My Unsolicited (possibly unwanted!) Advice (that I’m going to give anyhow!)   18 comments

Recently I have been following the many bloggers that are members of Brotherhood of Oblivion.  I honestly don’t know how I came to find all of them, but from reading a few of the blogs, I came upon other blogs, that lead to other blogs, and I’m sure I still haven’t even touched on them all.  But that’s not the point of this post.

Through my visits to these blogs, I’ve observed that there seems to be a tension that is wound so tightly within their guild right now that if it’s not slowly released it’s going to spring and take a few casualties with it.  :(

But Beru…this isn’t your guild, it isn’t your mess, it’s most definately none of your business, why do you even care?  Well, honestly, as I’ve been following everything I find myself rooting for them to pull everything together.  And wtf…we are a community are we not?!  Aren’t communities supposed to support and help each other?  (Stop sniggerin’!  I know I’m probably putting my nose where it doesn’t belong…but I just want to help!).

So, in my effort to help, I thought that maybe I’d give an outsider’s view of some of the issues that seem prevalent right now…and then I can offer some completely unbiased (and also unsolicited) advice on how to maybe smooth those issues out!  (If you don’t want this advice, please feel free to stop reading here :)).  There might even be a tidbit for anyone, regardless of who you are, to elaborate on, or pick up!

Why do I feel qualified to do this?  Truth be told, I’m likely not, but let me give you my un-”expert” qualifications, as I might be required to do in court:  I have been part of a leadership team for a progression raiding guild for 5 years in WoW.  My guild has survived 5 years of WoW.  We have had varying successes as a guild, but have remained a desireable place to be for those 5 years.  We aren’t perfect, we still make mistakes, but we’ve survived.  That’s got to count for something, right?  Maybe not.

My Completely Unsolicited Analysis

After reading through the many blogs over the past couple of days it would seem to an outsider that there is one very large issue that is ultimately the catalyst to all of the other issues:  A Breakdown in Communication!

This is good news!  Because it’s something that can possibly be easily resolved.  From this outsider’s view looking in, it seems to me that almost every frustration that has been voiced can be tracked back to a breakdown in communication from somewhere.  Whether it’s guild policy and procedures, or how raids are run, or expectations on off nights.  It seems that almost 100% of the issues (much like most things in life!) can be traced back to a breakdown in communication.

Now, I’m 100% certain that there are things happening behind closed doors that I’m not privy to, but…from the outside looking in, it seems that communication is the key!

My Completely Unsolicited Advice

Before we go down this road, let’s get it out in the open.  Running a guild is fucking hard.  Period.  There is nothing simple, easy, or innately “fun” about being part of the management team of a guild.  It’s thankless work that many people don’t appreciate, or even acknowledge.  So…sometimes, you just gotta give your leadership a little breathing room while they get their feet in place when dealing with issues.  Often times things can’t happen overnight.  Change takes time to effectuate.

Alright, let’s get down to the nitty gritty, shall we?  As I stated above, from the outsider’s view it seems that almost every issue can be traced back to a breakdown in communication somewhere!  So let’s discuss some ways to potentially resolve these things.

Have Transparent and Clear Guild Rules and Policies: – This is extremely important in my experience.  If you want people to know what your expectations are, you need to be upfront with those expectations.  Let’s face it, people don’t like being told their doing something wrong when they’ve never been told it’s wrong to begin with!  It is also important that if any of the rules or expectations ever change, you are equally clear on the changes!  These should be laid out clearly for every member of your guild, and may even be best if placed in writing.  Here are a few that we have in place as examples:

  • Treat People With Respect.  From day one in Monolith you are made aware of this rule.  If you can’t be respectful you can get the fuck out, no matter how talented you are as a WoW Player.  This is a non-negotiable rule.  We’d rather raid with 24 people than incorporate someone into our raid that will make everyone else miserable.The fact is, it’s 100% impossible to get a large group of people together and expect them to all  like each other.  It just isn’t going to happen.  People have different personalities, and those personalities won’t always mesh well.  What we tell people is that we don’t care if they like someone or not, they will be respectful to them if they want to remain part of our guild.  Period.

    We removed a few of our more skilled players back during TBC because we made the decision to come down hard and fast on this rule.  Did it set us back on progression some?  Yes.  Did some of our more obnoxious members take note that people were being removed and not re-invited and adjust their behaviour accordingly?  You’re damn right.  Did we ever regret making our guild a more enjoyable place to be?  Not once. 

    But this is a rule that you’ve got to be equal and fair about for all players regardless of who they are or how much they might contribute to your raids, or how you know them outside of the game.

