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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Raid Leader Questions: Reset or Extend?

Back in Wrath, right around the era of the Trial of the Crusader patch, Blizzard pushed out a new feature. It was a tool designed for raids who didn’t raid as often or who had trouble investing significant and meaningful hours in progression before the week reset and all their progression and work had been lost.

Yes, the lockout extension feature.

To my knowledge, it was one of those things that not many players really raved about but no one slammed it down either. It was completely optional and not many had the desire to extend it. Two expansions later, raids are getting larger, there’s more trash in the way, and time just seems to be a factor. This isn’t 5 years ago where I was in a raid that insisted on everyone going way past their bed time to get that much needed kill in. I was in guilds that asked much of their players to sacrifice sleep and hours for the sake of progression.

When Conquest was first formed, one of the key decisions was laying down our hours. In order to maximize the potential pool of players, I ensured that our times were west and east coast friendly. But this had the cost where we would not be able to go past our end times even if we had gotten a boss down to 1%. With Siege of Orgrimmar being the deep instance that it is, many of the players lobbied for more time on end bosses and extensions on the week to put in more work. It’s paid off because we secured kills on Nazgrim and Malkorok on the days where we normally would’ve reset.

At the same time, like other raiding guilds, we’ve seen our share of players come and go. This is the part of the expansion where many players are slowly returning back to the game. They’re smart and skilled players, but sometimes there’s nothing they can do to survive through a large explosion even with all their defensive cooldowns used simply because their health is too low. Or we’re not able to meet a DPS check on an earlier boss like Norushen and Sha of Pride.

It’s a tough balancing act between providing our newer players with the gear and experience they need now so they can be in a position to help us later versus ensuring that the raid has adequate time to work on progression bosses in the second half of Siege. Blizzard has announced the end of the Challenge Mode season coming soon to coincide with a new patch deployment. While there’s been no mention of a friends and family alpha, the patch signals that we’re one milestone closer to the next expansion and our time in Siege is growing shorter.

How long does it take to gear a freshly geared 90 and put them in a position where they are no longer a detriment to a heroic raid boss?

My estimate is 3-4 weeks. This includes running the raid finder, flex raids, using crafted pieces, and completely carrying them through any available farm content. On 25 man, that time could be cut to 2-3 weeks largely due to the larger pool of gear that drops from killing bosses (6 items on 25 vs 2 items on 10) and this assumes they’re diligent in farming their Lesser Charms on the island or via pet battles.

Reset please!

My original stance was to continue weekly raid resets. Until we’ve got a core group of 25-30 players who’ve been around long enough where they don’t need gear anymore, we’re going to need to keep that farming going. Every once in a while, we can pull in a player who is already at our level and ready to go to the point where we don’t need to gear them out. If we don’t funnel gear, eventually we’ll reach a point where we run out of players to bring in (because turnover, people leaving/quitting/new jobs/no time, etc). Our depth is amazing. It’s how we can even field raids sometimes. There’s always going to be a bottom end and we have to narrow that gap between top and bottom to help make it easier for us when we reach the harder progression bosses. It makes sense to do this at the beginning of the tier as well to really maximize all that gear coming in.

Now here’s the flip side of the equation.

Extend please!

When we get to a new boss, we need time to learn the nuances. We have to learn the new phases and mechanics that come with it. We have to wipe to it. We have to see it so that we can understand and then execute. This usually happens towards the end of the week because the first part of the week is spent clearing UP to that boss. Our ultimate end objective is to KILL everything in this instance. The fact that it’s the final tier in the expansion means that we have a silent countdown clock hanging except we don’t know what the end time is going to be. I’d rather err on the side of clearing everything early then clearing everything too late. I want to get these guys a heroic Garrosh kill. That’s what we’re all here to do. Just when it seems like we’re all prepared and ready to take down a new boss, we run out of time, and it’s Tuesday. We have to kill all that stuff again. And guess what? There’s days where our consistency and our mindset isn’t there and we don’t even GET to the new boss that we want which cuts in to our progression time, and then boom, reset again.

