As a leader who values teamwork, cooperation and synergy, there are several behaviors that you must learn to be consistently capable of to nourish a supportive atmosphere for your team.
Setting Expectations Is Important
You need to make it clear, from your website, policies and recruiting interviews on through your everyday activities, that teamwork is an expected and important value. It’s about “we”. We defeat dragons together, or sometimes we fail to do so, but we are learning and growing together. We discuss how we can improve.
You Need To Model The Behavior Of A Team Player
There are many ways for you, the leader, to model the behaviors you are hoping to see. Here’s just a few of the most important: Share. Take turns. Don’t (need to) be a hero. Don’t micromanage. Trust. Do your best. Help others respectfully; don’t create co-dependencies. Deal with your own emotional “stuff” instead of dumping it on those around you. If someone bothers or upsets you in some way, ask them about it privately, and as non-confrontationally as you are capable of. Appreciate the people around you. Notice them. Thank them.
Flaws Are Okay, Especially in Leaders
Create an atmosphere where occasional mistakes are ok. Make sure your team has an environment that helps give them the emotional security to admit mistakes. Model what you want to see by admitting your own mistakes. “I blew that, I’ll do better next time” is fine. It’s usually a relief to people when the boss/teacher/leader isn’t perfect, and admits it. It takes the pressure off them to achieve an unrealistic standard of perfection. While some stress can be positive, none of us perform well when too much piles up. If you assume and model the expectation of a supportive environment, most often others will expect that too – and help create it!
I read something a couple of months ago that has stuck in my mind, although unfortunately I don’t remember the source. It was a theory which states that most human beings want to be safely in the middle of their social hierarchy. They don’t want to be leaders, they prefer to be led. They also don’t want to be at the bottom of their respective social hierarchy, they fight for the “middle of the pack” position. The theory is postulating that there’s more than a bell curve at work here.
What Cavemen Have in Common With Your Team
The idea is that most of us, due to a heritage going back to our cavemen days, feel that it’s safest to to be unexceptional, to conform. The leader may have perks, but also has to charge the mammoth first. The weakest of the pack is the one not fed if there’s not enough food to go around. However, the middle of the pack is safe, low risk. Entire organizations can slip into this mindset at times.
What (Good) Leaders Don’t Want
This can lead to a number of behaviors that leaders don’t want to see in their teams:
Peer pressure to not excel, or take risks.
Refusal to step into leadership roles, contribute ideas, or even make personal decisions.
“Brain off” performance mode, where they do what they’re told. Only what they’re told.
Denigrating other people’s performance to make themselves look good.
This came to mind because of a conversation I had with a guild member the other day, where she expressed her frustration with the lack of initiative among certain members of the raid force. She felt that many of her teammates preferred to be led, or even micro-managed in raids, rather than taking initiative to make some decisions, ask questions, or self-manage. She believes they’re less effective than they could be by taking more initiative. And I agree.
Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth
-John Fitzgerald Kennedy
Now, this isn’t a big problem for us, because our guild delegates lots of jobs in raids, and rotates those jobs to various people, so there is an expectation of a certain amount of participation. We don’t have reserved raid jobs like Main Tank, Raid Leader, Loot Handler. These are done by various people, officer or not. It’s still noticeably a challenge to get members to step up and do even small roles, though. And I think the “middle of the pack” theory is largely why. It’s unconscious and habitual, but it’s something you’re going to encounter, particularly if you try to build an organization with a fairly flat hierarchy.
One who walks in another’s tracks leaves no footprints.
Making It Better, A Bit Deviously
So, how do you address the issue? I think we’ve made a good start in rotating jobs around, and giving members small opportunities to exhibit leadership. Praise and appreciation helps, of course. However, these are strategies to flatten the curve. In a relatively flat organization, you may hit the limits of that quite quickly. My other suggestion is that you focus on moving the curve. If I accept that many people want to be in the center of the pack, another strategy is to move the middle – move the bell curve itself.
The way this works in practice is to slowly, almost imperceptibly, increase performance and participation expectations. Over time, as you move the entire curve, the “middle of the pack” is now performing at a higher level.
There are a few management theorists out there that really nail it when it comes to identifying what employees care about. Since retention is a good thing, because turnover is expensive in several ways, leaders need to care what keeps employees happy and productive on the job. So do guild leaders. In the back of my mind, I see Mel Gibson with a smirk on his face and the cover of that movie “What Women Want”. Since I never actually saw it, and can’t give out our gender secrets (at least not easily!), I’ll stick to talking about business and guild leading and you can decide for yourself whether the theory translates over to other types of relationships.
