The Challenge of Delegating Responsibilities   8 comments

This past Monday I did something that was a very big deal for me. So big that I had largely avoided doing it for the majority of this expansion and had taken on more than I should have alone. What was this big, momentous thing? I had two new officers appointed.

Now, while you may not think that this is a big deal or even noteworthy I can assure you that it most certainly is. For the entirety of this expansion (and most of the last) I have been doing about 95% of the work that is involved with running our guild. I am not too big to admit that a large part of this is because I am a control freak – but there is more to it than that. I think that I have come to the realization that part of it is because I was scared of extending trust. Trust that someone else wouldn’t screw it up and I would have to just turn around and fix it later. Trust that those put into a position of authority would remain loyal.

A Brief History

Before we go too much farther I think that a bit of an explanation is in order. Back in Vanilla WoW Monolith actually had a fair few officers. One that lead raids, one that recruited, one that handled tracking attendance and loot, and one that…well I’m not entirely sure what he officially did. And of course there was Brade. We were the top Horde guild on the server as we trudged through the content that was provided to us.

However, at some point one of the more vocal officers decided that he didn’t feel Monolith was meeting its potential and wanted more. He received the support of one of the other officers, and when one officer step down was instrumental in having another who supported him appointed into that role. He quietly gathered a following, sometimes via untruths and deception, and used alts to sign a new guild charter. He quietly began working on a new website and a DKP system. And then one day he told Brade, towards the end of the Vanilla WoW – you will do x,y,z and you will make me the guild leader, or I will leave and take the guild with me.

Now – Brade is an extremely stubborn person and anyone who knows him knows that presenting him an ultimatum won’t do anything but make him dig his feet in a little deeper. Brade also struggles with communicating. If he’s not entirely sure what to say, instead of saying something he just says nothing. In this situation, it just made it worse, because it made people think that he either a) just didn’t care; or b) was ignoring what they had to say.

As you may have guessed by now all of this boiled to a head, and one night this officer left to create his super guild. I remember it like it was yesterday. It put me in a very difficult position. I remember logging off confused, baffled and sad. The next day while I was at work I had friends from the guild sending me IMs talking about the exodus that was occurring, telling me that they were leaving, asking me what I was going to do.

Of those that left – a very small number of them had the courtesy to tell us goodbye. And of those that did, only a few of those goodbyes felt heartfelt and deserving of the respect of those that had stayed. Throughout the day at the office I constantly refreshed the forum page to see how many more of those I had considered friends had left, biting back tears and feeling frustrated that there wasn’t a damn thing that I could do from my office. Not only that, I felt confused. My loyalties were being tested – and no matter who I chose, I was going to lose somewhere.

When I got home from work that night two very interesting things occurred. The first was very expected. The guild was a shell of what it had once been. The exodus was obvious, people had fled like rats from a sinking ship – and was lead by someone that I not only had immense respect for as a person and a player, but had considered my friend. The second one, however, I didn’t expect. As the night wore on, and we took an inventory of who was still in our guild player after player logged in. Players that hadn’t been seen logged in since the days of Molten Core. Many of them from the original EQ team that had been the original founders of the guild.

What it was could not be mistaken. It was a show of solidarity for the guild from those who had originally built the guild to what it was. And it was extremely moving. I’ll be honest; I think those people, bringing their strength at that time, saved Monolith.

Picking Up The Pieces

At this time, I dug in and started to pick up the pieces. We knew that we were going to have to rebuild. We knew that while many people, including myself, were hurt by what was largely considered a betrayal, that we wanted our members to publically exude class and take the higher road in the matter.

I single handedly took over the website, learned how to navigate the attendance database, and tracked down all of the administrative passwords and logins for everything. It was extremely frustrating because I knew nothing about how to do any of it. I had to learn all of the admin features of PhPbb (I printed out the “help” booklet in its entirety and read through the entire thing), I knew nothing about HTML – and how to manage and make updates to the website. I felt lost and confused in the sea of new things that I was trying to navigate. Eventually I got it figured out, but I was extremely protective of it. I had a very real fear that if someone screwed it up I wouldn’t be able to fix it. And so I held it close, figuring that if I was the only person doing it would be “safe”.

I took on the massive task of recruiting, and trying to stay positive as we floundered. The early parts of The Burning Crusade were devastatingly difficult for us as a guild, only exacerbated by the guild that split off being just downright nasty towards us. I secretly sort of felt that the guy that lead the split always felt a little guilty about it, and the fact that we just wouldn’t die meant that his guilt was prolonged. If we had just given up, we wouldn’t be there to remind him of what he had done, out of sight – out of mind.

