Being a good guild leader is difficult. It’s so difficult that if you can do so successfully – meaning keep it growing and progressing for more than a year – I recommend putting it on your job resume. Yes, chortle if you want, but if you do (and include the link so I can verify it), you just got past the first sort when I’m part of the selection team for another manager.
It’s that hard.
I’m going to meander through some of the difficulties – and a few solutions. But I’m going to start with why (as almost always). As in, “Why have a guild, anyway?”
At its bottom, a guild is an official recognition of a group that regularly plays together already. There is no official (Blizzard rewarded) benefit to being a guild EXCEPT your group’s name gets seen and recognized. Oh, and you can buy and wear a pretty (or garish) tabard. Other than that, there are no official benefits. So… why bother?
The first reason to bother is a lesson in group dynamics. Specifically, without a point of reference (or commonality) most groups of more than four members will separate — maintaining loose ties, but not working together. What this means is that unless at least part of the group has an external connection (real life friends or acquaintances being the most common), you’re not going to see higher level instances as a group. Some of you might – as you pug – but as a group…. no. Thus the existence of a guild gives you a focus point – a seed crystal – that gives more than four people reason to hang together for an extended period of time.
There’s also – because you have more than four people together regularly – the increased likelihood of finding what you need or want. Be it a crafted item or someone with knowledge or skills to help, the more people you know the more likely you are to get. I’ll come back to this because it’s also a major cause of guilds breaking.
The last reason I’ll give (there are more but I’m not writing a book) is related to the first – a sense of direction. Azeroth and Outland are richly detailed with stories everywhere, but they do wear out. And after a while a player can feel like they’re thrashing about, going in circles. A guild can – intentionally or otherwise – get the players out of their ruts. Sometimes only by entering new ruts, of course, which we’ll also look at.
So, there are good reasons to make and belong to guilds. There are bad reasons too, but I’m going to leave them because in my experience if you RUN your guild right the REASON for the guild turns out to be immaterial. And this post is supposed to start giving some guidelines on running a guild right.
Let me start with a reality. There is no such thing as a perfect boss. You as guild leader are the boss, and you’re going to do something wrong in the eyes of a guild member. In fact, let’s start with how to deal with this.
If you’re lucky, you learn your guildmates are unhappy because they tell you. If you’re not lucky, you learn it as they quit your guild. You can help your luck with some basic techniques, all of which boil down to letting them talk to you with the feeling that talking can make a difference. I’m going to list three techniques of doing this, but please realize there are more.
First, contact every member of the guild regularly and ASK THEM how it’s going. Not just a quick “hi, how’s it going, bye”, but an actual: “are you happy with what the guild’s doing for and with you?” followed by a conversation. Yes, your guildies may indeed be fine – don’t create a self-fulfilling prophecy by digging for bad news. But give them a chance to talk with you privately. And when you get good ideas, use them. Some (me being one) recommend you acknowledge the source of the good idea, but you don’t have to do so. What you must avoid is taking credit for someone else’s good idea. I’ll even recommend that if someone comes up with something you had already thought of but not shared, give them the credit. I’ll come back to this, too, in “rewards”.
A second technique is a “general meeting night”. For a designated period of time anyone who wants to meet can throw out praises and complaints and wishes and offers. These are, by the way, hard to run – especially in an online situation. It’s doable, though, with good interpersonal skills and a lot of whispers. If you choose this, the successful users I’ve seen in the past use party or raid for officers to also discuss what they’re hearing while it’s going on.
A final technique is the use of a web-page forum that is read regularly. To ensure this happens, you need to indicate you read it yourself on a regular basis. The best way to do this is to make a regular post. Not just the weekly “this week is Gruul’s lair, meeting at 7:45 Wednesday,” but an actual point that’s encouraging discussion. An alternative for these forums which is equally effective is to have someone else run it but you the leader make at least one comment every day – even if it has to be on an old thread. The fact you are commenting means you’re reading which means, well, that you’re there instead of being the CEO in the executive suite above all the peons.
So rule one is communicate – and that alone will overcome a huge amount of problems.
Because there will be problems. Not least of the problems will be rewarding membership. See, while the seed crystal is “getting together”, if it’s not giving the members something they’re going to leave.
