Raid Leading Backbone

**Image from “Patton” courtesy of 20th Century Fox Films**

I have a fault. Well, I have lots, but the one I’m going to talk about is my propensity to be “too nice”. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve hated confrontation. I wanted everyone to be happy. People in Team Sport (my guild) have called me “The Politician” (without all of the negative stigma from current American politics). I try to make sure everyone is listened to and catered to as much as possible.

However, with regard to leading Team Sport’s Raid Team, I’ve hit the biggest snag. I can’t be “The Politician”. I have to be a leader. Previous incarnations of Team Sport raiding were very casual. If people happened to be online that night, we raided. If not, no big deal. As time went on, I noticed a few of us were very passionate about getting a raid going, while others were very lackluster about the whole ordeal. I always tried to get us raiding while not being inconsiderate to those that weren’t interested that particular night. Everytime we came close to getting something solid going, it would fall apart. Someone would have a real life issue (totally understandable) or just randomly disappear on a WoW break. Each time it would fall apart, I would most likely take my raiding desires elsewhere but found myself always back in Team Sport once it looked like raiding was possible again.

With about 2 months left to the expansion, I worked with a buddy of mine to throw some much-needed structure into the system. It started out great. We did a merge with another small guild that had the same issues, and we killed 10-man Arthas within one month. This proved to me that our team has what it takes to be a good progression crew. We just need some structure and drive.

The Present

We’ve had a good amount of guildies return to the game from “retirement”. A lot of them seem incredibly excited to raid the current content. However, when I mention this new structure (scheduling, accountability, responsibility), a few have balked at it. The main goal of the team is to actually progress through content while it’s still current, not eventually bash through it when it’s old news and nerfed to the ground. To do that, I’ve been working diligently to implement some guidelines:

  • Consistency – I justly understand and sympathize with real-life issues. Sometimes I have to work late, or I have something important that needs to be taken care of on a raid night. However, the core of us have done what we can to work our schedules around being able to raid together. We raid 3 hours each night, 2 nights each week. I don’t think it’s too much to ask for core raiders to be consistently available (within reason…don’t miss the birth of your child or risk getting fired).
  • Responsibility – A cardinal rule of raiding is being prepared. Make sure your gear is enchanted and you have flask and food available. Take the time to look up the fights. Don’t take unannounced AFK breaks or breaks that are longer than what the Raid Leader has set forth. Pay attention and look for ways that you can contribute.

If a Team Sport raider can’t consistently be available, or just lacks responsibility and preparedness, they’ll be placed in a standby slot (at best) or just not on the team (at worst). I’ve made it clear that we’ll do more casual raiding nights any other evening of the week (akin to the “if we have people on, we raid” mentality), but the Raid Team core wants Tues/Thurs night to be focused and dedicated.

The Challenge

There are some that have thought that it is too much to ask. I’ve been told that I’m making raiding “feel too much like a job” and that I’m “taking the fun out of it”. Frankly, I expected this out of some. These are people that have always enjoyed the “casual” mentality of our old raid style. I don’t blame them. It was fun when we all had the time and were just kind of strolling around Azeroth, hittin’ up a raid when we could. However, many of us don’t have that kind of time or mentality any longer. That is the precise reason these changes were made.

I’ve been recruiting to fill those spots that were once occupied by the more casual players or ones with unpredictable schedules. It does pain me to be looking for other people instead of the long-standing Team Sport members that I’ve been playing with for 3+ years, but it’s just not fun for the Raid Team core to log on, and find out we’re not raiding because of people that we can’t rely on.

So the challenge I face: How do I institute this structure and work toward the raid’s success, while still maintaining in-game friendships with those that simply don’t want to be a part of a Raid Team like that?

Matticus already told me: “Don’t be friends with your raiders.” I get that. It makes sense. It’s why there are corporate rules of management not fraternizing with employees. It muddies the water. However, I feel it’s possible that I can be strict and firm with regard to the raid, and then just be myself whenever it’s not about the raid. The trick is to let them all know that’s what’s going on.

