11 Suggestions for the New Guild Leader

Whether it’s Rift, WoW, or Star Wars: the Old Republic, guild problems and solutions can be carried over from one game to the next. Having organizational skills are crucial to being an effective guild leader.

I went around and had an open call with several guild leaders in the community to see if they had specific advice to offer to anyone who wanted to  be a guild leader (Many of them started off with “Don’t do it”).

Think long term

Well planned guilds have long term commitments from the leadership. I’d classify long term as something over a year. Conquest has been around for almost 3 years. It wasn’t something I wanted to just do for 6 months. I wanted to commit to it over a long period.

The top bit of advice I can give is find your essence and let it guide you. Find what makes your guild truly unique and special, and be proud of it. That essence isn’t your ranking, or how progressed you are – it’s what makes the people and the team a fun place to be. My guild, Imperative, started with an essence of serious college gamers with a light schedule, and even a year later, we’ve still got that one core. 

Don’t ever sacrifice that essence for short term success. Think in the long-term. Starting now, don’t think about making a “successful guild in Firelands” – think about making a kick-ass guild in patch 4.5, or the next expansion. We have an old saying that “progression is a marathon, not a sprint.”

As a guild leader, you have quite a responsibility: you will be solely responsible for the happiness of several people for multiple hours each week. People are going to look to you for the enjoyment of their hobby. At times, it’s easy to feel that burden and consider quitting. At times, every leader will get a feeling of burn out and think that the costs outweigh the benefits. Just remember that what you have is real, even if it exists within “just a game.” There is an essence to your team that can never be recreated, and it has value beyond the game.

Blacksen, Imperative

Delegate what you can

For some players, assisting comes naturally. In other cases, it’s best to outline exactly what you need your officers to do. They want to help but may not know what boundaries they shouldn’t cross.

If you’ve never been an officer before, you will be absolutely overwhelmed with the amount of time you will need to dedicate to your guild as the guild master.

The best piece of advice I can offer an aspiring or new GM is to delegate. Delegate, delegate, delegate. I’m a bit of a control freak myself, so it’s difficult for me to delegate, but surround yourself with people you trust for officers, and give them very clearly-defined duties. If you’re not the raid leader, refer ALL questions regarding raiding to that officer. If you’re not the bank administrator, refer ALL bank questions to your bank officer. If you’re not the caster DPS lead, refer ALL questions concerning caster stuff to that officer. See the pattern?

Kurn, Apotheosis

Pace yourself

While some organization is important to have from the beginning, take a bit of time off and actually play the game. It’s not a bad idea to have a dry run of different policies to see how effective or received it’ll be by the crew.

Start slow. Don’t try and create the entire guild structure, loot system, various rules all at once. All guilds started as a group of friends just wanting to get together and play some World of Warcraft. If you have goals, lay them out and set out to accomplish them. However, if you spend all your time setting everything up, you’ll never get around to doing the fun part that keeps people coming back every week: killing bosses.

You won’t see all the bad (or good) situations that will come up through the course of your tenure as GM, so don’t try to look for them. Shoot from the hip and go with what feels right for you and your team.

Borsk

Manage Expectations

Lay down tangible goals. Set out deadlines. Anything that helps indicate progress is good because players want to feel like they’ve actually accomplished something.

Setting expectations is key to a solid leadership foundation. By managing guild member’s expectations, you can mitigate disappointment and set the stage for exceeding expectations. People enjoy a sense of accomplishment, needing it as a component of motivation. If you set expectations that cannot be achieved, there will never be a sense of accomplishment. On the other hand, setting expectations that can be successfully met will lead to people achieving the expectation, gaining a sensing of accomplishment, and providing them an opportunity to exceed expectations, further contributing to their self motivation for success.

Within my guild, the expectation was set that we would hope to start 25m raiding within 1 month, allowing plenty of time for people to get to level 85 at their own pace without the pressure of having to take time off work or sacrifice spending time with friends/family during the Christmas/New Years. The reality turned out to be 30 excited nerds hitting 85 within two weeks and two 25m bosses down in the 2nd week of release. This far exceeded all expectations that had been set, invigorating the guild with a massive sense of accomplishment and injecting an incredible amount of motivation.

_M

Invite with Caution

It’s entirely possible to fire off too many invites at a time. This can be counter-productive to your cause. While low barriers of entry are okay, at least some player standards should be maintained. I’m not referring to just gamesense or players skills. Being in your guild should be a privilege.

Back in the mid-BC days, I cycled through 5 raiding guilds in as many months simply because they fell apart. They got too big too fast, a group of 4 or 5 people quit in rapid succession, or the better raiders spread themselves into too many teams leading to progress stalling, the symptom could be any of the above (or something similar that I didn’t mention). If you want to start a successful raiding guild: guard your ginvites closely. After going through a new guild every month, I got sick of the transitions and, along with a few friends, founded a raiding guild that, at most, recruits 2 new players a week (though most weeks we didn’t recruit at all). I’m still a proud member of that guild today, 3 years later (and am now the guild leader).

If you guard your ginvites, your members begin to understand that while you might use the occasional pug, being a guildie is something special. This in turn fosters a sense of community that makes raids and 5-mans more enjoyable. It also makes for a nice reason for them to stick around when progress stalls (we all have hiccups in progression every so often). One team of ours bashed their heads against the Lich King fight for a solid month and not one person left the guild (this was before the guild rep system, so they could’ve jumped to another guild without any long term problems). In short, be selective about your ginvites. You can group with anyone, but guildies should be a step above the rabble.

