Stop, Train, Go

Question: which is more demanding?

  1. Running the largest speech and debate tournament in the history of forensics (pictured above): 600 students competing at the National Invitational Tournament of Champions, with a team of about 70 coordinators and staff people from all over the country.
  2. Running the first debate tournament for the year: 77 students, all giving their first shot at debating, with a new team of about a dozen coordinators from my club to help run it.

You’d think Choice 1. But there is one thing making me think Choice 2. I’ve got a solution for it that I’ve been applying all week long preparing for the smaller tournament, and the solution is one you’ll likely apply to your work demands. Allow me to explain. 

For NITOC last June, I was the superintendent of a staff that all knew what to do. I was able to pull in dozens of the most experienced directors in the nation. When I’d say “go do this,” they knew exactly what to do and they did so with the excellence that gave them such a great reputation in the first place. Simple.

Tomorrow’s tournament is 12% the size with only two debate events. Much simpler. But the staff consists of my good friends in my debate club, and none of them have ever run a tournament. When I say “go do this,” it requires a significant amount of explaining and training.

It’s anxiety, but I see it as tremendous opportunity to learn and grow in something very wholesome and good. Our kids are our future, and staffing this tournament – no matter how anxious – is worth it. It’s just rather funny that this small, simpler tournament is bringing more anxiety and pressure than the biggest tournament of all time.

Stomping Out the Fires

In anxious situations, I apply a specific management principle that smooths things over tremendously. It has a similar tune to what firemen tell people when they catch on fire: stop, drop, roll. In training others, whenever a “fire” pops up, apply stop, train, go. 

  1. Stop. This is at the “OMGosh, what do I do?” moments. Stop. There is a process to be learned and a way to do this right. Calmly seek a solution to the problem.
  2. Train. Fight the temptation to take the task over. Instead, take the time to train the willing volunteer (or, perhaps in your case, employee).
  3. Go. Once the training is finished, you let the volunteer/employee go do their work. You go onto the next task or next dilemma.

Stop, Train, Go. It works wonders. I’ve been applying it for a couple weeks now, but come to think of it, I appreciate working for people who practice the same principle. It honestly makes the larger system (in this case, the tournament) run smoothly. The pressure is functional and tensions are easily solved with stop, train, go working with you.

My staff is excited. Many of them are new parents and this is their very first tournament. The kids are getting excited, too, and there is life in the air. We’ll pour some blood, sweat and tears into the event tomorrow, but by day’s end we will be a better, stronger, more focused club. It’s all good.

Naw, it’s more than good. It’s awesome. Hope to see you there tomorrow – we still need more judges. See the Monumentum Debate Tournament Website for more information.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • theworkingdiva

    I coordinate meetings and special events for a living. I’m totally with you on the smaller event being the more demanding of the two. Most folks don’t realize that once logistics of a large event are in place, it doesn’t matter if you have 50 people or 500. You coordinate all of your service providers, and (assuming everyone’s on their game) once the event starts, it’s pretty much done. With a smaller event (and usually a smaller staff), you’re personally on the hook for many more of the details.

    I love your “Stop.Train.Go” approach. It’s how I like to deal with the many fires that inevitably rise in event planning. “Be calm” is the mantra of many a successful event professional.

    • Funny you mention “be calm.” My TD of the largest tournament used that the entire week. He referenced it often.