I need to continue to be firm on what the goal of the raid team is, and how we plan on achieving that. I also need to be diligent about communicating what’s going on with the raid and its raiders. If I make sure everyone’s aware of what’s expected, then they can’t legitimately get angry when something is not up to snuff.  I have to hold the raid accountable, as well as hold myself accountable.

Have you ever dealt with being a Raid Leader of your friends? What tricks have you used to keep things moving forward without sacrificing friendship?

On that note, Team Sport is looking for a melee DPS or two for core slots. Other roles are full. However, if you’re interested in being a part of the team in a standby role, those applicants are always welcome. Outside of raiding, we’re very active in PvP and regular casual gameplay. We’re an Alliance guild on the Ner’zhul server (PvP-PST). Further info and an application @ http://teamsport.guildlaunch.com.

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Comments

  1. Leading my guild for over 6 years, I have made many friends, many have left the game, many have moved on, my longer lasting members/raiders I think have continued to stick around because of the atmosphere but also because they enjoy the fact as their friend and raid leader I am honest with them, and I feel they appreciate that.

    So if you are friends with your raiders/guildmates, there is nothing wrong with that. All it means is you need to have a level of transparency with your friends as you would in a real life friendship.

    Now what has worked for me for these past 6 years may not work for all, but it has worked for the type of guild I have run.

  2. I did raid leading once for a guild that just couldn’t get the gist of it. Largely because the current raid leaders were too unattached!

    You can’t take yourself totally out of the equation when it comes to 10 mans, you need to have a tight core group.

    However, you also need to let everyone know that they have to take responsibility for their mistakes, and that they need to learn from it. You need to make sure that they understand that even though you know them all, and you’re having a good time, that what the raid leader says, goes.

    You’re right: you can’t be a politician. But you have to try to be a benevolent king/queen sort of deal.

  3. I’ve struggled with this myself since I didn’t start out as guild leader of my current guild – I “inherited” the position.

    Being in charge changes thing. It does, and there’s no way around that. Your position of leadership amplifies your words. What could be playful ribbing coming from a fellow raider could be crushing criticism when it’s leveled at you from the RL or GL. It doesn’t mean you can’t be friends with the folks you are leading – but you’ll never be “just one of the guys” in quite the same way.

    It’s still going to lead to some awkward moments. I’ve had to call people out for doing selfish things, or inappropriate things, or whatever – then there’s this awkward silence because in a way you are the boss. You can be liked and respected – but people won’t confide in you quite the same way they once did. It was hard for me because I felt like everyone held me at arm’s length – until a guildie told he thought that *I* had been holding people at arm’s length!

    I find it helps to run 5-mans and other low-key stuff with guildies, that’ll be the time when you can relax a bit and connect with folks. I make sure to criticize in private, praise in public, keep in touch with how folks are feeling, and hope the rest will sort itself out. Good luck, Thespius! It sounds like you’ve got a great group of folks. 🙂

    • “I make sure to criticize in private, praise in public”

      I think this is a very important point that makes a big difference in your raid team’s perspective of your leadership skills. To me, it shows consideration of the team members and it reinforces that each of the other 9 or 24 players are people, too, with real lives and emotions and all that other stuff that makes us human.

      I believe respect is something to be earned, but consideration should always be given. Mistakes do happen. Unless the raider does something malicious, I would keep all criticism private, like Vidyala says.

  4. I think Matticus is right for 25 mans and wrong for 10 mans. In 10 mans, you can and should be friends with your raiders. Of course I say this as a co-raid leader for a raid with my husband, my brother, and the two bloggers who convinced us to server change over to play with them but it remains that being friendly with your raiders is good. I’m willing to sacrifice a little progression to keep a happy team. If it means it takes us a couple weeks longer to down a boss because we’re melee heavy and I don’t want to swap out a raider for someone else, so be it. As long as they’re doing their jobs and I believe it’s possible, we’ll do it.

    On the other hand, if you say you’re reading that week and don’t show…. well, so far none of the established team has done that, just people I’ve invited to try us. And the last one had a good excuse.