Zet

Recruit like minded players

Heard of the phrase birds of a feather will flock together? It applies here just as well. Having similar interests with someone helps lower resistance and it ensures everyone is on the same page. Plus it cuts down on the drama. No one’s going to complain about hating PvP if all the players are into PvP.

Have your mission all laid out? Then you can focus on surrounding yourself those that help drive that mission forward. What sort of people would best fit and are like-minded to your mission? You wouldn’t recruit a bunch of casual players if you ultimately want to become a raiding guild in the top 10 guilds on your server, would you? Its nearly impossible to survive, recruit, and ultimately be a leader who others trust and respect without this defined

Our raiding guild has several officers who are all raid leaders, all equal, very flat organizational structure. We have a level 1 guild master as a placeholder only because we have to. We formed and lead the guild as a team and make decisions that way, period. Not all guilds follow a “cookie cutter” approach, it’s important to take the time to really define what fits with your guild’s mission. 

Bottom line? Start with a focus on defining your mission and build the guild around it with people just as passionate about it as you. 

Gina, Healbot, <Cold Fusion>

Establish your guild’s “identity”

Before selecting your leadership base, it’s a good idea to figure out what you want to do. Don’t try to be everything. At least, not right away.

Are you a casual guild?

Hardcore raiding?

PvP?

Amazingly, once you’ve established what kind of community you want to build, the rest of the pieces will really begin to fall into place. Finding people who share this vision with you in the beginning will really shape how your guild grows. In a Cataclysmic-world, guilds are more than just tags floating above your head, they’re identities. Finding the right guild and sticking with it now has actual tangible benefits beyond just a great social hub and people are (as they should) not taking the decision as lightly. Attracting like-minded individuals who really care about the growth and development of your new guild is important and these people will become your officers at some point.

The Magette

Pick the right person for the right job

Personalities matter. It’s not enough for everyone to buy into the philosophy. Your leaders need to exude the right qualities to appropriately carry out their duties. Putting the really shy guy on the job of evaluations and feedback is not exactly the best combination.

Any guild should not need more than 1 officer per 5-8 players. Example: a 20 – 25 player roster (which should amount to 80-100 characters) should have no more than 3-5 officers). Be sure to pick the right person for the right job because your in game or RL friends may not be best fit. Just because someone is a nice person or great player doesn’t mean they are right. A great player could have a condescending tone and attitude, but would not be the right person for an officer whose tone can easily be misconstrued. On the flip side, a friendly sub-par player with the awesome personality may not have enough clout to provide the right constructive criticism.

In short, it’s never easy to pick the leadership core, but it is an first important step.

Quori

Check discipline

Be clear with the rules and watch the grey areas. While leaders do their best in enforcing policy, not everything gets caught. There’s all sorts of disciplinary action that can be taken. Be careful what you do and how you do it.

Depending on your guild set up and recruitment process, it should be made clear what the guilds rules are and what any disciplinary actions may be for breaking the rules. This way if anyone breaks the rules you have a clear course to follow without having to think too much about what to do and by doing so it adds some structure to the guild. No exceptions should be made to the rules or the whole thing will fall into disrepute. An example from my guild is that we have a “No Loot Ninja-ing either in our raids or any PuG you might run while in our guild” – on person ran a VoA pug and ninja’d some loot, which came back to me and I G/kicked him without remorse, as per the guilds rules – which went down well on our server.

Valilor, Aggro my Own Vegetables

Stop trying to do everything

There’s enough responsibility to go around. You know you have too many officers when there’s someone who is sitting around not really doing anything because anything that needs to be done is already done.

Don’t make the mistake of wearing too many hats – if you end up as the Recruitment officer, the website maintainer, the raiding coordinator, the PR officer, the guild bank organiser and especially the guild sounding board, burnout is inevitable. Little things, like making sure that multiple people can update the guild website, will ease daily pressure on you. Logging on to a dozen small issues every day will whittle away at your patience and free time, and make you feel tense at the idea of logging on or checking the forums. Ask yourself if there are tasks that you can delegate, share, or roster – partly to avoid burnout, but also so that if you have to go away, your guild isn’t left with a gaping hole in its management team.

Keeva

Listen

Disagreements are going to happen. Having a group of all yes-men isn’t the best idea. Use them as a sounding board and take into heart what your players have to say before carrying through. Every risk has a possible reward. Every action has a consequence. It’s up to you to decide if it’s worth it.

Who will these yes-men be? Sometimes it may be obvious as your RL BFF, spouse, that dude you have run with since Vanilla, or maybe someone you’ve met fairly recently. Start with a small officer core and take time to work through at least the main start-up issues with these people. You may even want to get the guild up and running a bit before expanding the leadership.

Be aware that not everyone – even your BFF – is cut out for guild leadership – and that may not be apparent until you are in the thick of things. Be sure that the officers are people that can work through disagreements. If you and your spouse have conflicts with both of you running in the same raid, leading a guild together may magnify that. Real life relationships are more important than a game – don’t forget it. Oh, you thought this would be all peaches & cream? Only if your dictatorship is structured well.

Zaralin, Force of Impact

Thanks to everyone who took a moment out of their day to add their thoughts. I would have added more but some of the responses I received would have constituted a post in itself.

That’s what happens when you ask raiding and GMing bloggers to add one response. They give you a novel.

Our community can be crazy sometimes!

Can a 10 man raid team co-exist with a 25 man raid team?

