job of the head judge and you will only try to assist him with it.

Main points of attention

The big thing about team leading is that you have to know what it T.A.K.E.S. to be a good team leader. To easily remember this, I thought up the acronym T.A.K.E.S., which stands for:

  • Task managing
  • Availability
  • Knowledge transferral
  • Experience sharing
  • Subjective evaluation

Task managing

When you think of task managing, you might immediately think about keeping your team in chains. In my opinion, this is completely wrong. The experience I gained from the Premier Events where I’ve lead a team tells me that as long as every team member knows what the collective task of your team is, it will be done. Of course, there’s always some need to steer your team into the right direction, especially when your team isn’t very experienced, but this will mostly be due to orders given to you by the head judge.

Another thing you don’t want to forget is coordinating breaks. The entire team will need to have lunch and dinner around the appropriate times. This will also have to be conferred with the other team leaders. When dealing with the task managing of a team, it’s useful to be flexible. Take into account that things will not always go the way you want them to and less optimal solutions might have to be implemented.

Availability

As a team leader, one of your most important tasks is to be available. If at any point one of your team members needs your help, he or she should be able to find you within a blink of an eye. Obviously, you can’t be there 100% of the time. Therefore, it’s usually a good idea to appoint a “second in command.” The most experienced judge in your team is a logical choice here, because you can trust him or her to be able to pick up where you left off in the middle of everything. This also gives the members of your team someone to contact if you’re temporarily unavailable. This also saves you from telling every one of your team members when you’re going to the bathroom. However, you should still tell your “second in command” about your whereabouts.

Knowledge transferral

Knowledge transferral is a term I like to use when dealing with information. Basically when you’re giving someone information about something, you are transferring knowledge to that person. The best way to transfer knowledge to your team members is during team meetings. As said, the team should know what they need to be doing and when. All this should be explained to them during the team briefing at the start of the day, but it’s very good to have some more team meetings throughout the day so that the members can share their knowledge with each other. In general you’ll have more opportunities to arrange a team meeting during a Pro Tour than during a Grand Prix.

Knowledge should not only be transferred to the team members en group, but also individually. Talking to someone individually gives you more time to explain anything that is still unclear to him or her. It also gives a great opportunity to poke that judge with questions about his or her experience -- not only of that day, but also in general.

Another party that needs to be included in the knowledge transferral is the other team leaders. They should know about anything you’ve noticed that needs their attention. In turn, they will have to tell you about all the things they’ve noticed that need your attention.

When you transfer knowledge in this way, everybody will be involved in letting the tournament run smoothly, making judging the team effort it really is.

Experience sharing

Next to sharing knowledge, you should also share experience. The difference between sharing knowledge and sharing experience is that, while sharing knowledge, you’re talking about how it is now, while sharing experience is about how things have been in the past. These two concepts can sometimes overlap each other, but I would still like to see them as two different things.

Whilst you can draw from your experiences, your team members might not have that luxury. It’s important for your team members to know why they are doing the things they are doing. As a team leader, it is your task to explain this to them. In my experience, people will perform better when they understand why they are doing something. Usually, it also improves their perspective on what still needs to be done and in so doing, it can inspire initiative with the judges, which ultimately makes your job of leading the team less stressful.

A team meeting is a great tool to share experiences. Once again, you don’t only have to talk about experiences of that day. They can also come from previous events where a similar situation occurred. Especially during international events, these team meetings can bring up nice discussions. You need to be careful though: a team meeting should not last too long, because there’s still a job to do. Also, it might seem strange to the players that judges are sitting down together all the time while the tournament is still ongoing.

Subjective evaluation

The other important task as a team leader is to evaluate. Not just to evaluate, but also to evaluate subjectively. As hard as it might be, telling someone your subjective opinion on how they performed during the event will help that person in improving his or her weaknesses and exploiting his or her strengths.

I’ve already said it, but I would like to stress it a bit more: when evaluating someone you’re not supposed to just sum up his or her faults and weaknesses. Next to this, you’re also supposed to explain why you think the way you do and how you would do that specific task. Evaluating is not a case of bettering the other person. It is your job to point out some good aspects of that person as well. Sometimes, it’s even more interesting to hear how that person knows how to do the things he or she does well.

Then, if you want to do even better, you will also give examples of how you observed their strengths and weaknesses. This is not so much important for them, but when you enter the review into the DCI Judge Center, other people who read the review are more able to understand your reasoning for the review.

Wrap up

I hope that everybody who has read this article will have gotten something out of it. I also hope that everybody who has something to add and/or comment will do so by sending me an email to rdrijvers at gmail dot com.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Johanna Virtanen and Stijn de Boel for proofreading this article.

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