Teambuilding, Leadership and Management in at least two worlds.

This post is the third of three which began with:

Becoming a Great Manager – Part 1
Becoming a Great Manager – Part 2

Now let’s distill this down a bit further, and then if you want more, you can read First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently. These four areas are called “the Four Keys” of great managers in the book:

1. Choose People For Their Talents

Rule to break: Hire for experience, intelligence, and determination.

When selecting people, select for talent, not simply experience, intelligence, or determination. Skills and knowledge can be taught, talent cannot. Skills are the “how-to’s” of a role, like how to sheep with a focus macro. Knowledge is the information you are aware of, like the importance of Starlight for damage dealers on the Hodir fight. These can be learned, or taught, at any point. Talents, however, relate to reoccurring patterns of thought, feeling or behavior in the individual. They have to do with how your individual brain is wired and what you’re good at, that gives you joy. A talent is evidenced by a tank that not only has extreme combat awareness and reaction time, but takes joy in exercising it through protecting the squishy players.

“There is no point in trying to assess people’s abilities without first finding out what they care about.
– Robert J. Thomas

Great managers are excellent at knowing what talents will matter to their teams and organizations, and selecting for them. Also, they have the confidence to hire excellent people and let them perform to their utmost.

“If you hire people who are smaller than you are, we shall become a company of dwarfs. If you hire people who are bigger than you are, we shall become a company of giants.
– David Ogilvy

2. Define the Desired Outcomes

Rule to break: Set expectations by defining the right steps.

When you are setting expectations, focus on outcomes, not the steps to get there. Your people are individuals and may find routes to the goal that you’d never think of. Empower, don’t micromanage. Get obstacles out of the way, provide resources, and point your people in the right direction. They don’t need their hand held every step along the way, and attempting to do so won’t help them grow.

“Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.”
– General George S. Patton

3. Motivate Based On Their Strengths

Rule to break: Motivate by helping your staff identify and overcome their weaknesses.

Motivate someone to improve their areas of strength, rather than focusing on their weaknesses. Their areas of weakness have to simply be adequate to do the job, any further development effort will pay off much better if focused on their strengths. Don’t expect or require everyone to be equally good at everything, or that’s what you may get, in the most mediocre way possible.

Get to know your people, befriend them even, and learn what makes them special and gives them joy to do well. Support them in developing that!

“Treat a man as he is, and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he could be, and he will become what he should be.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

4. Promote/Position People Based on Strengths

Rule to break: Develop your staff by helping them learn and get promoted.

Help your members find the right fit for their particular talents and strengths. Don’t move them to a new role, from one they excel at, because it will make them more well-rounded. Never force someone to primarily focus on an area of weakness, especially by deliberately promoting them so that they can “work on it”. Don’t let job descriptions tyranize your organization. If you have a person with the perfect talents for a job that doesn’t exist, which will benefit your organization, create it. Ensure that your organization doesn’t provide rewards and recognition only to people who are promoted up the hierarchy, even if it takes them away from what they’re best at.

“The task of leadership is not to put greatness into people, but to elicit it, for the greatness is there already.”
– John Buchan

“In a hierarchically structured administration, people tend to be promoted up to their level of incompetence.”
– Lawrence J. Peter

A Final Question

If you comment, perhaps you’d answer a question for me. How many GREAT managers have you known, and why did you think of them that way? Thanks!

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.

If you manage staff in Real Life, or guild members in a virtual world like World of Warcraft, I strongly recommend that you read First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman. In the largest study of its kind ever undertaken, the Gallup Organization studied employee performance. In spite of being based on statistics involving 80,000 managers and a million employees in 400 companies, the book is highly readable and enjoyable. It will make you more effective as a manager.

12 Simple Indicators of a High-Performing Raid Team

They came up with 12 core elements needed to attract, focus and keep the most talented employees. They also proved very clearly that an outstanding workplace, in terms of both performance and employee satisfaction, depends more than anything on the manager of the business unit. The organization and the direct manager must create an environment where these 12 questions, or at least most of them, are answered strongly in the positive.

So, here they are, slightly rewritten for our guilds and guild members:

  1. Do I know what is expected of me on the raiding team?
  2. Do I have the gear and knowledge and clear, appropriate assignment to do my job right?
  3. On raids, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?
  4. In the last week, have I received recognition or praise for doing a good job?
  5. Does my Raid Leader, Guild Leader, or someone in my guild seem to care about me as a person?
  6. Is there someone in the guild who encourages my development?
  7. In my guild, do my opinions seem to count?
  8. Does the purpose of my guild make me feel that I contribute in a meaningful way?
  9. Are the other raiders on my team committed to performing well?
  10. Do I have a best friend in the guild?
  11. In the last six months, has someone in my guild talked to me about my performance?
  12. This last year, have I had opportunities in my guild to learn and grow?

Don’t Other Factors Matter?