Short, discussionary post for today. You are the GM of a 25 man raiding guild. A player comes to you and wants to form their own 10 man raiding team outside of the hours that your 25 man team raids at. Let’s say that player is unable to match the times that the 25 man team normally plays at but has expressed desire to stay under one banner.

That’s two separate rosters of different raid teams with similar, progression minded goals.

Would this be appealing to you? Why or why not? What type of benefits or drawbacks could there be?

And the big question: What social issues might arise? Can you imagine the logistical nightmares?

What an interesting impact guild reputation has made this expansion. Lodur’s previous post about the subject continues to hold.

Guildmaster Retirement

Atlas.

In Greek mythology, he was a Titan who was doomed to bear the weight of the world on his shoulders.

Actually, maybe it was the heavens (or sky) to be more precise. After all, he was with team Titans and they lost against team Olympia.

My knowledge of Greek is a little rusty.

The weight of the world

When you’re the guild leader, every  action is examined.

Every decision is second guessed.

Every intent, thought, and comment is placed under a microscope. I still maintain that anyone who wants to be a guild leader is insane. It’s even worse when you’re a blogger. I can’t even explain that one. I take pride in my team. Everyone that’s ever played under the Conquest banner, I’ve wanted nothing less than the best for them (even if it wasn’t the guild).

My responsibilities have steadily lessened as I’ve delegated what I could delegate. I’ve always thought that the key to effective management is to give your officers generalized goals and empower them with the necessary authority to do it.

In other words, tell them what they need to do and get out of their way.

You are your own greatest critic. Any guild leader is going to have that inner voice inside of them that doubts their skills and abilities. Despite the fact that I banish those thoughts during raids, the idle mind continues to wander. I can’t help but wonder if good is good enough. And what do you do if it isn’t? I’d like to think that guild leaders mean well and have good intentions. But here’s the thing about intentions:

Intentions aren’t going to get me good grades.

Intentions won’t help me meet deadlines.

Intentions won’t help me pick up chicks at a bar (LFM Wingman).

But all that stress? It does get to people. I’ve watched slowly as guilds ahead of and below Conquest gradually crumbled and fell one by one. Reasons include things from attendance to epic drama to simple lost interest. And those GMs? I guess they just couldn’t hold it together any longer and just said to themselves forget it.

There have been moments in my WoW career where I’ve considered retiring. Maybe move to the interior. Perhaps by a river. Build a log cabin. But what the heck would I do though?

Go fishing in the river? Maybe grow a garden? Sit on a patio drinking wine? I haven’t even acquired the taste of wine. 

So here’s a question for the retired GMs out there

What did it for you? At what point did you call it quits? what happened to your guild?

I have no plans to retire right now. Conquest has something like over 200 members. Those poor saps are still stuck with me.

Tough Call: Real Officer Set-Ups In Cataclysm

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
Welcome back for another issue of Tough Call, with me, Viktory.

Disclaimer: What follows is the summation of my opinion based upon the responses I received from over a dozen guild masters when I asked them about their officer corps. Given the content of my last two posts, I felt it would be relevant to take an honest look at how guilds are setting up their government structure these days. This does not mean you should change your guild structure right away.  It does mean, however, that if you were looking to make a change, you can perhaps derive some supporting arguments from a few successful GMs cited below.

A few weeks ago I put out a call for GMs to help me get an idea how their guilds are operating, and, more importantly, what sort of  hierarchy they have put in place to make their guild succeed.  Out of the numerous responses I received, two solid trends emerged:

  1. There are a LOT of different ways to set-up your guild hierarchy, each with their own respective success rates and ease of implementation.
  2. There are far fewer vanity positions in play these days. At least among the sample group at my disposal, it seems there are most GMs expect more output from their officers.

I am happy to see that the days of  “So-and-so has been with us for a long time, so they are an officer now” are largely over.  Only 2 of the GMs who responded to my survey said they had non-specific officer roles (as in “we all do a bit of everything”, which really leads to “everyone assumes someone else is doing the dirty work”).

To get my information, I asked each GM three quick questions, and let them tell me the rest (and believe me, guild managers love to tell you about their guild, its environment and their genius set-up to solve all problems.)

First Question: “What officer positions do you use, and do they report directly to you or is there a chain-of-command?”

Most Common Positions:

  • - Raid Leader (separate from a role leader)
  • - Melee DPS / Tank / Ranged DPS / Healing role leaders
  • - Bank Officer
  • - Recruitment Officer

Some GMs also reported using Morale/Relations officers and an officer rank for Loot Council or Loot Master, separate from other officer duties.  I’m not sure that I’d classify these jobs are something that needs a full-time officer, but I’m also extremely hesitant with the idea of a part-time or “junior” officer.  If it wasn’t so prevalent, I’d lump “Bank Officer” in with this lot.

As for command structure, it’s fairly unanimous that members report to their respective role leaders, who then in turn report to the GM.  I do wish, however, that I had devised a way to get more information about how the recruitment, bank, and morale officers interact with this command structure.

To me this combo represents a stark contrast to the landscape I saw when I started raiding back in Karazhan.  Instead of a GM who ran every aspect and had a few cronies as officers (which is what typically gave loot council-style raids such a bad rep), we are seeing 25-man guilds shift into fully-fleshed organizations.  Positioning the GM as the Chairman of the Board seems to be the clearest way to define duties/responsibilities, and is an efficient way to make sure the various aspects of the guild function at peak performance.

Second Question: “Have you had to add any officer positions since the end of Icecrown Citadel?”