The simplest model I’ve seen approaches the issue from a negative perspective, and illustrates three factors that create “Job Misery”. This is Patrick Lencioni’s model, taken from his book, The Three Signs of a Miserable Job. Picture a triangle, representing Job Misery. Each side is made up of the following three factors:
Nobody knows who I am. Nobody cares. Nobody says hello when I log in, or says goodnight when I leave. Nobody ever catches me doing anything right. Or wrong. They just don’t care about me. I’m just another generic <tank> <healer> <dps>.
I need to know that my efforts matter to someone. I don’t feel part of the team. Nobody thanks me for the work I do. Nobody notices my debuffing, healing, decursing, mob pickup, kiting, etc. I need to feel I’m contributing to the guild’s success. Would it matter to them if I never showed up?
I wish I knew how I was doing. I don’t want the Raid Leader’s opinion, I want to know for myself whether I’m doing the right stuff.
This word, coined by Lencioni, is about your ability to objectively judge and measure your own performance, and whether you are meeting the necessary standard. It’s about having a tangible indication of success or failure, that isn’t subject to another’s opinion, so that you can feel in control of your own situation. What your guild could do to enable this is to make sure you understand your role in the fight clearly; and provide objective tools such as WWS or other meters, while encouraging you to compare your performance to your previous ones.
So, what do we as leaders do to combat “Job Misery” on our raiding teams? Since we run a completely volunteer organizaton, failing to address the three factors above means our guilds fail. Some of the factors that contribute to combating one or more of Lencioni’s Three Factors include:
Some Things Members Do Want
Camadarie. Cheerful guild chat with low drama.
Being greeted as they log on.
Interesting forum participation with a personal touch. Perhaps a Real Life pics thread, screenshot of the week thread, or humor section.
Officers with some people skills. Friendly. Approachable.
Leaders who catch members doing something right – in public or in private tells.
Leaders who catch members doing something wrong – privately, respectfully, in tells.
An upbeat, low drama, respectful raid environment.
Raid strats discussed on the forums, with each person’s role clearly laid out.
Published WWS or similar performance logs.
Understanding of how to read performance logs effectively.
Hearing “thank you”. For buffs, for Fish Feasts, for showing up on time, for working hard. Sincerely.
The opportunity to have suggestions listened to.
Celebration of successes. Even incremental ones.
Guildmates and officers who remember there’s a person behind the toon.
Being noticed, appreciated and significant to the team.
Whatelse does your guild do to combat “Job Misery”?
I try to mentally keep my eye on that model when I ask myself how the guild is doing. It’s another of those models that applies very well to Real Life business management. Your fundamental systems have to be well thought out, in alignment with your values, clearly documented… and most importantly, followed.
I’m a big believer in recruiting for attitude, once you’ve established basic credentials. This means you need to take some extra time to get to know the applicant, and have them get to know you, but I believe it pays off in the long run. Of course, if you’re running an uber-Hardcore guild, there is no “long run” most of the time. Those guilds are often fairly unstable, with high turnover, because they can’t choose to take personality into account much. They have to focus on performance above all, if competitive progression is their reason for existing. I’m glad we don’t have to be that short-term about our recruiting, as some of our most productive and high-performance raiders didn’t start out that way.
What are the SWOTs (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) of your organization’s recruiting system?
We had challenges early on with making participation fair. We didn’t want our raiders ‘competing’ for raid spots, since fun is a value as important as progression in our guild. We don’t run a bench, every raider raids (although not every guild member is a raider). We needed a way to ensure that everyone got their fair share of face time. That ultimately became our unfortunately-named “RoT” system, or “Ready on Time” system. We track who signs up, who shows up on time, and who gets in raids. Then we use an excel spreadsheet to analyze this data and show us whose turn it is to sit in backup. It’s transparent, public, and applied equitably to everyone from raid leaders down to the newest recruit.
This system has almost completely eliminated any drama over whose turn it is to get in raids. It’s also delivered side benefits in allowing us to easily track attendance patterns, and see what classes/roles we should be recruiting. We no longer have to guess at our recruiting needs. We can see changes in a raider’s attendance patterns, and an officer can follow up on that to find out if it’s temporary or permanent. If a raider’s attendance drops below our acceptable minimum, we can see it at a glance and address it. Most importantly, the system is public and objective, and everyone knows what’s expected of them. That leads to our next topic, loot.
Loot – the Reward System
Our guild runs on a “pay for participation” system, commonly known as DKP, or Dragon Kill Points. If you show up available to raid, whether you are in the raid or in backup, you earn points which can be used to “buy” items in game. It’s similar to a company that pays by the hour, although in this case everyone earns the same amount hourly. From our perspective, it’s public and objective, and that’s what matters most to us.
Some guilds use a Loot Council system, which is more dynamic and in some ways more efficient. That concept revolves around having a group (often officers) decide who needs an item most. What you give up for that efficiency is objectivity. Loot Council systems tend to attract drama at times, even in very mature guilds, but when progression > all other values, it can be the right system.