This is where we are at today. This is why I proposed the compromise of 3 pulls to get it done on farm or else we move on. It helps ensure chances on getting the players that need gear their gear while simultaneously ensuring that we have enough allocated time to work on a new progression boss. Problem is, that isn’t good enough anymore.

We’re still lacking on time. In the end, we’ve opted to switch to an extended week schedule. Week 1 is spent getting as far as we can, week 2 is spent extending to work on whichever boss we just cleared to. Any new recruits are typically brought in during week 1 to learn and get suitably equipped.  Our veterans and heavy hitters are brought in for the progression stuff.

I really miss winged instances.

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How does a 25 player guild handle Mythic raiding?

Ever since the announcement of BlizzCon with the revisions to raid, I’ve been asked countless times (both in guild and from players out of guild) what I was going to do.

Are we going to just stick to heroic raiding?

Are we going to have to make cuts for mythic?

What will our raid plans be since they’re all on separate lockouts now?

Before we get into that, I wanted to offer my thoughts on Mythic raiding in general. Suffice it to say, it was a long time coming. Back when SWTOR came out and there were players raiding, I felt that 16 players was a solid raid size. There weren’t that many people involved and it still captured the feelings of “epicness” when it comes to taking down monsters. Discussing it with my friends, I hoped that Blizzard would eventually make that jump down to 20 or 15. Little did I know, they did allow for that.

new-raid

The new Flex raid system that came out with patch 5.4 was simply the first step. You could have a 12 man raiding guild or a 17 player or whatever you wanted and the encounter would dynamically scale. 10 player guilds didn’t have to feel bad about benching their friends. 25 player guilds didn’t have to struggle when a player or two needed to take a night off. As far as I can tell, the reaction to Flex raiding was overwhelmingly positive.

This leads us to Warlords of Draenor and the new Mythic raiding difficulty level. Why did they decide on 20?

We chose to put Mythic at 20 largely for the function of raid design. One of the biggest issues we’re currently facing with 10-player Heroic raiding is that of raid composition. It’s impossible for every group to have every class, and often that means they’re lacking in certain tools, which in turn means that we can’t design encounters around those tools (or if we do, it becomes extremely frustrating for the 10-player Heroic guild that suddenly needs a Paladin for Hand of Protection).

We want to be able to use those sorts of mechanics again. Those of you who have been with us for a while might remember things like Mage tanks on High King Maulgar, or Priests using Mind Control on Instructor Razuvious. We want it to be okay when, say, the Paladin can use Hand of Protection to clear a dangerous debuff, because we can reasonably assume that most guilds will have at least one Paladin in their raid. We like it when someone gets to feel awesome and have a special task on a fight because of class abilities that otherwise wouldn’t get much use.

We can’t do that when we’re designing with a 10-player raid size in mind. We don’t think we’d be able to get away with it at 15 either. At 20, it becomes a lot more acceptable for us to say “you should probably bring a Mage to Spellsteal this.” And honestly, that’s just one example of the sort of encounter mechanics we can start to utilize in a larger group size.

I’d also call into question the statement of “It’s easier to drop people than it is to recruit them.” It’s technically true, yes — finding new raiders is harder than just not inviting the ones you have — but totally ignores the fact that cutting people from your roster often means losing people you like. Which feels better: making new friends, or telling your current ones that they don’t get to play with you any more? We’re already asking a lot of many 25-player Heroic groups to cut 5 people.

As I mentioned before, this was not a decision we came to lightly. It’s definitely going to be a very scary transition for a lot of people. We knew that when we made the decision. We just also feel quite strongly that, when the dust settles, we’ll be able to provide a better raiding experience for everyone.