The answers to this question fell in two distinct patterns:

  • Organization increase: bank officer, recruiter, defined class leads.
  • Expansion increase: recruitment officer, 2nd raid leader, PVP leads.

This should tell you that if your guild isn’t growing or refining, you’re stagnating.  12-24 months from now you will be doing things differently; the faster you can figure out what that will be, the better the transition will go.  After all, these are guilds that had 4-5 years of experience and still found roles to add and needs to address after ICC.  Learn from their example and succeed.

Third Question: “If you had to cut one officer position (not person) today, who would it be?”

A few GMs refused to answer this one, or gave responses that never answered the question, but the consensus was either the bank officer or morale officer would be the first to go.

As I stated above, I’m not sure that these are full-time jobs anyways.  In my guilds we’ve always just defaulted to the most likable officer being de facto “HR guy.”  I am very interested to hear any feedback about ways that a bank or morale officer could contribute on-par with what a raid leader, role leader or PVP lead does.

As always, leave any question, comments or epic knitting patterns in the comments below. (I’m trying to get someone to knit me a bad-ass scarf to wear while podcasting).  Also, if you have a situation that you’d like to have me address in a future column, feel free to send it to viktory.wow@gmail.com.

Tough Call: How do I turn them around?

Tough Call: How do I turn them around?

ComputerRepair

The other day it occurred to me that as a leader, we are judged twice: Once by how we handle success, and once by how we handle problems.

So by now you’ve determined that one of your officers needs to step up their game and contribute more to your rampantly successful organization.  Presuming you still feel they can be a valuable part of your leadership team, this leaves you with two standard options:

  1. Ignore it and hope the situation fixes itself
  2. Violently strike, shake or punch them
  3. Coach them to success

Method 1: Ignore it

Let me know how this works. 

Actually, I’d bet that a fair amount of people are reading this because they’ve already tried this method and realized it never changes.

Method 2: Violence

“We have not yet developed the technology to punch someone over a standard TCP/IP connection.”

- Lodur

So unless you’re a Jedi and can Force Choke someone, this method is sort of a wash, too.

Method 3: Coaching/Wake-Up Call

Part of leadership is motivation, and that doesn’t start and stop with your members.  Your officers need back-up, direction, vision and support on a regular basis.  The only thing that changes is your tactics and means of implementation.

Of course, how this situation came to be and what path you choose from here is largely based on your leadership style.  What follows below likely fits best within an organized style of leadership.  If you run a more chaotic/organic guild, some of this could seem foreign. 

As with any relationship, the GM/Officer paradigm requires give and take.  You both need to know what is expected of each other, so there are no assumptions later on.  It really helps to lay these things out, and to write them down.  Do not presume you will remember all the details later, because you won’t. 

Re-Defining their Responsibilities

Their domain: Are they in charge of all melee, or just tanks?  Do they coach healers outside of the raid, or is that done by the Morale Officer?  In your head, who should be going to them before coming to you?

  • Expectations: What goals have you set for their area of responsibility?  Just “play well” isn’t really a goal.  Zero missed interrupts, DPS that ranks on WoL every night, better cooldown coordination between healers.  These are examples of things they can work on.  Remember, people derive comfort from achieving goals.  
  • Extra Duties: Are they expected to pitch-in on recruiting?  Are they expected to be the sole recruiter for their area?  Do they need to make sure they set aside time to assess your back-ups?  Do they need to contribute to strat development before raid?
  • Rules are there for a reason: Whether it’s your rule or a rule they made up, we are judged by how and when we implement our rules.  If an officer feels like a particular rule (such as talking to players before cutting them, or organising who sits out on which fight, or ensuring loot is distributed correctly) then the situation needs to be examined.
  • Assistance: Tell them what you can do to help them, and when you want/expect to be asked for help.
  • Clarity: Be clear about when and how often you want to update each other.  Some guilds can do this quickly each night, some prefer a weekly officer meeting.  Develop a routine.
  • Desire: Ask them if these are all things they want to do.  Perhaps they are good at some things and not yet ready for others.  If falls to you to decide what they should be handling and when you should be giving them more to do.

Hand-in-Hand with all that, comes your fair share of the culpability.  After-all, it’s your guild, and, even though a lot of GM tasks are intangible, everyone needs to know what you’re doing so they can follow with confidence.

Defining the GM’s Responsibility

  • Tell them what you do for them
  • Tell them what additional things you will do for them now
  • Be clear with what you expect to be a GM-level issue, and what you think is best handled by them
  • Be very clear that your job is to ask questions, and this is just something you will need to do. Nobody should be offended when you make your inquiries.  Afterall, “not checking is not managing”.

Hopefully these tips will give you some good ideas when you find yourself having to coach one of your officers.

Next week: How Cataclysm has changed Guild Structures

As always, please leave your questions/comments/feedback/marriage proposals below.  I love to read them on these rainy spring days while curl up in my official Matticus Snuggie*.

Note: No such product exists.
Tough Call: Are your officers carrying their weight?

Tough Call: Are your officers carrying their weight?

tc-carryweight-480

Welcome back for another week of cupcakes and snugly puppies. 

Psych!

We both know we’re not here for that, so let’s get down to business. What follows will be Part 1 of an 18-part epic series.  When I am through, angels will descend from on high and carry the compiled works to the Vatican for safe-keeping.  Ages from now, historians will place this up there with The Illiad, Kafka’s Metamorphosis and Hitchhiker’s Guide. 

Hey, a guy can dream right?