I realize there’s nothing there about high pay, or benefits, or organizational structure, or job security. Those things just didn’t come to the top of the pile when it came to what employees really cared about. They weren’t significant indicators of what made a high-performing workplace stand out. The 12 questions above, were. It’s not that other factors don’t matter at all. They may be necessary to, as the authors say, “get you into the game, but they can’t help you win”.

Well, the Real Life version, anyhow. I’m fairly sure there have been no Gallup polls in World of Warcraft, at least not yet! The 12 questions identified in the book and paraphrased above were consistently able to discriminate between the most productive departments/workgroups, and those that weren’t. Simple as they appear, they are what matters most, and the book goes into a fair amount of detail to show how they link to four critical business outcomes: productivity, profitability, retention and customer satisfaction.

In the next installment of this article, we’ll talk more about what managers specifically do to “Break the Rules” and provide an environment that nurtures positive responses to these 12 questions.

Continued in Becoming a Great Manager – Part 2

Recruiting for Success

In the grand scheme of running a successful guild or business, few things have the long-term impact that recruiting does. Consistently poor decisions here will be the end of your operation, eventually.

The Best Method of Prospecting for Members

The very best way to prospect for members is to ask your current members for recommendations, particularly those who were raid leaders or officers in former guilds. Your raiding members have incentive to suggest only those who can be a successful part of the team. If the new recruit sucks, their raid progression will suffer and their repair bills go up.

In the Real World, what have you designed into the company that gives your staff incentive to bring you quality applicants? You don’t want all their friends, you want the smart and effective ones with a good personality and work ethic. So what can you do to discourage them from recommending their loser stoner uncle who lives in the basement?

Publish the Connection

In a newsletter or on the company intranet, make sure you publish a welcome that states who recommended this person. If the new recruit is awful, peer pressure will encourage them NOT to make the same mistake.

Reward Success

Offer a reward to the referrer, upon completion of a successful recruit period. In the guild, this can just be a heartfelt thank you from the Guild Leader for having brought in such an effective raider. A private comment is good, a public one is MUCH better. Most people enjoy public praise, particularly for a specific act, and others tend to try to emulate the behavior which got that person “rewarded”. It’s important to be consistent, make sure you recognize all members who perform the same act in the same way.

Don’t hesitate to offer a financial bonus, particularly in markets/industries where recruiting is challenging. In Real Life, the size of the bonus should be significant but not overly large, and tied to the value of the position. Keep in mind what their efforts have saved you in recruiting costs. For example, a headhunter’s fee is often 10% (or more) of a year’s salary. While you might not have employed a headhunter for this particular job, a bonus of perhaps 20% of a month’s salary should be about right. In other words, if they recruited an 80k senior programmer, a bonus of about $1300 is appropriate. For a 30k receptionist, a $500 bonus is plenty. Remember that this bonus should be paid out after a successful recruit period. Whatever incentive structure you choose, realize that it’s something you’re building into the organization on a permanent basis. Any financial incentive which is offered and later removed causes resentment, unless (and sometimes even if) it’s identified as temporary. When in doubt, tread carefully. In a union environment, don’t even think about taking this step without consultation, preferably the kind where the union officer, in conversation with you, comes up with this idea as his own and talks you into it.

Structure the entire organization so that they know WIFFM

If you’ve built a profit-sharing model into your organization, make sure you clearly communicate how successful recruiting impacts an employee’s profits. Considering “What’s In It For Me” from their point of view is one of the most useful models to use when dealing with people in almost any circumstance. Points to emphasize include:
* Turnover is expensive and lowers profits
* Effective hiring of the right person with the right skills and work ethic makes us more profitable, which increases the size of each employee’s share

Other Methods of Prospecting

In game, it’s important to have your well-written recruiting post in as many places as possible. The post should make clear not only the job requirements, but the personality and values of the organization. You want raiders that FIT your culture, so taking the time to tell them what it is, and what’s in it for them, will reward your efforts.

Post your recruiting post on the guild forums, on the server forums, and in the cross-server recruiting forum at a minimum. Look also for sites like LookingforGuild.net to widen the base from which you can draw members. Use specialty sites like Tankspot’s Recruiting Forum if you’re looking for a specific role such as a tank.

job-ad

In Real Life, the equivalents are local job boards (government and privately run), Craigslist, Monster, and the web sites of any appropriate niche organization. For example, if you’re looking for a web designer, list on Technet.com. If you’re looking for a Chief Financial Officer, list on appropriate Chartered Accountant or CMA (Certified Management Accountant) sites for your area. A quick Google search will offer you a list to choose from.

How to Fail at Prospecting for New Recruits

Procrastinate on making recruiting decisions. Then put a brief “looking for Resto Shaman” post on your guild web page, or buried in your forums. Sit around waiting for applicants, and watching your guild slowly fail as more roster spots open up and are treated the same way. Cancel raids due to lack of members. Watch it all spiral out of control as more leave. Give up raiding and fold the guild.

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.