Teambuilding, Leadership and Management in at least two worlds.

One of the fascinating things about raiding, and especially leading, in World of Warcraft is that it surreptitiously builds a whole new set of skills related to working with virtual teams. In the Real World, we often don’t communicate all that much via text with our teammates, particularly when it’s really important that we have clarity. In Wow, with the exception of voice chat clients like Ventrillo, text is all we have to work with. Of course, we can embellish with a few emotes, but they’re not exactly subtle communications!  /rude  /jk

It’s Still Communication When I’m Keeping My Distance, Right?

In corporations, text is often about distancing us rather than improving the depth of our communications. Text is used, much of the time, to CYA – “Cover Your Assets”. If you have bad news to communicate, or something that might make the other person unhappy, it often seems easier to do that via text. If you’re uncomfortable approaching someone, text is often less threatening than a real life meeting.

It’s also used for other reasons, of course. It’s easy, inexpensive, often asynchronous (you don’t have to both be available at the same time), and tolerably efficient. Not that long ago we’d leave a note, or mail a letter, or send a fax. Now we have email, IM, Twitter, and Facebook to expand our communications repertoire.

Look ‘Em In the Eye

However, when you really need to understand someone, you do it face to face. Hiring, negotiations, sales, performance appraisals, certain types of training are examples of activities where being face to face raises the level of communication enormously. Posture, gestures, and other body language, as well as tone of voice, are huge in building trusting relationships. Eye contact is probably even more important. Even touch matters. Salespeople are taught how to shake hands well, because it’s important.

This topic came to mind because I’m doing business with someone who is highly skilled in NLP (Neurolinguistic Programming). Due to this background, he’s exquisitely conscious of body language, eye movement, muscle tension and other visual communications (both deliberate and inadvertent). He knows how to read these clues, and he’s very unhappy in any communication where they’re missing. We’re meeting regularly from across the continent, and phone just isn’t visual enough for him. so we usually use a Skype video chat connection.

If You Only Have One Channel, Make It A Good Program

This really highlights for me how much playing Wow has affected my comfort level with working very closely with people in a text-only environment. I “hire” based on text interactions as a guild leader in Wow. I gauge people’s mood from guild chat and private comments. I resolve most conflict in text. Having done this for years, I’ve learned to do certain things to facilitate my interactions with my guildmates.

  • Figure out how you feel, so you can communicate it accurately. “Decode” your own stuff and state it accurately.
  • If someone upsets you in any way, inquire immediately about their intention.
  • Realize that it’s not all about you and there are real people out there, even if you can’t see them.
  • Fear strangers less. The vast majority of the people I meet online are kind, pleasant, intelligent human beings.
  • Learn to summarize and give instructions well.
  • Learn to ask good questions. Dialogue is important to any goal you want to reach together.
  • Appreciate the people around you, especially those who put effort into trying to communicate clearly and interact positively.
  • Always give people the benefit of the doubt, and room to save face.
  • Listen well.

I believe that these skills, honed in virtual worlds, equip us better to work on virtual teams. The dragons we set out to defeat are different in the Real World, but the ability to communicate well, building trusting, respectful relationships when we’re not face to face, is a very useful skill in all worlds.

4 Comments so far »

  1. by Craig, on July 6 2009 @ 10:32 pm


    Had a question for you, entirely unrelated to the top I’m replying to :).

    My guild is on Mimiron right now (nearly had him tonight!) and I noticed something interesting with one of my raiders.

    On phase one he has an ability “Shock Blast”, which melee has to run out of or they’ll die. One of my folks was dying just about every single time to this ability, and it was starting to bother me – he has DBM, he can see the blue crap under the boss, why isn’t he moving out on time?

    Instead of talking to him about it directly (as indirectly wasn’t working “Everyone remember to move out of the Shock Blast…”), I decided to ask one of my more responsible melee to call out the Shock Blasts when they happen.

    The fellow in question didn’t die _once_ after I had this being called out.

    I’m trying to explain this in terms like “a human voice is more catching than the DBM *bling!*” “it pulls you out of the game” “its something that isn’t part of the game, so you don’t tune it out”, but then thought as someone who is talking about communication, etc, that you might have some insight into what happened here.

    Thanks! 🙂

  2. by admin, on July 6 2009 @ 10:51 pm


    Hi Craig;

    I’m curious. When it was called out, did the caller say “Shock Blast!” or “Run out!”? I notice with our raiders that sometimes when they’re new to a fight and their brains are near overwhelm, a command works much better than a notification. When I’m notified of a Shock Blast I still have to “translate” that to appropriate action. When I’m told to run out, it eliminates that step.

    DBM’s “Run Away Little Girl” auditory warning is good for this on some fights. I really can’t remember if it is turned on by default, or if it works for Shock Blast. It’s also possible the player has game sounds off and doesn’t hear it, even if it is on.

    We all have different ways and speeds of learning, of course. I think you just inspired tonight’s blog topic, and I’ll take the rest there! Thanks!

  3. by Stages of Learning | Defeat Dragons, on July 7 2009 @ 12:04 am


    […] posted an interesting question that led to tonight’s topic. Paraphrasing his full comment, he asked why one of his raiders was oblivious to DBM warnings about a raid hazard, but responded […]

  4. by Gravity, on July 8 2009 @ 12:57 am


    I didn’t realise DBM gave “Run Away Little Girl”, I had figured it was the game itself, wow.

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About Author

Atris, known in another world as Karilee, is a World of Warcraft Guild Leader and Business Consultant fascinated by how Leadership, Management and Teambuilding work in two different worlds. She believes that good leaders, good managers and good teams are essential for successfully defeating dragons, no matter what world you find yourself in.