Recently we discussed the important roles and differences between the GM and the Raid Leader.  In a 10-man strict guild, you may be able to get by with only have these two officers and some trusted guildies from whom you can expect honest answers.  However, I find that even 10-mans and almost certainly 25-man raiding guilds run better with multiple officers.

In my experience, and from what I’ve been told by other leaders, there often arises a situation where guilds have officers who seem to be the Deputy of Do Nothing.  (As opposed to my own favorite title: Deputy of Awesome.)  I have found that this unique problem can stem from three sources.

  1. Not a Leader – These are the officers who may be great players, may be long-term guildies, but once they become an officer, they don’t really do much other than give their opinion when prompted by the RL or GM.
  2. Fatigued Leader – They were great officers but are not just phoning it in, and are only around out of a sense of obligation.
  3. No-Confidence Leader – They would do a great job, if they thought they had the back-up and the RAA to do it.  As it stands, they feel that the average member has more say than them and may be tired of the squeaky wheel getting the oil.

The Deputy of Do Nothing is a drain on your raids efficiency and on the potency of your leadership team.  As the Captain of this ship, it’s up to you to diagnose this malaise before it spreads to the rest of the crew.*

(* unless, of course, they have no authority while in raid and everyone knows it.  In which case, carry on.)

Not too long ago, I read an article about someone who’s trying to have a “Guild Without Officers”.  While I don’t agree with this idea, I thought the insights below were especially suitable to this conversation:

“I look back on how it used to be, with too damn many officers, all of whom did very little to actually help the guild, preferring instead to treat officership like some sort of insiders club where they could talk amongst themselves in their little clique. I recall making rules and chivvying and cajoling and beating my head against the brick wall that was getting anyone else to step up and take responsibility for anything.”

How do I spot this before it’s too late?
Part of being the GM includes an unwritten commitment to your members that you will make sure the rest of your leadership team has the responsibility, authority and accountability to handle their respective areas.  Therefore, you MUST make sure that among your GM duties you include your due diligence.  Kick the tires, shake the branches and see what turns up.

  1. Talk to your members.  I’m sure you’re probably running heroics, or BGs or whiling away the hours getting that fishing feast while in Mumble with your teammates/members.
  2. Try to recall the last time you had an in-depth conversation with your officer.
    • Did they prompt the conversation or did you?
    • How many solutions did they present to the problems your team was encountering?
    • How many of those solutions have been implemented?
  3. Review how organized/engaged their part of the team is on your forums. If this is something that is important to you or your guild community, your officers should be on top of it.
  4. Lastly, think of what you would be doing if you were in their position.  Don’t think that just because you don’t play healer, you can’t tell a healing officer what to do.  Management skills are not class-specific, and chances are you were once doing their job.  At minimum, you will come up with some ideas to discuss next time you talk to them. At best you’ll see that there are opportunities that you both can capitalize upon.

How do I prevent this?

The first step in preventing anything, is to clearly state your expectations upfront.  After all, human nature dictates that people will operate to the level that is expected of them, and if you don’t set that bar, you’re asking them to decide how to run your guild.  You and I both know that the reason you promoted someone to a position of authority is because you trust their opinion, intelligence, communication skills and reliability.  So the only thing missing is your guidance/structure to tell them how you want these skills applied.

  • Rule #1: Do NOT promote all your friends.
  • Rule #2: DO promote everyone you can trust in your absence
  • If Rules 1 & 2 overlap, you should either make more friends are trust more people.
  • Clearly define the duties of each officer position
  • Grant them authority to do their job as they see fit. Nobody can do a job well if they think they have to ask permission.
  • Agree upon how often you expect feedback from them. Ex: Post-Raid Debriefings, Weekly Status Reports or End-of-Tier strategy sessions.
  • Make sure their position is easy enough for the rest of your team to understand. You don’t want anyone saying “what does he do again” or “he’s an officer just because he’s friends with XYZ, he doesn’t do anything”.  
  • Make sure they are NOT the type of person who settles for just doing their job description.  Good leaders appreciate new talent and new ideas.  Encourage those people who could probably do your job.  They will keep you fresh and your team will benefit.
  • Let them know that it’s acceptable to come to you for help BEFORE a fail.  
  • Establish a routine or set reminders for yourself to remember to review these steps and refine them where needed.

Next week we will continue and discuss what you can do once you’ve spotted the problem.

As always, comments, suggestions and questions are appreciated.  Also, the CD of my stand-up routine is available at the table by the door.  I’m here all week.  Tip your waitress!

Recovering From a Bad First Guild Date

Recovering From a Bad First Guild Date

I issued a Valentine’s day blogging challenge earlier on Twitter. It wouldn’t be fair of me to not participate. Any bloggers are welcome to join in. It’s a fun way for bloggers to throw a Valentine’s spin on their posts. If you do accept the challenge, feel free to e-mail or DM me a link to it and I’ll round them all up at the end of the week. I’m sure you can come up with some ideas if you think hard enough.

1327762_rosesPerformance anxiety.

Nervousness.

Fear.

Intimidation.

Those are just some of the few things any prospective raider will experience on their first “date” with the guild. As much as we love to hear a happy ending to a story, the reality is that it isn’t always the case. Here you are, a  player trying to court your new guild. You want them to love you. You want them to be attracted to you. Why? Because you want to be with them too.

But then you screw up.

You stand in the fire. You eat one too many Shadow Crashes. You accidentally dropped a totem in the wrong place.