The main point is that your system, whatever it is, has to be clearly documented. Members need to know what they’re agreeing to as a reward system, before they join. Questions need to be addressed promptly and clearly. Definitely, no smoke and mirrors. Whatever is promised has to be what’s really delivered.
The final Key to a successful guild is to have a plan or system for dismissal. I consider retention the flip side of dismissal, and tend to spend more time thinking about retention, but both have to be considered by any guild leader. Retention is mostly about fair systems, clear expectations, good communications and good listening. More on that another day.
Dismissal, or any kind of turnover, needs a defined process. The way we handle it is to make sure that all officers know that while they can guild remove a member in an extreme case, the member in question should be told it’s a temporary situation while the officers discuss it. Nobody, even the guild leader, removes a member permanently without discussion. If a member is removed, or leaves on their own, we make sure we find out why, and keep notes in the officer forums so that we can track trends, and also so that we have them for reference if the person wishes to return at a later date. Any organization that has no form of exit interview when people leave, is giving up valuable information that can help them become more successful.
After over 20 years as a corporate trainer, I remain amused by the common perception that anyone can (effectively) give instructions or teach. It particularly surprises me that we are generally so ignorant of the importance of this skill, since we all need to do it, frequently, in small ways or large. It’s one of the key reasons many managers don’t delegate well. “It’s easier to do it themselves” because they lack skill in this specific area of communication. Many Wow Guild and corporate errors or miscommunications (or even accidents), are caused simply by people not knowing what’s expected of them. That’s also one of the most frequent complaints from employees about their managers, and a significant cause of job dissatisfaction. Your employees and your guild members want to feel they know what’s expected of them.
Who Will Teach the Teachers?
I remember having a conversation with a few bewildered T.A.s (Teaching Assistants) at a university faculty party once. I asked them what was done to prepare them for teaching, as they were actively doing the lectures for most of the classes they T.A.’d. That’s right, the Profs frequently don’t bother coming to class. Anyhow, their universal answer was “They make sure we know our stuff”. I reworded my question a few times, but I was speaking about a reality these otherwise-intelligent people couldn’t perceive. They kept giving me the same answer, unable to conceive that the fact that they knew the content didn’t automatically enable them to transmit that knowledge to someone else.
They honestly didn’t know that there was any specific skill or technique to teaching someone something, beyond knowing the content. You see the same belief frequently in parents who decide to teach their children (or spouses!) to drive. And usually the same abysmal level of success.
A Major Reason Raid Leaders (and Raiders) Get Frustrated
So I recognize the situation when I see it in World of Warcraft. Many boss fights are complex, and in some cases there are very specific actions each class/role has to take. One of the things my guild does well is that we don’t have only one raid leader. We have one who is arguably the best at on-the-fly strategy tweaking for progression fights. We have another who I would choose hands-down to lead any farmed content – he keeps things upbeat, moving quickly, and efficient. We have one that is brilliant at troubleshooting individual performance issues, and dealing with them in a calm and respectful manner. I consider myself best at complex fights where people are having trouble with the choreography. A fight like Kael was perfect for me to Raid Lead. Of course, we don’t always use the “right” raid leader at the right time, but a balanced variety helps.
Different People Learn In Different Ways
Due to my professional training background, I simply have more tools at my disposal for understanding why people are challenged by learning certain things, and how to address it. I consciously attempt to help the visual learners with diagrams, breaking out Visio when necessary. I know the kinesthetic learners need to learn one piece at a time, hands-on. I’m ok with the fact that the auditory learners need a verbal explanation, even if it’s all written down for them on the forums. I know that even if I explain the fight clearly in vent (for the auditories), I need to type key points for the visuals. I know that NO amount of explanation is as good as “Let’s pull this so you can get a feel for it”, for the kinesthetics.
I’m considered patient, but that’s mostly just understanding that different people learn in different ways, and at different paces. And, of course, having “Push to Talk” on my microphone so nobody hears the occasional ranting and cursing. 😉
“‘I think I should understand that better,’ Alice said very politely, ‘If I had it written down: but I’m afraid I can’t quite follow it as you say it.'”
– Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
Let’s Have a Four Minute Lesson in Giving Better Instructions
Now, there’s more to it than that, of course. I taught the prep course for Microsoft Train the Trainer Certification for three years, and it was a two day course, even though most participants had several years of training experience. However, a few basics and a little thought about the process of giving instruction could help your raids be much more enjoyable, and your progression smoother. Here’s a very short, simple and useful lesson in giving better instructions:
It’s the skill of transforming a negative event, situation, emotion into something positive; “twisting” it so that there is some benefit from the challenge. I’ve also heard it called Jujitsu, after the unarmed self defence technique that uses the attacker’s own weight and strength against them. That definitely sounds like a useful skill if you’re out to defeat dragons.