Eventually we got to a spot that felt good for us as a guild. We had made a few drastic changes in both our objectives as a guild and how we functioned, and looking back on everything today we are a better guild than I think we would have ever been had that guild split not happened.

However, there were some irreversible side effects. I think the biggest one being that ever since the split, I have had a hugely difficult time actually extending trust to anyone and giving anyone any leadership capacity. Quite frankly – I was scared of getting burned again. A fear that I am still not entirely over. And, if I’m honest with myself, I was hurt. Very hurt.

During TBC we added two officers, and I tried to delegate some responsibilities to them, I really did. One took on some of the web administration for awhile, but then ended up leaving the guild during one of our darkest times. The other was really more an ear for the guild that wasn’t Brade or I. No matter how hard I tried to give away some of what I was doing nobody else could do it as good as I could, or when I wanted it done. So my inner control freak came out again, and I just kept the tasks.

Navigating Northrend

Coming into WotLK we had three officers and Brade. By the end of Naxx one of them had taken a break from WoW, and the other left the game after we had killed Yogg-Saron, once again leaving just Brade and I. Of course, this wasn’t a huge deal because I was already doing 95% of the work involved with running the guild. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t extend the trust it took to let some of it go. The ghosts of the past still haunting me.

At some point Brade and I realized that we needed to add another officer, if for no other reason than for guild members to go to if they didn’t want to address an issue with Brade or I. And so we talked to and promoted a guy that has been a member of the guild since Molten Core, who we unequivocally trusted and consider a friend. The only problem is that while he’d listen to people, and if we asked him to do some of the administrative things, he told us up front that he didn’t want any responsibilities with regards to leading raids.

This wasn’t a huge deal – because, being the control freak that I am, I didn’t want to give much up anyhow. It’s not that I don’t absolutely trust this person. It’s just that I still very much fear that giving up too much has the potential to put power in someone else’s hands – and we see where that got us last time.

However – as this expansion comes to a close I have come to the realization that I have worn myself about as thin as I can. While I was the driving force of the guild through WotLK – I just don’t think I have the energy to do it all through another expansion.

I also came to realize that while I’m a fabulous mulit-tasker, some of the things that need more attention weren’t getting it simply because I just wasn’t capable of giving it my attention. Not because I didn’t want to, but because there just wasn’t enough time.

As Cataclysm approaches we are discussing some changes that we are considering making for the guild. One of those changes is to step it up a bit as a guild, and put some stricter performance requirements into place. We are never going to be a bleeding edge guild – but we’d like to see our members step it up and just have cleaner play.

As we have been discussing these changes, I have also been doing some soul searching and thinking myself. And through this process I came to the conclusion that I shouldn’t be doing all of this alone. But not only that – I admitted to myself that the reason that I haven’t asked for more help before was because I was afraid.

How Updating the Guild Forums Were Cheaper Than A Therapist

Actually, I think I came to this realization a few months ago. We desperately needed to update our PhPbb to V.3, but I knew that if we botched it up and wiped everything out (as I did when I updated a new attendance database at the start of WotLK) I was going to be very angry and I would probably snap. I made the decision to hire someone to do the task. Money was something I had – patience if I screwed it up was not. So I asked on our guild forums if anyone knew how to find someone I could pay to do this task for me. I had no clue if I could just go somewhere like Craig’s list and make an advert or what.

As it turns out – we have some diversely talented people in our guild. And one of them nudged me as said “I think I can probably do this for you, if you want I can take a look at it”. I figured – why not? I was going to hire some complete stranger to do it anyhow, and I handed everything over to him. He was fabulous and ran a test run on a personal server he had, asked me to look things over as he progressed and what not.

And then one day he sent me a note and said “you know, some buddies and I have this server that we run, and I talked to them and what would you think about migrating all of the Monolith stuff over?” The answer was “Terrified”. But I thought it through. We were having some issues with our current host anyhow, and were experiencing a fair bit of down time. So I talked it through with Brade – who could see no downside to it. But me? Yea, still terrified.

So I did something that is somewhat uncharacteristic for me – I confessed. I sent an email back outlining all of my concerns and fears. Explaining why I had these fears. Asking about a million different hypothetical contingencies and how it would affect me if any number of things went wrong. And this person totally understood. Patiently addressed everything – and eventually I took the leap. And you know what? There were a few hiccups – I panicked a bit when our attendance database went wonky. But in the end, everything worked out just fine.

Ultimately it was these exchanges that really made me realize why I hold onto everything instead of giving some responsibilities to other people. Because I’m terrified. I’m scared to put trust in other people, even when they’ve shown me time and again that they are worth my trust. I’m scared to pass on responsibilities because doing so ended up being so painful historically.