  • Off Nights are Off Nights.  Everyone is 100% free to do whatever they want in their free time.  We, the leadership, don’t want constraints on our free time, and we aren’t going to put them on anyone else in theirs.  We ask a lot from our raiders during our weekly raids, and we want them to be able to enjoy their free time to unwind and do whatever they want.We recognize that people will often enjoy many aspects of the game outside of raiding.  We recognize that people will have friends that they enjoy playing with that may not be part of the guild, or people that they know outside of the game.  We recognize that some people don’t want to spend time with those that they don’t particularly enjoy (but still treat with respect!) outside of progression raids.

    As such, off time is treated as free time for all.  People are free to to PuGs, non-progression raids, or not even log in.  Anyone that grouses about how someone is spending their free time (i.e. won’t come do whatever) is spoken to by the leadership and reminded that off nights are off nights for everyone and “guilting” is not permitted.

  • Non-Progression Content is Open.  Huh?  Basically, if it’s not on our progression roster, you are free to do it whenever you want.  This ranges from 10 mans to old 25 man content.  We encourage our members to run their own 10 man raids.  We have a forum where people can indicate they are going to run a raid and for people to sign up if they want.  However, sign ups are not required and people are free to just have a whimsy of a raid if there are 10 people online that want to go!We have some regular, standing 10 man groups, such as a friends and family member raid that run a standard 10 man every week, or a twink run that goes in with their alts every week.  We have some folks that take part in 10 man ICC outside of the guild with a group of friends from a few different guilds that like the opportunity to play together!

    The bottom line is:  If it’s not progression content, people should do what they want to have fun, and we respect that.

Have Set Expectations and Goals for Raids:  Just like having transparent expectations for general guild policies, setting very clear raid expectations is a good policy to have as well.  These will vary, depending on the type of guild you are, but even the most casual of casual guilds should make sure that they have set expectations for their raids!

This should be done at both a macro and a micro level.  (Huh?)  That is to say that you should have a list of general expectations, and a list of expectations and goals for each raid night you enter.  This can be beneficial to everyone, regardless of the structure of your guild!  Here are some examples of what I would consider Macro and Micro expectations for my guild (which is a more progress oriented guild so these won’t be pertinent for everyone!):

  • Macro Expectations, or things that are 100% applicable to every raid -
    • Come prepared with enough consumables to sustain yourself throughout every raid night.  Please keep in mind that progression nights will often utilize a higher amount of consumables.
    • Take the time to research your class.  Try to learn something new about your class each week.  Test out new theories.
    • Know what your gear upgrades are.  We will not wait while you waffle back and forth between if something is an upgrade or not.  Know what is an upgrade, and know where those items drop.
    • Review your raid parses after each night and look for areas of improvement.
    • Don’t back seat drive a raid!  All guilds will suffer from too many cooks in the kitchen at some point, but it’s important that there is a clear person driving your raid bus, and sometimes during encounters, it’s appropriate to add commentary (Beru in a Valkyr – i.e. people now know I can’t heal until I’m free), but vent should be left for important information to be communicated!  Don’t be a part of the problem!
  • Micro Expectations – These should be expectations that are set on a raid to raid basis, or perhaps a week by week basis.
    • Have an understanding of the encounters that you are going to be working through that night/week.  (this also means that the leadership needs to make you aware of your raid goals for the week!).
    • Have an understanding of your role in those encounters, and what will be expected of you for those fights.
    • Come prepared with any tips or tricks that you might have learned about the encounters, and share those with your peers.

Equally important as setting expectations, are setting out your long and short term goals.  You should set your long term goal very broadly, for example, ours for this expansion was to clear all of the content.  But, you should also set smaller goals that are achievable.  Each week we go into our raids and we tell everyone “here is what we would like to accomplish this week”.  In doing that, we will often break down “here are our goals for tonight”.  That way everyone knows where we stand, and how much time we want to set to accomplish our given goals.

Do we always meet those smaller goals?  Hell no.  But we are also flexible and make adjustments to our goals if needed!  Having goals provides direction, and allows for achievements!  I am a big fan of clearly delineated goals.

When something isn’t working, acknowledge it, and work with your team to fix it:  This can be any number of things, from raid strategies to guild policies.  I have often found that being open and respecting the opinions of the people I have asked to follow my leadership nets better results.

  • If something isn’t working in a raid, we try to ask “where did we break down”, and then ask for perspectives from any number of people.  Even if we don’t do this publically during the raid, often times after raids we will send out tells to different people to get a feel for where they felt something wasn’t clicking.