For whatever reason, your “date” just wasn’t impressed with you at all. Here you are trying to establish a solid foundation with them but you blew your chances because of some silly mistakes. The question they’re asking themselves: Can you be trusted to not screw up again in the future?

Meanwhile, the question you have running through your head is: Will they give me a second chance?

Probably not. At least, not right away. If you epicly messed up, you won’t have a shot. But you know, maybe that guild likes you just enough for another look. But you have to prove yourself.

Communicate

“Hey, I know I screwed up here, here and here. I’m just a little jittery because it’s my first time here. I’ve watched the movies and I know the abilities, but I guess I was just overwhelmed with anxiety. I know I’ll do a better job next time.”

Sometimes a little reassurance to the guild is all that’s needed. Everyone loves a person who recognizes and owns up to their own mistakes. It’s a sign of a truly mature individual who understands they’re not perfect. Now I can’t speak for everyone, but someone who can see where they screw up without having to be told about it is perfect in my eyes.

Listen

Hear out what the guild has to say. If you’re not sure, ask them what you did wrong so you can try to make amends for it. If you know your DPS rotation is messed up, why are you still following the same bad habits? This is especially true if someone is playing the same class as you. Listen to what they have to say, consider it, and see if its right for you. When they drop little hints about what you can do to be better, listen to it.

If that player isn’t you, then you might just need to take a hard look at yourself in the mirror and make the choice between walking away or dealing with it.

Don’t screw up

You were given a second chance. It’s extremely unlikely you’ll be given a third. Don’t mess it up again by choking. They’ve said yes to you again so you better show up and show them who the real you is. Polish up the armor and maybe shotgun a flask.

When they ask you where the nearest raid is, you can curl your muscular Dwarven arm and go “that way”.

Even though you didn’t make the best of first impressions, you might still have a chance to get into the guild of your dreams.

They want to like you

Last thing I want to impart is this:

No one is out to get you.

The guild that you’re going for, you have to remember that they want you to be the one. They don’t want to go back to the recruitment boards again searching for Mr. or Ms. Right. They’re looking for someone who will stick around for a long time.  You’re here because they think they found a potential match and they’re rooting for you to be with them! They want you to ace it so they can go back to drinks! It’s up to you to either validate or prove wrong that claim.

Speaking of which, we’re looking to shore up our roster with a Holy Paladin, an Elemental/Resto Shaman, Rogue and a Mage. But we’ll look at any other classes though. Come check us out.

Tough Call: Roles – RL vs GM

Tough Call: Roles – RL vs GM

superman-batman

Welcome back for another issue of Tough Call. This week I want to go over a topic that sets the baseline for a lot of what we do and how we can go about building the most efficient raid without imploding the guild.  Before we can get to that, however, I think I need to offer a fair bit of clarification on last week’s topic.

Stay with me, people

Classification is not “name calling”.  In my last post I discussed one set of archetypes (of which there are many) that could be used to sort out your raiders when determining who to take and what areas of your roster to shore up. The objective is never to belittle anyone, because honestly, putting people down takes too much time and energy that I would rather put towards being awesome myself.  As for the intended message, Calaban & Lument had some great points, and yes, X, you are Rudy.

For the sake of simplicity and efficiency, some topics need to be encapsulated.  This was the case last week.  I could certainly turn that 901 word post into 5,000+ words about how to evaluate, coach, refine, recruit, and even alter raid tactics/comps to support the players you have.  The fact that I omitted many of those elements does not mean that I am against them,or that I do not use them myself, just that they didn’t fit into the mold of that post.  Trust me, there’s plenty of ground to cover when it comes to raid management, and I don’t plan to blow my whole load in these T11 pants. 
One thing I will continue to believe in throughout this series is that no leader should ever “leave well enough alone”, or settle for what they already have. Every team needs to get stronger, better, faster, sexier, etc.  Sometimes this happens with teamwork & growth, sometimes a pep-talk is enough, and oftentimes improvement happens by recruiting new blood. For example, we recently got a new priest who’s giving me a run for my money, and my output has increased because of it. Regardless, there would be no point to me writing this column if either of us was willing to accept the idea that you should learn to suffer through the drawbacks of today without making a better plan for tomorrow. 

Lastly, every raider deserves feedback, and that feedback should be honest and constructive.  Some people do benefit from mentoring, some from competition, and some from caliber of shame-filled guilt trip my mother used to lay on me… you pick which works best and run with it.  Regardless, as I mentioned in the comments, your guild should have some mechanism in place to give your raiders this feedback.  I know our guild has a couple different systems that work, and in the future I’ll elaborate on some of this. 

Now, onto today’s topic:

Lessons in Dichotomy // Who runs this joint?

The person/people managing your raid should not be your Guild Leader.

I don’t care how awesome you are as a GM, how amazing your coordination and multi-tasking is, or how long you’ve been doing both roles.  As we continue, I will illustrate how maximum efficiency and stability dictates that the GM not wear the black hat in raid.

Before we break into a list of what each person should be doing, the key assumption here is that the raid leader/officer is a specialist, hired to do one thing and do it well: motivate the team, execute digital dragons and carry back the rewards. 