But really, these fear weren’t just harmful to me, they were harmful to the guild too. 100% of the responsibilities of the guild shouldn’t be with one person. Not only because if something happens to be it would be a crushing blow – but because one person can’t give each item the full attention that it should receive, no matter how amazing they are or how hard they try.

Taking A Leap of Faith

After taking a chance with the forums – and not having it blow up in my face (thank you so much Rahide!), I started thinking. Seriously thinking. I started thinking about the game, how I play the game, what I’d like from the game. But I also started thinking about how much time I spend “with” the game just to keep the guild running. How annoyed I find myself at times when I log in and get bombarded with recruitment tells – but having no right to be annoyed because I’m the only person there is to talk to.

And I started seriously considering adding more officers to our ranks. Now, don’t get me wrong, we’ve run extremely well this expansion. But I kept coming back to the same question: could it have been better.

Once I had finally acknowledged why I was so hesitant to delegate some responsibility (who would have thought something that stung me 4 years ago would still be painful?), and once I acknowledged that yes, things would be better with more help, I started talking to Brade about the prospect of getting me some help. I’ll be honest – I think he almost fell out of his chair.

I will admit that it is hard for me to let go of things. It’s even harder for me to admit that I apparently have some trust issues. But, I think, through this bizarre chain of events, I am ready to extend a little bit of trust. And I think I’m ready to trust that those people will remain the same loyal people that they always have been. I’m ready to accept that I need some help and I cannot continue to do everything alone, because eventually I will run out of steam.

So, Brade asked me what I had in mind. And I bounced some ideas off of him. I bounced my thoughts of who I think would be good for filling the roles, and listened to his feedback. I knew that in adding some new officers, I wanted them to have specific and dedicated roles. Not only for them to know what they were getting into – but for me as well.

We created two new positions:

Recruitment Officer – One of the most time consuming things about running a guild is recruitment. And I’ll readily admit it’s one of the things that was very difficult for me because 90% of recruitment sites are blocked for me at work. So I can’t sift through people looking for a guild, and I couldn’t bump posts. And then there is the matter of sifting through the applications that came in and filtering out promising ones from the crap, and trying to contact people – which sometimes means creating a level 1 character on their server for a conversations. (I can’t tell you how many Monorecruit’s there are out there!).

When creating this position we did decide on one thing: I would still do the final interview of all applicants. I’m pretty particular about who we add to our guild. It’s important to us that they are going to be a good fit, and I want to be able to get a feel for the applicants personally. However, before they even have the chance to get to me, they’ve got to get through the recruitment officer first.

We filled this position with someone that was a founding member of the guild and came over from EQ. He’s probably one of the most social people I know, and is incredibly easy to talk with. He is one of the most loyal people I’ve met and rarely has a negative outlook on anything.

Logs Officer – Perhaps we should call him our accountability officer instead! With the thought that we’d like to step up our guild performance a bit we thought that it was important to have someone who was dedicated to sifting through our logs and looking for anomalies. If we are wiping on a fight, is there a reason why? Are certain people constantly failing at a core mechanic of an encounter? If a certain players personal performance is low, is there a reason for it?

He will then bring things to our attention to be addressed. Either individually, or to the raid team as a whole.

While we already go through the logs – we come back to the “I’ve been doing it all”. I only have so much time, and I’ve already admitted to spreading myself too thin! I can honestly admit that I don’t dig as deeply as I should. We thought that if we were truly going to push ourselves a little harder it would imperative to fully know what’s going on.

We filled this position with a guy that teaches me things about WoL – and I like to think I’m pretty well versed! But above that, he’s got fantastic attention to detail and I have come to value his opinion tremendously. Whether he realizes it or not – I’ve already been bouncing tons of ideas off of him anyhow! This already speaks to the level of trust I have for him. It only helps that I have an enormous amount of respect for him, and I think that he will be a huge attribute to the guild in his new role.

It Really Is A Big Deal!

I know that a lot of folks may look at this and think “so what, not a big deal, you promoted two officers, whoop-de-doo”. But I assure you, that when you are used to have sole control of everything – and having a very real fear surrounding delegating any amount of those responsibilities – it’s a pretty big deal.

I’m not sure that I’ve ever admitted it publically before – but I would not survive another guild split. I just don’t have it in me to do it again. It took every last ounce of fortitude that I had to do it once. While I don’t think it would happen with the way we structured the guild after the split and how we rebuilt the guild, I am still deathly afraid that I’m going to come home one night and find half my guild missing.

So for me – I feel that it is a sign of personal growth that 1) I recognize I need help; 2) I recognize why I am afraid to ask for help; and most importantly 3) I let go. I know deep down that this is the right choice, not only for me, but for the guild as well, but it doesn’t keep me from being a little nervous.