    Sometimes it’s simple things like DPS needs to be higher.  But before we make that statement, we’ve generally seen an enrage timer, or been close enough to be able to do the math to know that we weren’t going to make it.  Sometimes it’s our healers or tanks not getting their cooldowns done properly.

    Sometimes, it’s also that as a whole, we don’t have a good understanding about the encounter and need to look into some of the aspects a little more before making another attempt.

    Hell, sometimes it’s having your entire raid make an adjustment to their unit frame!  (Hello Focus and Focus Target!)

    Regardless, often times asking “where did we break down” can lead to a better understanding of what went wrong, and can also lead to some really innovative suggestions from your members on how to solve problems!  (To be fair, sometimes it’s also met by silence…but as you begin to use it as an analysis tool people start to be more forthcoming with their thoughts!).

  • Sometimes it’s just best to acknowledge when your raid is “spent”.  While “giving up” on something will never net you a kill, repeatedly throwing yourself at it when it is clear that people’s minds are blown is counter productive.  In my time as a music major, I used to practice 5+ hours a day.  But I know that of those 5 hours, I got maybe 90 minutes of “quality” work in.  Anything after that was just…well, probably time that would have been more productive doing something else.  There is a lot to be said about quality over quantity!
  • Try not to lose your patience publically.  It’s a lot harder said than done, believe me, and I’m not always successful with it.  However, I do make a very concerted effort not to yell at people in vent.  I find it unproductive, and it turns people off.  Sometimes it’s necessary, but it shouldn’t be the norm of your leadership style.  If you treat people with respect, they will appreciate that and will give you their respect in return.
  • Offer options or potential solutions up for discussion, even if they may be somewhat controversial.  Brade isn’t always a fan of this particular style of leadership, but I would much rather have the input and opinions of others before making a decision.  Sometimes lying it all out on the table for folks and giving them the opportunity to provide constructive feedback can lead to better overall decisions being made.

If you are going to offer a complaint, you better also be offering a solution:  This is a rule we set up awhile back when I was just overwhelmed and felt like I couldn’t make anyone, including myself, happy regardless of how hard I tried.  It was probably one of my darkest times in WoW, where my continued play and my continued membership with my guild were seriously questioned.

This rule was set after the only time I actually broke down in tears on vent.  It was set when I told my guild they were about to lose me if something didn’t give, because I was only one person and I felt battered by everyone’s complaints.

And you know what?  It’s worked pretty well.  Instead of the constant stream of complaints, I now get complaints with innovative solutions attached to them…or people just don’t complain.  This does a number of things:  it reduces the needless bitching about stupid shit, and it gives people an opportunity to provide the leadership with some potentially out of the box solutions that might work really well.  Overall, I feel it’s been win/win.

Everyone has a voice:  The last piece of advice that I think I can offer is simple, make sure everyone feels heard.  So many times a breakdown in communication occurs because people don’t speak up, or people felt like they aren’t being heard and immediately go on the defensive.  Make sure that if you have something to say, you offer your thoughts up, but do so in a constructive manner.  On the converse, if someone has something constructive to say to you, make sure that you are open to hearing what they are offering!

I follow up with new members of our guild multiple times during their trial period, and for several months after.  I ask them their thoughts, I ask them if they have questions, I ask them if they have concerns and I ask them if they have suggestions.

No matter how open you make yourself, some people will be hesitant to approach you as a member of the leadership.  I think it’s important to try to break that barrier a little bit and go to your members and seek out their thoughts, it’s just as important that you understand them, as they understand you!

Hell, I had a 90 minute vent conversation with the one person in my guild that can get my blood pressure soaring past healthy levels on any given night.  A conversation that I initiated, to give her the opportunity to express her frustrations, and to give us the opportunity to reiterate our expectations of her, and expression some concerns that we were having.  It wasn’t my favorite thing to do, but sometimes everyone has to do things they don’t like.  And I do think she appreciated the fact that we gave her a forum to speak with us.

Just like everyone else, I am sometimes guilty of quashing people’s thoughts and having those “my way or the highway” moments.  But, I do try to make an effort to listen to everyone and take their opinions into account, because the person that has opened up to more things will always live a fuller life.