The job of Raid Management

  • Make the raid as successful as possible
  • Needs to be Honest, Unbiased, and always performance-oriented
  • Make the tough decisions / wear the black hat
  • Assess players based on what they bring to the raid and how well they are executing
  • Manage the PERFORMANCE of the raid
  • Be a clear and present leader at all times during the raid
  • Get progression, achievements, titles, mounts, fame, fortune, super-model girlfriends

The job of the Guild Leader

  • Be the public face of the guild
  • Mediate any issues between guild members (within reason)
  • Take responsibility for the guild’s reputation
  • Oversee / Initiate recruiting
  • Manage the PERSONALITY of the guild
  • Wear the crown, take the heat, buy the drinks at Blizzcon

I know some guilds may be small/close enough that the GM thinks he/she can handle doing both.  I disagree with this because these are two jobs that require different tactics and it’s human nature to have a tough time separating these and/or staying true to the goals of each position. 
Even in a 10-man environment, it is never more efficient to have one person run everything than it is to have separate guild & raid management. This will also decrease/prevent burn-out among leadership.

How the Other Half Lives

Now, this separation also requires a high level of trust/confidence between the two halves.  The raid officer has to trust that there are the right recruitment/retention mechanisms in place to give them the right components for a successful group.  Similarly, since he/she will be handling the fall-out, the Guild Leader has to trust that the raid officer is making the right calls when it comes to who gets benched, who gets invited, who can/can’t main switch, etc. 

Think of it like the relationship between Head Coach and General Manager in pro sports.  These two don’t need to see eye-to-eye on tactics or day-to-day operations, but they do need to have the same objectives and a plan on how to reach them.

Show me an example

A founding member of the guild has lost his drive to raid, but still likes to come and go more-or-less as he pleases.  Further, he uses his relationship with the GM as leverage to get what he wants.  For the Raid Leader, this person represents a liability, as no matter how skilled they are, the risk that they will abruptly stop raiding is ever-present.  If they were given a starting spot, any loot given to this player over another player could be functionally lost at a moment’s notice, and time spent learning a fight with them would have to be adapted or re-learned with their inevitable replacement.  Not to mention the way this would look to other players who may be fighting to prove themselves and break into the starting lineup.

A wise Raid Leader can still utilize this person as a back-up / call-up, borrowing on his skill & experience in the good times, while still prioritizing those players who consistently show up.  Bring the people who have a commitment to making your team succeed, but keep a Rolodex of viable call-ups just in case.

A wise Guild Master will remind the long-term member that the raid team is an ongoing campaign, not something that is won or lost the few times a month this person wants to show up.  The GM will be clear that he expects progression from his Raid Leader, and that not everyone is entitled to raid if they cannot commit. 

Another example

Recruiting!  Without delving into when/how/who to recruit, it’s a very common situation for a Raid Leader to find themself needing to recruit.  Good collaboration between the RL & GM requires that the RL would keep the GM abreast of the development of players within the raid, or at least give them access to any relevant information needed. 

Say you need more melee dps, so you go out and recruit for that spot.  The GM should know WHY the rogue on the bench isn’t being taken over new recruits, so that they can back-up the RL’s decision should the rogue come forward with complaints of favoritism/snubbing/etc.  Similarly, the RL should make reasonable effort to give the GM whatever information he needs to substantiate the roster moves.  Simply “he’s not good” won’t suffice, but “he missed 18 interrupts each of the last three raids” does.

Unfortunately, unlike pro sports, I’ve seen the GM fail the Coach more often than the other way around.  Sometimes this is just simple burn-out, sometimes it’s close-mindedness, sometimes it’s a loss of faith by one of the two people. 

The best advice I can give for longevity is for neither person to say “I can’t….”.  Whether it’s “I can’t recruit another healer” or “I can’t down progression bosses with what you’ve given me” or even “I can’t stand your face”, the only way to maintain success in an efficient raid environment is to always be looking for the next opportunity.  Once you’ve entered into an “I can’t” paradigm, you’re actually realizing that you should have taken action weeks ago, and are now suffering from that inaction/indecision (or worse yet, refusing to realize your responsibility in the matter).  It’s up to you two to always look beyond the current week and stick to your plan you started with.

You do have a plan right?

…please tell me you have a plan.

As always, please feel free to leave any questions or suggestions for future topics in the comments below.  Heck, feel free to leave your favorite bean dip recipes, too.  I need something to do after I’ve cleared the raid and logged off to go watch HIMYM.

No player is an island

The phrase “no man is an island” may be something you’ve heard before. It originates from a poem or meditation from John Donne, an English poet, priest and a major representative of the metaphysical poets of the time. Here’s the original poem;

“All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated…As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon, calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come: so this bell calls us all: but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness….No man is an island, entire of itself…any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

Now the saying is a little bit outdated and now should read no person is an island, but it was on point for the time that married two important ideas. The first is that people are not isolated from one another, but that mankind is interconnected. Essentially, there is something that connects us to each other that is inherent to being human. The second is the concept of mortality which was all the rage at the time. The two together tell us that the death of anyone person affects the entire world. Over time this has evolved from that original meaning to one that no person can really stand all on their own without support. And that is exactly the lesson we’re going to talk about today.

In order to make a guild and a raid run, it doesn’t all fall to one player. It takes multiple people to manage anything more than a small group of folks. I hear a lot of people say that they could run a raid or a guild single-handed.  After the events of the past two weeks I can tell you with certainty that it is a lot harder than you may think.

The last month and change has been pretty tough on Unpossible, not going to lie. It’s one of those period where real life hit everyone pretty hard right around the same time. Things like this happen. Two of the core officers had to step away from the game because of work related issues, and a third because of school. This left four of us still around, and things were going alright. Raids were still going and people were leveling and progressing. Then a couple weeks ago one of the leadership was gifted with the birth of their first child. For obvious reasons they had to step away from the game to handle RL as well. Another event took place that caused one of the remaining three officers to be absent for a week, unfortunately leaving just two of us to run the guild and raids for the time being.

