Tuesday, May 5, 2015

How I Learned Chain of Command

This blog is a follow up to a blog post I wrote almost five years ago! Having a great memory is awesome for being able to follow up posts from so long ago, but in that post I talked about not understanding the process of chain of command. I'm slightly better at that now and I learned this at a race in 2008.

In 2008 I worked my first true national race and I was rather nervous. I had been used to flagging and race directing local or regional events and something of this scope was new. Also, I was just the flagger so the decision making responsibility did not weigh on my shoulders. I still had a bit of wanting that control and on the final day there was an incident that stopped the race on lap 3.

Usually the rule is if the race is stopped on lap one it is a complete restart. After lap one it'll be a single file restart with the line up being how they were running before the race was stopped. I was lingering around the race director and parents, crew members, and drivers were wanting an answer on how the race would be restarted and the race director was just being screamed at by all parties and eventually he made the choice to complete restart. But this was wrong, wasn't it? One complete lap had been completed, in fact a couple were therefore how could we go back to the beginning? After all who were screaming at him left I asked, "Complete restart, how does that work?" and the response I got was a bunch of words that are fit for my blog.

What had happened? I was right, right? The way I understood the rule we were making a mistake, but when I questioned the person whose decision goes I became just another one of those people who were complaining about everything. I was right, but it wasn't my call to make. Later on the race director apologized for snapping at me, but I understood how he got so riled up because I was there to back him up and not to question his decision.

That was a defining moment in my life. That may sound like I'm trivializing many other events in my life, but after that day I realized that there are times that being right is irrelevant. At races now when a decision is made I will put in my opinion if I know I am right, but I won't push it because once the director has made a decision that's the way it is. I'd also say this was one of the hardest lessons I've ever learned because I used to be under the code of, "right is right regardless of anything else" meaning that I would argue with any person at any time if I knew I was right and they were wrong. Thankfully, I learned that one can be right and wrong at the same time and I still will push my belief on a call, but if I am denied I don't take offense to it, I don't go off on a tantrum, and I will carry out the call that was made because in the end I am the messenger with the flags, not the one who makes the calls.

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