After officiating 216 Canadian Football League games (including 11 Grey Cups) Glen Johnson, now the league’s senior vice president of football, has developed a knack for snap decisions. Here’s how he makes split-second decisions when the clock is ticking:
“An official goes through an abbreviated decision-making process on every call: What’s the right thing to do? Do I call it or not?
“The process needs to start well ahead of the actual decision. It’s about having complete, expert-level knowledge of the things you’re going to be asked to deal with. I try to create a simple priority matrix: What really matters, and what’s just noise? I process that against all the work I’ve done in advance and come up with what I think is the right thing to do.
“Often, bad decisions come from a place of not wanting an equitable outcome. On the football field, if I decide to make up a rule by myself and say, ‘This is the way it’s going to be. I don’t care what anyone else thinks,’ that would fail. But if I know there’s joint ownership of the outcome, then I’m much more likely to be successful in making the right call. We do a lot of hard work to make sure the teams, coaches, players, general managers and fans understand the criteria and are on the same page. I try to pre-prescribe as many outcomes as I can, so I know, if this thing happens, here’s what we’re going to do.
“When I have to explain my decisions, I like to use terminology that is as clear as possible: ‘That doesn’t meet the holding standard because he didn’t lose his position.’ That way, everybody knows, quickly, why I made the call. It erases any confusion.”