I’ll be honest, it wasn’t fun. Raid signups, restocking the guild bank, hunting down missing raiders, running the raids, handling new recruits waiting for guild invites basically everything. It was stressful, lead to a lot of confusion and to speak frankly, it sucked. I’d find myself logging in before work to double check the Gbank, remote accessing my computer at home on my lunch in an attempt to log into the game and check status’, pouring over forums between work assignments and then rushing home to get things started on time. All the while handling raider complaints, DKP and other various factors. It was exhausting. At the end of the day all I wanted was a cold glass of beer, a dark room and some earplugs.  Even with two people trying to handle it, it was just simply too much. As a result of our stress, the guild became slightly stressed as well. Things weren’t running with their customary smoothness and adjustments were made to handle things as best as they could be handled at the time.

This persisted for two weeks of basically trying to keep things together and smooth, and at the end of those two weeks I honestly didn’t even want to touch the game for a bit. It was that stressful. Then three of the officers returned, and now things are going back to normal. While I’ve always been a strong proponent of sharing responsibility and delegating responsibility, this did nothing but highlight how very true that is. There’s too much involved when running a guild, let alone one that raids, for one person to effectively keep track and handle all aspects of it.

This is why when you come into a guild there may be multiple officers. In our case we have a DKP officer, healing officer, Ranged DPS officer, Melee DPS officer, Tank Officer, and Recruitment officers / membership officers. Responsibility is divided so that whenever a question or concern is raised it can be dealt with with a certain specialty. Each aspect gets the time and care only a person not trying to do everything can do.

So when someone comments to you that they could run a raiding guild single handed, remind them that no player is an island.

How about you out there? Ever try to run a massive group by yourself without help? Were you ever a part of a raid or guild where one person tried to manage everything? How did that work out?


[GUEST POST] “What is my motivation?” – Getting everyone on the same page

It seems like there are a lot of guilds and groups that are starting to feel comfortable in the 5man heroics and are starting to turn their attention to some organized raiding.

For people who are organizing such a group, I would like to share something that I wish I had known when I started putting raiding groups together.

The majority of questions and requests for help that I see around the web from guild masters and raid leaders are all related to one essential factor.

What motivates your raid members?

I recommend that the first thing anyone should do when starting to put any group together to raid is to have an honest and candid conversation with your group about what everyone is expecting from their raiding experience. Make sure that even if everyone’s interests aren’t perfectly compatible, at the very least everyone needs to define, clarify, and understand what the group’s focus and expectations will be. I would say that this applies to everything from a trade chat pug, a new progression raiding guild, or just a decision to start putting some raids on your “friends and family” guild calendar.

Typical questions I see from guild masters and raid leaders

  • How do I motivate my raiders to show up on time?
  • How do I keep people from getting discouraged during progression?
  • One of my raiders says that they don’t want to raid any more (or want to switch toons/roles) because they have all the gear they want from this tier, what do I do?
  • My raiders have lost interest in XXXXX instance now that we have finally cleared it. How can I keep them interested in raiding?
  • My raid team doesn’t want to try hard modes because normal modes are an easier way to get more gear quickly, how to I get them to try hard modes?

All of these issues can be proactively addressed with an open and honest discussion with your raid team ahead of time. As cheesy as it may sound, coming up with a basic statement of purpose, a set of goals, or a mission statement is a great way to focus everyone’s attention and can be a lifesaver later on when disagreements arise. Identify what it is that motivates everyone in the group to want to raid together, ensure that everyone’s motivations are at least compatible, and make sure that the goals you have set will satisfy everyone’s desires. If everyone understands and believes that the group is going to help them meet their own personal goals in the game, then the chances of your group weathering the rough patches together will increase significantly. Groups of people who all have their own agendas, that don’t necessarily compliment the rest of the group are the root cause of most of the issues that we all see floating around the internet.

On the flipside to this argument; when you, the individual, are out and about looking for a raiding group to join, the first priority on your list should be whether or not the group’s goals and motivation for raiding are compatible with your own. Whether you are looking for a group of people who you will be spending 8-16 hours a week with for the next several months/years with or looking for an individual to join your already established group, taking the time to get to know a bit about each other first should be one of the first things on your list of topics to discuss. Blindly inviting or joining strangers to raid with is about as likely result in a successful match as hitting up the LFD tool for Cataclysm heroics or proposing marriage to random drunk people in your local drinking establishment.

Suggested motivational topics to consider and discuss

Loot: Everyone likes new shiny stuff, being honest with each other about how much it influences your decision to show up for the raid is a healthy thing for everyone, especially when it comes time to decide which loot distribution system is best for your group.

Extending your Raid ID: What is standing in the way between you and a new boss kill? Better gear or more time spent ironing the mistakes out of your raid?

Raid spots: Plan for rotating people and what is the role of mains/alts offspecs. How much does it matter to you that you get to see the progression on your “main” and while performing your “primary role?” How do people about being benched for a fight “for the good of the team?”

Competition with other guilds: <Keeping up with the Paragons> How important is this for people? How comfortable is everyone with the idea of “we will progress at our own pace?” What if your own pace turns out to be slower than someone else’s?

Professional development: How will raider’s performance be evaluated? What role will performance criticism and feedback play in your group? How will feedback be delivered to people? Finally, how will your group deal with the people who will inevitable fall below the average skill level of the group? How much “credit” will you award for “effort” compared to actual results, and under what circumstances will the group start replacing people?