Teambuilding, Leadership and Management in at least two worlds.

A Question From a Reader

Craig 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 flawlessly to that same hazard being called out over voice communications by a guildmate.

Maybe it was the Command

In my response, I speculated that perhaps the voice warning was phrased as an imperative: “Run out”. The command made it easier and quicker for the raider to respond, by saving him from mentally translating a hazard warning to an appropriate response.

Perhaps it’s How He’s Wired

That’s one possibility. Another is that he’s simply responding to a auditory cue better than he does to a visual cue. There’s a bit more that in this post, but the basic idea is that many of us are “wired” for a primary perceptual mode, and receive information better in that mode. Auditories need to hear, visuals need to see, kinesthetics need to feel (get their hands on). We’re all a mix of all of these, but a person who strongly favors one learns best in that mode, and responds best to instruction in it.

However, there’s another topic I want to touch on here, although it relates somewhat indirectly. I think when you consider the performance you’ve observed during raids or other stressful learning situations, this may give you some insight. Every person learning a new and complex skill goes through (up to) four stages of learning, while their brain “builds programs” to cope with the desired outcome.

The Four Stages of Learning

  1. Unconscious Incompetence
  2. Conscious Incompetence
  3. Conscious Competence
  4. Unconscious Competence

Stage 1: Unconscious Incompetence

In the first, Unconscious Incompetence stage, they don’t know what they don’t know. They don’t even care, because they don’t perceive the relevance, necessity, or sometimes existence of the need for the skill. You (or your raid leaders) may be ready to tear your hair out at their utter failure to perform the necessary action correctly, but they aren’t even at the stage where they know what that necessary action is.

Tonight, I was trying to teach my raid that it’s important for the topside raiders to cluster up quickly and consistently during the Yogg fight. I explained that it helps enormously with cleansing, being in range of totems and healers, etc. I reminded. I marked people to pile up on. And still, of course, folks … wandered off. It’s still a fairly new thought, and kept getting pushed aside by the other urgencies of a complex fight.

Stage 2: Conscious Incompetence

The second stage is Conscious Incompetence. I think we got to that stage on our cleansing tonight. I’m hopeful that everyone in the raid who can cleanse disease, poison, magic or curses now understands and remembers that it’s important. But some of them are truly awful at it. Trying to do it hurt their dps, and didn’t help their cleansing results much.

If you think back to the days when you were learning to drive, this is like oversteering. Too much is going on, and you know this is important, but you have no grace in doing it yet and certainly can’t put your brain on automatic and expect it to happen. Another important facet of this is that some haven’t learned to use the necessary tools for the job yet, such as raiding mods that aid in cleansing.

Stage 3: Conscious Competence

Ah, Conscious Competence is a lovely one to reach. You know why the skill needs performing, when to do it, and how. You can, for example, drive a car, or heal the Yogg fight, or make the photocopier work. You need to focus and concentrate, and distractions can be a problem, but on the whole you’ve got it down. If you get tired, your skill level degrades, since it still takes focus, but you are capable and know it. Raids that get all their members to this stage on a fight get kills. Consistently, although not effortlessly.

Stage 4: Unconscious Competence

At the stage of Unconscious Competence, you know the skill so well that you don’t have to think about it. You can respond easily to changing conditions and circumstances. You don’t need to concentrate much to perform flawlessly. Like driving, after many years, you do several things simultaneously without thinking about how to execute any of them. It just comes “naturally” to you to steer, check both mirrors periodically, apply the gas and brake, shoulder check, watch for cars in your blind spot, and control your speed and the distance to the vehicle in front of you. None of these activities take focus, and you can listen to music and drink coffee at the same time.

In game terms, you know every nuance of the fight, don’t need reminders, and can “effortlessly” manage several skills at once, like moving and healing and cleansing. They become reflex. You can almost “do it in your sleep”.

One particular hazard to watch out for here, in your raiding: Leaders who have been at Stage 4 for some time are frequently very poor (Stage 1!) at the skill of teaching others to perform the same task in which they are expert. This is why most people probably shouldn’t try to teach their spouse or kids to drive!

It’s a Normal Progression of Learning

You’ll see your raiders progress through these stages as they encounter new content, learn it, overcome it, and eventually get it on farm mode. In the case of Craig’s raider who is having trouble following the DBM warnings, he’s at Stage 1 on that skill. However, he’s at or near Stage 3 when it comes to following verbal instructions.

“Practice makes perfect” is an old cliche, but in complex fights, sometimes people just need time, good feedback, and practice for their brains to write the necessary programs to get them to Stage 3 and 4. Some of your quicker-to-learn raiders will get frustrated with the speed it takes others to advance through these stages, but the stages are necessary for all of us. Some of us just compress them a few days (or weeks!) more tightly together than others.

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.

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:

 

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.