6+3 Lessons on Guild Leadership: Don’t Make These Mistakes!

6+3 Lessons on Guild Leadership: Don’t Make These Mistakes!

Tick tock.
That’s the sound of an expansion getting closer and closer to release. It hasn’t quite started yet, but players are starting to gradually trickle in and return to the game. Abandoned guilds are coming back online.  Some players are looking to try their  hand at starting their own guilds.
Does that sound like something you and your friends want to do? Like the Pandaren say in game, slow down! Take some advice from a few of my friends and the mistakes they’ve made when they started out.
One of the first mistakes I made in the formation of my guild was one that a lot of people make: we mostly relied on “common sense” to dictate what was and was not acceptable. For whatever reason, “common sense” was fine for the first couple of months, but after more recruits joined us, it became apparent that we actually needed to sit down and write out rules to let people know what behaviour was expected of them. The worst part of it all is that my officers and I were just dumbfounded at how poorly some people could behave! We honestly could not understand how anyone thought X or Y behaviours were appropriate. As such, most of the rules we wrote had a “private name” used to refer to them by the officers, as they were named for the guild member who caused us to write the rule in the first place, along the lines of “the Kurn rule” or “the Majik rule”. It definitely made for some memorable moments, but what I took away from it was that you have to be clear about your expectations from the start!
Conquest hasn’t really had a hard and fast set of rules. Going into Warlords, I knew I wanted to have a stronger foundation in place and really figure out what I wanted the guild to turn into. There were times where I felt it was too lax. I wanted to tighten that belt. It took us over a month and several revisions before we settled on the language that I felt reflected what I wanted my guild to become. It helps to have two or three goals in mind then ask yourself if the rules you are setting down will ultimately lead to those goals. If they don’t, reconsider them.
Rhidach (@Rhidach) | Rhida.ch
We had a raider early on who had a really difficult personality and didn’t get a long with a lot of our long-time raiders. Problem was that he was really good DPS, and I found myself with a dilemma after he caused a kerfuffle with some of my players. I had to choose between showing him the exit and hurting overall raid DPS, or attempting to smooth over the row and investing some of my credibility into him. I chose to do what I (mistakenly) perceived as being for the greater good and worked things out, but there was an even bigger incident not much longer after that and he really had to go that time. Trying to find a compromise (and compromising my own integrity) only kicked the ball down the road a little ways. I should have ripped the band-aid off quickly, and I paid for that dithering in the end.
Sometimes it isn’t always easy to control player behaviour. You want to do the right thing and let them go, but you might not be in the position to do that because removing a player means your guild doesn’t get to raid for a few days. It’s harder to pull that off in a 25 man raid because there’s almost always going to be conflicting personalities. It isn’t always easy to find 30 players who are able to raid effectively at a high level and be friendly with each other. But ultimately, the boss has to reconcile the differences.
Actually, there’s three ways that you can address it:
  • Find a way to deal with it: Involves muting, not socializing, or other methods.
  • Find a way to change it: Involves talking to the player and asking them that their behaviour needs to change.
  • Remove the problem: The ol’ gkick strategy.
Adam Ferrel (@FerrelES) | Epic Slant
One of the hardest lessons I learned the first time around is that people aren’t actually expendable. When you’re in a highly competitive environment with a ton of applicants it is easy to forget that. Everyone wants to be “uber” and kill the top monsters. As a motivation tool my officers and I leveraged this. We’d remind folks that there were people in the minor league waiting for the slot on the roster. It really demoralized more than it motivated. Later on I focused more on developing talent and retention. Keeping even average players for an extremely long time yielded far better results.
This one’s always a tough one. Some players end up being late bloomers. A player that might’ve not been the greatest in one tier could become an all star in the next largely due to class buffs or raid mechanics. Go with the sabremetrics methodology. How many fires do they stand in? What’s their survivability rate? Can they react to incoming missile attacks? Can they be counted on to nail every interrupt? Have they allowed any Malkorok puddles that were in there area to go off? Clearly Brad Pitt knew what he was doing when he built the Oakland A’s (I liked that movie).
Amy Emmence (@amyemmence)
While not an original or very early on officer, I feel when I became an officer, I felt a bit less than worthy and did not try and actively do more for my guild than I had done before.  I realize now that I was asked to be an officer because I was “worthy” of the role and respected in the guild and let that guide me now.
When the GM taps you on the shoulder and asks for your help, there’s usually a reason for it. It’s because they see something in you that can help uphold what the guild is doing. The great thing about being an officer is that the buck doesn’t stop with you. The GM is always going to be the fail safe and can ultimately veto anything that might not work.
Of course, you can always say no. In fact, maybe you should just say no. Much easier that way.
Liore (@Liores) | Herding Cats
Sometimes you have to be a jerk. Don’t farm it out to officers, don’t put it off, don’t hope that things will magically get better — part of your job is making people feel like you are securely in charge and protecting the guild community.
The world needs jerks. But it needs the right kind of jerk. The kind of jerk who’s willing to put their boot down and stop other jerks in their tracks. It’s a dirty job, but it has to be done. Officership comes with both prestige and responsibility. Liore recommends not farming it out and you shouldn’t the first time it needs to be done. I’m of the opinion that if a GM can’t directly tell a player that they’re no longer a member of the guild, then they’re not fit to be a GM at all. Now if you’re a veteran GM who’s looking for a successor, this is a great way to evaluate an officer’s fitness to eventually take over. Just be present for it and supervise.
When I took over as GM, I set expectations for officer activity too high. As an example, in the first month of MoP the role officers were expected to give raiders written reviews every week so we could nip any performance issues in the bud. After the first month, these were expected to be done monthly. This was great while it lasted but after a couple months sitting down and writing 8 healer reviews (or worse, 14 ranged reviews) really wore on people and the activity dropped off, causing some disappointment. A couple officers even stepped down from their roles – this wasn’t the only reason, but I’m sure the workload was part of it. The lesson? Set realistic expectations. It’s better to do things well, even if that means those things happen less frequently. People can only dedicate a certain amount of time and energy to the guild before they start burning out.
Burnout management is huge. If you need to tell a player to take a week off, you do it. They might go kicking and screaming, but they’ll be the better for it. But the flip side is also important. You have to manage your own burnout levels. I’m not impervious to it. My guild doesn’t realize it, but I try hard to not show any signs of burnout. In reality, I’m struggling hard to keep my game face on and the last thing I want to do is just flip out on someone for pushing my buttons too hard or something else that’s trivial. Pick and choose the days you need off and make sure there’s someone to cover for you. I need a vacation.

