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.
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.
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”?
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.
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.