Source

That highlighted selection is the problem I have on my hands. Granted, the expansion is still an extremely long time away. I understand that there’s a few 10 man guilds that are upset by this change going up. Maybe it’s server population reasons or that they just don’t like the idea of doubling their roster for mythic. For most normal mode raiding guilds, that’s not going to be a problem here since the heroic mode of Warlords still allows for that.  If Conquest was primarily a 10 man organization, I’d have no problems upscaling it. The problem is that we’re a 25 and I have to tell ~20% of my team that I have to rebalance the raid group and they’re not going to be on the starting lineup.

If there’s one thing I know about guild leaders though, is that they’re usually resilient. If they want something badly enough, they’ll find a way to make it happen.

Will Conquest just stick to heroic raiding?

No. During the opening week of the expansion, Mythic will not be available until the second week. We’ll start with heroic raiding first to get everyone acclimated. The first chance we get to duck into Mythic, we will. Our current plans are to fall back to Heroic raiding in the event of holiday weeks or extremely low attendance. The second option is to have a rotating bi-weekly schedule where we work on Heroic raids on week one, Mythic raids on week two (or get as far as we can). Gear is still important and we need to make sure every player has the tools that they need. The last option is we utilize Heroic raiding on the first two days of our schedule before switching to Mythic on the last day (or vice versa depending on our progression). It really is too soon to say because any number of things could change between now and the release of Warlords.

Bottom line? Both Heroic and Mythic will be on the table.

Are we going to have to make cuts for Mythic?

Yes. It’s math, right? We’re raiding 25s right now but we’ll have to eventually rebalance and downsize. I told everyone in guild to not worry about as much that we had months to go before the expansion.

The truth is that I’m already evaluating players between now and then. Based on what? Oh you know, the usual fare like DPS or other performance metrics. There’s also a secret Matt tolerance factor. Is that person fun to raid with or are they just downright annoying? Do they increase my rage meter? We’ll see what happens! There’s still a long way to go! Maybe I’ll do a secret Hunger games style thing.

Anyway, those are my thoughts on Mythic raiding. I’ve handled the transition from 40 to 25 before. I’m no stranger to making the jump in raid sizes if I have to. The players who don’t end up being on my protected list won’t be ejected out or anything. There’s still Heroic mode raiding to do plus there’s all sorts of other activities to participate in-game with. I have no plans to outright punt anyone outside of the guild. Some of our longer term players were surprised to find that their characters were still sporting our guild tag. I guess they expected me to have kicked them out at some point due to inactivity. Of course, I told them that I would never do that because I knew that one day they’d return.

In reality, I’m actually that lazy.

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Discuss: How transparent should a guild be?

We’re now 11/12! One more kill will seal out the normal mode tier and allow us to start putting in work on the heroic modes of Throne of Thunder. Some of the players were curious as to what our goals after should be. Do we spend a little more time farming out the normal modes or do we immediately push into heroics? At first, I wanted to spend some time to farm out the week and try to get more weapons, trinkets, and 4-pieces completed. I felt that we could use a little more beefing up. But a player brought up an excellent point that you won’t actually know how much DPS you need until your raid starts hitting enrage timers of a boss. If that happens consistently, then it’s time to downshift and get the gear to help beat that timer.

The good

In that sense, it’s a good idea to share your vision for where you want to the guild (even if it’s just the short term). It seems that almost everyone has something that they want to contribute. In a 10 man, I bet that the feedback’s a little more manageable. But in a 25 man guild with a 30+ roster, it can get a little overwhelming when everyone has their own ideas. But nothing’s wrong with transparency when it comes to guild goals or even philosophy. At the very least, those who disagree with it know ahead of time what they’ve gotten themselves into. They can either embrace your style or move on and find another organization that best suits them

  • Goals
  • Values
  • Upcoming plans

The bad

Now what happens when transparency revolves around disciplinary action taken on a guild member by an officer? They may have been forced to sit out a night or become demoted because they were deliberately offensive to someone else or exceptionally poor raid play. I’m against sharing with other players why someone was punished. Frankly, I don’t think that’s their business. In my past experience, when an officer mentions in passing why someone was disciplined, people start talking about it and then sides start being taken which turns into a massive mess of a headache.