Shawn

My biggest mistake was a significant lack of game/life balance. I poured an unfortunate amount of trial-and-error into the guild in the early years, lacking any formal knowledge of what it took to build and maintain a successful guild, to the detriment of those around me. Guilds are demanding (especially raiding ones), but all can be managed if you have the necessary tools and know where to set boundaries.

Yup. See above! Shawn isn’t kidding!
(@Zaierpally)I think the biggest mistake I’ve made is not having enough communication.  I’ve had a couple of different instances where I thought everything was going great and then it all blew up in my face because there hadn’t been good enough communication.  I’ve had situations go from good to terrible because of a lack of communication both between myself and other officers/the GM and between myself (as an officer) and the rest of the members of the guild.

We’re not psychic. Even I need to remind myself that we may be on the same page on a philosophical standpoint, it doesn’t hurt to keep pestering people about stuff. Keep talking to the officers and make sure everyone understands what’s going on week to week. What’re the goals? Which bosses are we going to kill? Do we plan to reset or extend? Who’s the new person that just applied and did they get the introduction?
Outside of me as the guild leader, the leadership had no structure. Officers had no specific tasks and I simply promoted every “founding member” regardless of ability or desire to lead. Committed and organized leadership is a key part of a successful guild, and the lack of it made everything way more difficult for me in the early going than it should have been. Fortunately, many of my officers stepped up in a big way when I needed them, or the guild would have died in its infancy.
Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! If an officer is charge of overseeing melee players, outline that out. Tell them they’re there to assign interrupts, offer opinion on new melee apps, and that they have to tell you if a rogue is starting to fall off the wagon. Guild treasurer? Good. They need to make sure the bank is liquidated of crap, and that there’s money coming in somehow. You might think it’s obvious, but get each role defined.
Still want to do this? Make sure you examine the articles I have on Guild Management. It ain’t easy, but being the GM usually never is.
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About Matticus

Matticus is the founder of World of Matticus and Plus Heal. Read more of his columns at WoW Insider. League of Legends player. Caffeine enthusiast.

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