  5. Good thoughts here and thanks for sharing your experiences and worries. I think every guild leader has been here, sorting through how their personality fits into the needs of the personalties that constitute their raiders.

    I don’t have real life friends in my guild but I have made read life friends through my guild. I don’t think there is an issue with ring friends with your raiders when it comes to facts like having raided with them for years and done real life guild meets. That’s how my guild is and we are rock solid for it. Oh no, hope that didn’t jinx it!

    The reason we can do this is very likely because our ages and places in life lend to maturity. There are definitely people in my guild who I am not friends with. These are the ones who I know I cannot be friendly with and still lead them with the sometimes heavy hand that is needed to keep them in line. In effect it is a matter of getting to know guilds and identifying who I can be friends with and who it would not be in anyones best interest to be a friend with.

    Not being “friends” with someone doesn’t mean that, as a leader, a manager, a guild master, we can’t be interested in them as a person and concerned for their engagement with the guild and ther contributions. Just because I take the time to ask guildies how they are doing in a whisper doesn’t mean I’m friends with them. But it does show I am a caring leader who wants them to be happy and enjoying the game via my guild. This is important to me and in my opinion the best way to engage with guildies, which is how you can identify what’s gong on in your guild and generally measure how everyone is doing.

    In short, I am friends with those that have the maturity to not take it personal when I say “Step it up” or “Dude I need you to set an example and stop failing to that mechanic.” Those who can’t handle that and be friends still get my support ad a leader, though I won’t just chill on vent with them outside of raids or go do 5-mans, level alts, or go out of my way to help with their professions (stuff I perceive as “friend” stuff in game).

  6. Here’s what’s worked for the Fun Lovin Criminals. There are nine (or 24) other people who have rearranged things in their lives to get a raid going. We all have issues. We have all schedules, too, and raiding should go on it.

    To stay on our raiding rank (Made Man) you have signup for every raid. You don’t have to sign up as available, but you need to let us know. Signing up as not available (and giving a reason — “need a break” is a valid reason) counts as a signup. If you don’t sign up for two weeks, then you get demoted. (There are exceptions for people who post extended breaks on our forums. I’m one of the biggest there, as my work will send me out of town or even the country for 2-6 week stretches.)

    If you sign up as available, we expect you to be on at invite time, and in the instance at the time for first pull. We reserve the right to do something about the person who signs up as not available over and over, but honestly it hasn’t come up.

    The best part is, our signups freeze 24 hours before the raid, and if we don’t have seven available signups by then, then we call the raid and let everyone have their night back, instead of rushing home from work to make a raid that isn’t going to happen.

    There’s nine other people relying on you to just let them know. Do you honestly tell people who are planning dinner parties, “uh, you know, maybe I’ll be there, if I feel like a party”? It’s a lame move, and raiding is the same thing.

  7. People who do a lot of stuff other than gaming, and don’t spend all their leisure hours in WoW, often think that schedules and rules and regulations are strictly for “no life” players.

    In fact, the opposite is true.

    If you don’t have a lot of time to play, you really want to enjoy that time. If you can only play a couple of nights a week, and want to raid, then on those nights you want to RAID. Not stand around in town dithering because there aren’t enough people online, or because the tank who said he’d be there isn’t, or because you’ve got twelve DPS online and no healers.

    And when you get into that raid, you want to focus, and progress, you want people to know what they’re doing, you don’t want to waste your limited time on ninja afk’s, or people not knowing what to do, or where to go.

    If people can understand that a bit of organizational discipline makes the game more fun for casual players, they’ll go along with your leadership.

    • Our rules run the same way Carson is thinking. Make it so that busy people can actually do what they came to do.

      We take breaks every hour, on the hour. That one thing will end 90% of your AFKs, and 99% of your ninja AFKs. It’s hard to say, “I can’t take out the trash right now because I’m killing a cartoon dragon.” It’s a little easier to say, “I’ve got nine other people waiting on me — we take a break in 15 minutes, I’ll do it then.” (You really need to do it then to make that work though.)