The one thing you can give EVERY member is an intrinsic award. If you are a raiding guild, for example, ensure that EVERYONE gets to raid. If you’re a BG guild, the same. If your guild is a progression guild, meant to get members up to level 70, then everybody helps and/or gets help. I’ve seen a number of guilds fail here because they’re not even doing that basic task. However, most of the time it’s because the guild’s trying to be multipurpose. It’s trying to be everything – progression, raid/instance/BG/Arena support… Don’t. Even if you the leader are interested in every one of these, you’ll end up with a guild that’s inherently fragmented. This doesn’t mean you can’t SUPPORT all the others, but pick a main objective of the guild and make everything else subordinate.
Regardless, however, you’re inevitably going to come to one of the two Big Rocks of guilds – extrinsic rewards. Who gets the goodies when they drop? Sooner or later SOMEBODY is going to be unhappy because they didn’t get theirs. When that happens your leadership skills will be tested – severely. And you’ll be helped immensely if you’ve laid out the rules up front and STUCK TO THEM. Actually, the best help is to ensure you’ve made the rules as equitable as possible. There are a lot of good systems to help within the instance, of course, but I want to point out a weakness commonly missed by larger groups. Let’s make it simple and obvious. You have a guild of six which happens to have two warriors (one protection, one arms), one healer, a hunter, a warlock, and a mage. Because of the duplication, the arms-spec warrior gets left out of between 1/4 and 1/2 of the runs. And she rotates in not just with the other warrior but with other dpsers as well. Which means that everyone else will have their gear and be getting bored with the instance while Arms is still looking for item one. Yep, it’s looking obvious here, isn’t it. On a more complex scale — it happens. I have run across several guild who say ‘most of us have our stuff, let’s go ON. We can come back.’ Except since they’re going on the ones who haven’t got their stuff can’t play – they’re undergeared for the level – and a vicious circle come into play. So when you’re setting up those rules, remember to include something about the repeat runs – when do you go on? What requirements do you have for coming back? Yes, I’m applying this to raid/instance guilds, but very similar situations apply in the other guild types as well.
I mentioned two Big Rocks for guilds. Let me mention the last before I go. That’s the rock of interpersonal relationships. Snorg and Grax cannot stand one another. They’re constantly complaining that the other is whining about needing this or doing that. Or champing because the guild’s running Dire Maul one more time (and I don’t NEED anything there…), or because it won’t do one more WSG (I only need one more for that trinket), or… There are no good answers, other than the fact that if you don’t deal with it the problem won’t go away. Instead, the complaints will drive someone away – maybe the whiner, maybe your lead tank, you just never know. Anything you do will make someone unhappy, and it’s pretty certain that you’ll make at least one mistake. For this, some advice: Go to a library (you know, a place with books and stuff you can borrow). Borrow some books on management of volunteers. Because that’s exactly what you’re doing when you run a guild.
Oh, and one last piece of practical advice. Remember it’s just a game, and this will pass.
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Mentioned it in the earlier article and forgot it here. OK, let me reiterate one more point.
Make rules. Enforce them. Change them if you must, but not at a whim and not back and forth.
The example that comes to mind: If you’re not at the start place at the start time you aren’t going to be chosen, goes the raid rule. And a bunch of people show up, and they’re selected, whereupon one (or more) chosen say, “Need to get a repair real quick”. As a guild leader, EVEN IF THOSE ARE OFFICERS, the response should be, “OK, you forfeit position,” and select the alternates.
A little lesson, from real life, that I think will finish the point. When I was growing up, my church had a fellowship dinner every other sunday evening. And people would show up as much as half an hour after the meal was SUPPOSED to start because we’d wait for ‘everyone to be there before we begin’. That is, till my mother took charge. 6:00 pm first time she was in charge (and about a third of the crowd was present) she opened and started the food going. As people came in (to INCLUDE the minister) they’d look abashed, slip over to the serving table to add their food, and go on. The next time we met – you guessed it, almost 2/3 of everyone was on time. By the fourth meal everybody was on time unless something interfered with them and the meals went off on time — and everyone was fine. In fact, the diabetics and hypoglycemics in the church were ecstatic.
The lesson is obvious, I think. If you give the inch they’ll take it. And everyone who is TRYING to stick to the rules will be upset. And the dissension and unhappiness will break your guild.