Getting this blog started a few days ago was partly due to Recasting. If you’ve read the Dedication, you’ll know I lost a friend unexpectedly. He’d intended to support me in setting up WordPress for this site, so every time I thought of the blog, which I’d failed to take action on for months, I thought of him. Thinking of him would remind me of the blog. I decided to use the intensity of those feelings of loss to make something good happen, so I got it done. The Dedication was written first.
“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.”
Does This Work on Big Stuff?
A couple of years ago, I heard Lance Armstrong speak at The Power Within Conference. He is utterly sincere and compelling as he says “testicular cancer is the best thing that ever happened to me!” That’s a pretty profound example of “When all you have is lemons, make lemonade!”
That Sounds Like Deluding Myself…?
I’m not suggesting you pretend the bad incident didn’t happen. Acknowledge it, feel what you feel about it. Once you’ve done that, check for a positive outcome, no matter how small. Look for a way to twist the situation to your advantage. Look for a way to rewrite your story of what has happened, perhaps from a slightly different perspective, and with a happier ending.
Another Real Life Example
I once opened a new branch of the computer training company I worked for, from scratch. I worked my tail off, interviewing local trainers, selling courses, finding office space, and handling all the small details involved in launching a business in a new town. Six months later it was breaking even, and I had over $100,000 of business queued up… and the company decided to close all its training branches, starting with mine as it was newest. My work would be wasted, I’d be laid off.
Once I got over the initial shock and anger, I had an epiphany. There was a ready-to-roll training business here, with all the startup work done! So I asked them, since they were closing, whether they had any objections to me taking over the clientele I had lined up, under my own banner. They couldn’t care less. They told me to go ahead, they were no longer interested in that line of business. This created an opportunity for me to launch my own training business with very low overhead, and I went for it.
What About in Game?
Back in Everquest, there was a dragon fight called the Ring of Vulak. Most raiding guilds never did it. It was a grueling 18-wave fight culminating in killing a dragon for (at best) adequate loot. It was hard. My guild was the first on the server to do it, and while a couple of others got it once, they never went back. We did the event every week, for months. We didn’t focus on the difficulty, we didn’t care about the loot. We realized it was the single best teamwork-training fight in the game at that time, consistently available to us, and we practiced until we became a well-oiled machine.
Our determination to take that “it sucks” fight and practice it until it was easy for us, led to us becoming one of the top guilds on our very competitive server. It raised the skill and confidence of our members to extremely high levels, and empowered us to victory over the next several generations of content. That’s the power of choosing to change your perspective on a “bad” situation.
How Far Can This Go?
If you’re still having trouble envisioning how you could apply this Recasting concept to your own troubles, I invite you to meet Nick Vujicic. His “No Arms, No Legs, No Worries” approach to his life is inspirational.
Every organization needs a clearly stated intention. If you don’t know what your purpose is, you aren’t going to have a hope of aligning a team to get you there.
“Our intention creates our reality.”
– Wayne Dyer
My World of Warcraft guild started as a split off from another guild. Many of us had joined it to raid, and yet its most senior officers, although they’d never stated it, saw it as a social guild. The focus and discipline of raiding wasn’t something they wanted to do, and one day one of them told several of us who had been trying to keep raids going, “If raiding is essential to your enjoyment of the game, you should leave.” We waited a day or two for the Guild Leader to retract that statement. We were angry, because we’d never been told it wasn’t a raiding guild – in fact we’d joined that guild to raid. With a little thought, we realized that we’d been done a favor. We had clearly been told we couldn’t have what we wanted there, and we knew what we wanted. Five of us decided to leave and form our new raiding guild.
One reason it has been successful is that we stated our purpose, our intention, in writing at the start. Everyone who joined that guild knew what its goals were. Now, about 80% of the old guild ended up following the few who left, and that became a challenge in the first year, because our vision of progression raiding involved educating all of those people to what that meant and what it cost. However, we had the touchstone of our clearly stated objective for the guild to fall back on, and we stuck to it as we created and refined policy. Anyone in our guild could tell you its purpose, which is one of the essentials for its survival and prerequisites for success.
I’ve often noticed when talking to entrepreneurs, or even employees, that the clarity with which they can state the intention of their organization or role is a pretty good test of how effective they are in it. Ask someone “what do you do?” or “what does your company do?”. If you can’t get a clear, focused answer in 25 words or less, it’s a symptom of a much bigger problem.
Our guild is a guild of friends formed to have fun together raiding all current progression content, while keeping Real Life > Game.
I am a ‘personal business trainer’, partnering with organizations and entrepreneurs that have made the decision to make a quantum shift in their growth.
Try It Yourself
Try the ’25 words or less’ test on your guild, your business, your job. Try it on your choice of friends. In this world of information overload, being able to refine your focus to what is most important is critical. When you can angle the magnifying glass just right, you can light a fire!
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.