Honestly, I could probably write for hours more on my experiences and suggestions on how to run a guild (i.e. give you the opportunity to learn from all the dumb shit I’ve done and regretted!).  But I think I’ve probably given out enough unsolicited advice for one day :)

BoO…I don’t know the whole story, and I’m not pretentious enough to think that I do, or that I even have a viable solution to your troubles!  Hell, for all I know you all are sitting back going “who the fuck is this woman, and what right does she have to tell us about out business”.  (And the answer to that would be none!).  But I do hope that you found at least one thing in all of this helpful to help you all along your difficult time.  I hope that I’ve not overstepped a bound in my effort to offer some assistance.

I wish you all the best of luck, and hope that everything gets worked out :)  My fingers are crossed!

18 responses to “My Unsolicited (possibly unwanted!) Advice (that I’m going to give anyhow!)

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  1. If you are going to offer a complaint, you better also be offering a solution

    I am going to implement this.

    I often feel “battered” by complaints, too. And it can seem like you’re the only person trying to find answers and fixes – everyone else is happy to complain but rarely will they jump in to contribute to a solution.

    I never thought to make it an actual rule.

  2. IMPLEMENTED!
    :P

  3. Be careful with this.

    While it sounds appealing, opening up lines of communication means you have to deal with suggestions from people like me.

    • Dendrite, the night you elaborated some issues to a certain member of a certain channel of which we both are vocal members, your leadership ability shone through and betrayed your “I’m with stupid” persona you’ve been trying to hide behind!

      And I always love hearing your suggestions, wtf! (and sometimes they are even good! ;))

  4. Sometimes it’s easy to forget we’re a little open about our guild. XD Ironically this was mentioned in an officer meeting, though I’m not really sure why. Perhaps some feel threatened?

    Either way, we’re aware of the issue and taking steps to head it off. Being rather opinionated myself I’ve been very vocal behind the scenes. That guild meeting is gonna happen if I have to smack each officer upside the head! :P

    Perhaps I should respond with a post of my own since I’ve had little time to think of anything else. So I suppose I should thank you for a topic. :)

    In the meantime, it does all boil down to miscommunication.

    • I really have fun following all your alls adventures :) I think it’s very cool that you have such an active community, and a lot of fun personalities! Which I suppose is why I’m rooting for ya!

      I look forward to reading your post :)

  5. /em wonders if Beru ever thought about hiring out as a guild in crisis consultant

    • hahaha

      No.

      Lord knows I have enough on my plate as is and probably shouldn’t even have been as bold as I was in this post ;)

      But…thank you for the compliment!

  6. “Off nights are off nights.”

    Yes. So much yes. When there’s a healer shortage, it’s hard to log in and get the “please, if you don’t go, such-and-such won’t happen.” It makes you just not wan to log in at ALL. Thankfully, this has been mostly resolved for 5-mans by the LFG tool.

  7. the way you describe your guild is…. I would be extremely extremely tempted to apply :) Unfortunately, I don’t think I’m a good enough player to keep up with your level of progression, but my god…reasonable, fair, serious about raiding and yet relaxed enough not to freak out if a group of people decides to run a 10 man ICC on a whim (something that happened in my old guild – and I believe it was beginning of my raiding burn out) pve server, horde AND on eastern time. And you’re recruiting hunter or a resto shaman or a shadow/disc priest (3 of my favorite characters….).

    /dies

  8. This is an amazing post. I’ve also been following the BoO group through their blogs, and doing some hand-wringing of my own when I realized they were having some growing pains, and am silently (or now not-so-silently) rooting for them to figure out what the problems are and fix them. I’m so glad you took the time to write this out. It’s fantastic advice for anyone, not just BoO. So thank you!

  9. Pingback: Ky’s Moral Code (Ky Has Morals?!) « Casual Hardcore

    • Your right…I need to open communication.

      BoO are a bunch of Douchebags, and I hope they self destruct. Then I will rape the guild bank, and laugh myself to death.

      I’m just kidding, You know what when a guild merger happens there are alot of growing pains, and we are just more vocal about it because well were bloggers, were a vocal lot.

  10. Nice info on how to manage a guild. I am a guild leader and have a lot of what you have here implemented, but a few ideas here I think will help in my guild. Especially the macro expectations. We have set the expectations that you have your consumables, but the others… Practicing your rotation, knowing your upgrades, don’t back seat raid drive… all things that I expect, but haven’t put in writting. I think I might copy and paste your exact words even if you don’t mind :D

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  12. Nice post, I am part of the leadership for a casual-raiding guild that still does want to progress through the game and have seen first hand many of the scenarios you talked about. I don’t think you are overstepping your bounds, although our guild is not in crisis mode right now, and the information is valuable. Our GM sent me the link to your site and I think we will be implementing some of your suggestions very soon. Thanks again.

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