It’s not that big of a deal. The guy screwed up once and now they have to face the music. It’s not exactly something that’s up for debate. Having disciplinary action up for debate just causes more trouble than it’s worth. There’s no point in publically mentioning it either because then it turns into a point of public shaming (which could further exacerbate the issue and even cause them to leave). GMs have to periodically release players from their roster and there are good reasons to do it but it doesn’t have to be shared and not everyone needs to know.

I remember a really long time ago when one of my players came to me and said that they wouldn’t be able to raid that night (or for the next few raid nights). I asked if everything was okay, and she said no, she had been sexually assaulted. Immediately, I told her to take as much time as she needed, we’d still be here. Naturally, when a veteran who regularly appears in a raid stops showing up for a few nights, people notice. I started getting questions and out of respect, I had to deflect it. Even this information was withheld from my own officers because I didn’t know at the time if it was something that they needed to know. True, she never said “I’d like to keep it private”, but I felt I should’ve erred on the side of caution anyway. This is definitely one of the cases where one doesn’t have to be as transparent.

  • Private player matters
  • Disciplinary action

In the end, it’s beneficial to be as honest and forthcoming as possible. But recognize that GMs will occasionally be put into a really tough position. I’d wager most GMs are loyal to their guild first and will do just about anything to preserve it – even if it means slight deception.

I’m going to throw this topic out to you guys. One of the factors most prized about guilds (from applicants) is that of transparency. They don’t want to be left out in the dark. But exactly how much do you really want to know? Is there anything that can be left off the table?

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How Safe is your Guild Bank from Social Players?

Imagine my surprise when I received a note from a fellow on the same server one lovely morning. One of my players was accused of stealing loot from a different guild’s bank and before promptly quitting.  The accused’s alt just helped themselves to various items. I’m not actually sure what items were taken or what the full value was.

Most GMs are bound to deal with guild bank thefts at some point in their careers. Either their bank gets stuff stolen from or a different guild’s bank gets raided (via alts) and they’re left dealing with the offenders.

In a fair number of cases, the accused would’ve simply been kicked out. And I’ll be the first to admit, it’s the easiest solution. You kick the player and your hands are washed of having to deal with them ever again. Your guild’s reputation is left (relatively) intact.

I responded back to the accuser saying that I’d look into it. But this is a player I didn’t have much interaction with as they were on our PvP roster. In the end, I notified my PvP team leader about this because the player was under their division.

“One of our players was accused of this. Any ideas about them? Here’s the guild they were in and here’s the character of the accuser.”

What happened?

Apparently, it was a misunderstanding. Our guy mistakenly took things that they weren’t supposed to thinking that it was open and free to anyone. They returned the goods (and compensated accordingly). As it’s their first time offense, I have to assume that there was no malicious intent (and there’s no evidence to show that there was).

As the player

Before taking stuff, ask.

Or at least, check around and see if there’s a banking policy. There may be certain limitations based on ranks. Sometimes the GM makes a mistake and places you in the wrong rank and you’re not actually supposed to be entitled to certain tabs. If you have access to rare items like enchants, recipes, or other craftables, it’s a good idea to check with someone higher up before helping yourself to it.

As the GM

Lock down your stuff.

Check the permissions.

Check the rank access of the permissions.

Make sure the right people have access to the right tabs. You have a responsibility to ensure that. It’s noble to assume the best out of everyone but it’s also quite foolish to leave the door to the vault wide open and expect it to be respected. Have your bank rules outlined somewhere on your guild website or your forums. Go over the ground rules with all new recruits with regards to withdrawal policies.

Speaking of banking stuff, which one of you left these stacks of Wool Cloth and Volatile Earth’s in my guild bank?