Teambuilding, Leadership and Management in at least two worlds.

In Becoming a Great Manager – Part 1, we talked about the 12 questions that are indicators of a high-performing workplace, according to First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently. We’ll continue our discussion of how to become a Great Manager (or Guild Leader) by talking about the rule-breaking the title of the book refers to. The quotations in this article are taken from successful rule-breaking managers interviewed in the book.

Organizational vision, policies, and atmosphere matter, but what matters most to employee performance and retention is the immediate manager. In Wow terms, this is most often the Guild Leader or Raid Leader. You’ve heard it before, and probably experienced it: “People don’t leave jobs, they leave managers”. The right management is even more important in our gaming organizations, since our members are volunteer “staff”.

The most powerful and “manageable” of the 12 questions are the first 6, and they are about the employee’s perception of whether or not they belong. They are addressed by his or her direct manager’s engagement with the employee as an individual.

“A manager has to remember that he is on stage every day. His people are watching him. Everything he does, everything he says, and the way he says it, sends off clues to his employees. These clues effect performance. So never forget you are on that stage.”

“Never pass the buck.”

Don’t Treat Everyone Equally – Individualize

One of the mostly-unwritten rules of management which the book calls upon us to break is the rule “Everyone should be treated equally”. Of course they shouldn’t. They’re not the same people, or in the same roles, nor do they have the same needs. Each should certainly be treated fairly, but pretending they are the same person in order to do this is simply lazy thinking.

“Make each person comfortable with who they are.”

Most importantly of all, the leader/manager must focus on the strengths of each employee, helping them develop and enhance what they’re good at and excited about. Organizations need great front-line managers that don’t focus on weaknesses. They identify and accept weaknesses, and deal with them by planning  for ways to compensate for them. However, their primary focus and effort is always on best using and developing the employee’s talents and areas of strength.

Get Close to Your Members

Another common belief about management is that leaders must hold themselves aloof from the rank and file. The managers of the most successful teams in the Gallup Study don’t. They get to know their staff on a personal level. They commit on a personal level.

“A lot of listening, a lot of getting to know who they are. It’s ok to become friends.”

“Make very few promises to your people, and keep them all.”

Hire for Talent – What is Talent Anyhow?

The book believes a company is misguided if the job description is so rigid that the person must be bent to conform to it. It’s more valuable to take a really talented person and create the right role just for them. Whatever you do, don’t put someone in a job that isn’t focused on their areas of strength. While skills and knowledge can be built after hiring, talents are something different (more on this in Part 3).

“Hire for talent, and once you’ve hired them, trust them.”

Promote For the Right Reasons

You’re looking for talent when you promote too, particularly to management and leadership positions. Too many organizations exhibit the classic Peter Principle, promoting someone beyond their area of competence (and joy). How many good technical professional’s careers (and those of their direct reports), have been spoiled by promoting them? Just because you’re a great programmer or technical wizard doesn’t mean you can manage people or projects. An amazingly talented and dedicated raider doesn’t necessarily have the right talent and skill for an officer position, and making those roles a “reward” for raiding prowess is a very risky choice for a Guild Leader to make.

“Don’t overpromote people.”

It’s Not About Control

If you think a manager’s main job to to control people, to make them do what they’re supposed to be doing, look again at the first two questions in the list of 12. They are about providing the employee or guild member with a sense of security; imbuing them with the belief that they’ll get the support they need to be successful. Just as you are reading this article to improve your knowledge, because you want to understand successful management, every single hire wants to perform well. Your primary job as a leader is to make sure they know what that looks like, have the resources to do so, have help overcoming organizational roadblocks, and can effectively evaluate and correct their own performance.

You can’t change people, but you can facilitate behavior, and you do this by clarifying expectations and giving consistent and constructive feedback, as well as offering the tools, training and reference materials needed for each role.

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!

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:

Anonymity.

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>.

Irrelevance.

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?

Immeasurement.

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.

What else does your guild do to combat “Job Misery”?

A wise wizard told me that there are only four critical things a guild leader has to get right:

Recruiting
Participation
Loot
Dismissal

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.

Recruitment

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?

Participation

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.

Retention/Dismissal

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.

 

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.