Posted September 22, 2010 by Beruthiel in Deep Thoughts, Guild Management

8 responses to “The Challenge of Delegating Responsibilities

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  1. I used to play a smaller MMO called Ragnarok Online before getting into WoW, and I was the leader of a small guild of RL friends / friends-of-friends / etc. I was the sole leader, created/ran our forum, organized our “raiding nights” (in this game it was guild vs guild PVP but same idea), led the guild in strategy & actions on those nights, handled any drama or disputes with other guilds, etc. Like you. BUT my guild was only 12-15 people! I can’t even imagine solo-managing a large group like in WoW, let alone people who don’t actually know each other in RL like we did.

    From the story of your old guild, it’s no wonder that you are reluctant to open Monolith open to another such disaster (and bad form on those that left…bad form.) And who could blame you? But I think you’ve made a great decision, both in delegating some responsibilities to others and recognizing just why/how doing so can be beneficial to you. It can be tough to hand over control of something you care dearly about, but in some cases it is simply the right thing to do – especially in cases like the PhPbb issues, when the person you handed it over too is much more knowledgeable & familiar with it!

    It sounds like you’ve given this a lot of thought so I’m sure it’ll work out great for you & your guild! Less stress = more fun!

  2. So I’ll be honest, after reading this I kind of chuckled to myself, and then just had to post to commend you for sticking in there. I understand exactly where you’re coming from here, I’ve been in that same spot.

    I joined a guild early in bc with no expectations, I was planning on leaving not long after. But, guild chat was good and soon we started raiding. Then we starting climbing the server ranks quite quickly. Somewhere in there I’d been promoted to officer, and not long after that, the guild leader fell off the face of the earth. He just disappeared. After a month of myself and one other officer running things, we opened a gm ticket and I somehow ended up with lead. Long story short, I ended up leading it with almost no officers for about 2 years until RL issues forced me to hand over the reigns and move on. Long story short, the trust issues are probably super common among guild leads. Especially when it’s a guild that’s been on the verge of breaking before. I commend you for hanging in there though, it’s not an easy job, and it’s incredibly thankless. Cheers.

  3. Thank christ the Accountability Officer is after my raiding days. They’d have had a field day with me.

  4. I’m sure this is a good thing for you!

  5. Ohhhh my lord. I hadn’t realized you and Brade were single-handedly shouldering the management of an entire 25-man guild. We have 3 leaders for a 10… and we still delegate to non-officers for things!

    I have experienced a guild split, before. They left in an exodus, but a core of loyalists remained, and we rebuilt… and like you, I could tell there was guilt from the other faction’s new GM. In a few months, wounds began to mend between us and we actually did world bosses together (BC)… and then they fell apart. I think some returned to the original guild with bowed heads; others moved on elsewhere or quit the game.

    I will say, however, that extending that trust to others is a good way to strengthen bonds between you. Relying on them, sharing in confidence for making major decisions or just helping each other with maintaining a well-functioning guild, creates a much tighter bond between two players than would be seen if it was just “the leader” and “the member.”

  6. Having guilds split because of misunderstandings, betrayal, and dishonesty is very hurtful and confusing. While I cannot say that I have experienced the exact same situation as you, I have experienced a very upsetting guild split that put me directly in the middle. I commend you for working through everything and continuing on until you found a light in that darkness.

    Because of your hurt and your experience, I also commend you for the courage you have shown in delegating tasks and promoting new officers. Letting go of the reins you have had for so long is terrifying and it can feel like you are floundering.

    Good luck with this huge change.

    -Erinia

  7. I wouldn’t trust that one rogue and that… Troll but…

    No, I am just kidding.

    I think you’ve made a wise choice, Beru. They are both long time members of Monolith and they sure deserved that promotion and I am sure they will work hard to get everything done. Except that one rogue…

    You know, Beru, I worked 15 years as a Chef, in various restaurants. Most restaurants are opened over 12 hours/day, seven days/week.

    At some point in my career, I HAD to appoint people to fill tasks while I wasn’t around. You know what? I’ve never been disappointed. You would be surprise how people can come up with creativity, hard work etc…

    I like to think it is the same in an MMORPG. You didn’t give responsibilities to the “new guy”, Beru. But to trustworthy guild members. Long time guild members.

    Give them a chance. Except for that one rogue…

    Long live, Monolith.

  8. I’ve had guilds implode on me twice and they were devastating both times. I wasn’t an officer in either, so I can’t imagine what you went through as a higher-up but I admire your stick-to-itness and can see easily where your control problems come from (I have some similar ones and probably for similar reasons)

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