      The other thing is to make an ending time and stick to it no matter what. If you said you were going to end at 10, end at 10. Don’t push to 10:20 because you were so close to taking down that boss. As soon as you wipe and it says 10:03, call the raid, thank everyone for their time, and hope that you have another raid day that week since you were so close.

      If you don’t call the raid when you said you would, it will be 10:30 the next week. And then 11:30. And then your signups will be fewer than before, so your raid will start late while you try to fill those holes from people who didn’t’ have enough sleep before work after the last raid. That means you’ll go to 12:45 because you started late. And then no one wants to raid anymore, because you are always starting late and going into the wee hours of the morning and raiders have lives.

      Make a schedule, stick to it, get sign ups, and get people do sign up with either I’ll be there or I won’t.

  8. There’s one thing I think we haven’t commented on that I don’t want to slip by:

    There are some that have thought that it is too much to ask. I’ve been told that I’m making raiding “feel too much like a job” and that I’m “taking the fun out of it”

    That’s right. It shouldn’t feel like a job. It should feel like a club or a league. If you are in a bowling league, they have a set time that you are expected to show up at, every week. If your kids are in a soccer league, they have a schedule for games, and you have to make it. It’s the same thing. It doesn’t work when the league is, “well, if there are enough people at the alley some time between six and ten, then we’ll roll a few games and see what happens.” It doesn’t work when three of the kids on the soccer team show up at 10am, and four more show up at 4pm, and five more want to play on Sunday, but two of them don’t want to play soccer, but just run laps that week.

    • Everyone has had some great input and advice about what to do in this situation. I think a lot of people are nervous to step into a leadership spot, specifically because of the reasons I mentioned.

      @Phelps – Your analogy is perfect. I’m really going to put that forward to my raiders. It takes a little bit of the “strict” stigma off of it, while maintaining that there still needs to be structure! Thanks for the idea!

    • Great analogy, Phelps! Perfectly worded–I’m definitely quoting this to my guild/raiders. Thank you

  9. What has generally worked for us it to have more than one raid. One where it is like a “sports team” (OK not pro-sports) where we are serious and we do care that you “signup/showup/workit”.

    We have another raid where it is more casual one night a week affair for Alts of mains, and casual players. It supports both cultures and generally keeps all happy.

  10. Rules of being a RL:

    1. It is a thankless job. Get over it.
    2. IT IS A THANKLESS JOB. GET OVER IT!
    3. You needs to be better prepared, knowledgeable and more in control than anyone in the raid.
    4. Listen to feedback and deconstruct a failed fight.
    5. LISTEN TO FEEDBACK AND DECONSTRUCT A FAILED FIGHT.
    6. Adjust your fight as needed.
    7. Inspire commitment. Instill perseverance.

    You’ll be alright 🙂

  11. Particleman says:

    I’ve served as GL and Assistant-GL in different sized guilds. The application may differ, but I think the core ideas apply well to being an RL.

    I don’t think there is a problem being friends. Most people are in guilds because they are friends from previous guilds or at least share the principles of the current guild. And in business you may find yourself working for a friend who gets promoted…

    Transparency, consistency and reliability, in my opinion, are the keys to being a good leader.
    Transparency – people need to know what decisions are being made and why. If it is a rule, get it down on (virtual) paper or it doesn’t count.
    Consistency – people need to believe that rules are the same for all people. If there is a hint of a two-tiered system with certain people getting more slack, it’s a problem that will fester and pop up later.
    Reliability – if there is a problem, people need to trust that you have their interests in mind. You need to be approachable. The business jargon “servant leader” comes to mind.

    Just my three cents…enjoying the blog. Cheers!

Trackbacks

  1. […] Thespius seems to be starting up a new blog, also focused on raid leading.  Two articles have come from him this week.  The first is about moving from ‘the politician’ to ‘the leader’, and what types of changes those entail.  You can find the excellent read here: Raid Leading Backbone […]

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