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!

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

Making Your Recruiting Work

How long is your trial period when you hire new staff (or a guild recruit)? What happens during that trial period to evaluate their performance? Are there steps taken to correct inadequate performance? Who makes the call on whether it’s adequate?

Some companies and guilds put serious effort into hiring people who are right in terms of both personality and performance. For example, shoe maker Zappos pays employees a bonus to quit during their recruit period. They want to make sure that they retain only people who are thrilled with the job and feel it’s the right company for them.

Full Disclosure

In World of Warcraft guilds or our real life companies, I think the first step is ensuring that people know what they’re getting into. If you raid till 1 in the morning on most nights, don’t tell recruits that you raid till midnight. If you require overtime on a regular basis, don’t indicate that work hours are 9-5, because they’re not. Misleading a recruit is only going to cause dissatisfaction and problems later. Don’t do it. It’s bad for business. Turnover is expensive.

Fair Policies

I remember one guild that had an enormous turnover rate with new recruits. They’d join, pass their recruit period of a few weeks, and then leave a month later. Typically, that’s about how long it would take them to realize that the guild’s DKP system wasn’t fair to them. It wasn’t capped, nor was it ever reset on new content, so a few long-term guild members (mostly leadership) always had first choice on every item of gear that dropped, every time. There was literally no way for a recruit to ever catch up. If your attendance was perfect for a year and you never bought an item, you’d still be unable to compete with old-time members who were thousands of DKP ahead of you.

So What About Their Performance?

If you’re recruiting well and have a decent-sized pool of applicants, there’s less challenge here. Let’s look over the possibilities:

Performance

High Performance, Low Maintenance Gems

Ideally, you’re recruiting lots of High Performance, Low Maintenance folks: mature, low drama, do their jobs without being pushed to do so, are a good fit in personality. Communicate with them regularly, and tag them promptly when their recruit period is up. Remember to ask if they have friends that would fit well in any spots you’re still recruiting for.

Clear Out the Low Performance, High Maintenance Types

Hopefully, you’re promptly rejecting the Low Performance, High Maintenance folks: immature, unreliable, greedy, into drama, never prepped, and unimpressive performance in their jobs. This is the kind of recruit who has to be the owner’s real-life family to keep a job long in the Real World. If you’re recruiting for a Wow guild and you feel the recruit falls in this quadrant, don’t try to fix it, reject them.

Is a Low Performance, Low Maintenance Recruit Worth Some Effort?

Now it gets a bit trickier. What about the Low Performance, Low Maintenance folks? We run a three week recruit period, normally. Sometimes that’s just not long enough to be sure about these potential members. They’re nice, they fit in well, they’re reliable, but their dps/healing/tanking is a bit “meh”. Not stellar. If it’s content they know, in that class/role, it’s probably not going to get a lot better. If it’s new content, you may want to extend their Recruit period. As we discussed in an earlier post, different people learn in different ways, and some are slower than others.

To be frank, more time doesn’t always work, and it can be that much harder to reject them, but you’ll have to be prepared to do that to these nice people if you give them an extension. However, in a few cases where an extension does work, you can end up with incredibly loyal High Performance, Low Maintenance members who are well worth the effort. So if they’re relatively new to raiding at the level your guild is at, or kinesthetic learners, or very new to the content, giving them more time might be a good call. Look to see whether there’s a slight trend in improved performance. You are tracking performance metrics such as combat logs, right? Just don’t give them an extension without communicating clearly what the issue(s) are, and what you’re looking to see change.

High Performance, High Maintenance – Your Mileage May Vary

This area is a bit of a minefield. You may find the most stellar performers and the greatest challenges here, in the same person. A guildmate once told me that “WoW raiding guilds attract perfectionistic introverts”. In other words, people who are enormously demanding on themselves and others, but sometimes lack people skills. These folks can have challenges with real life vs game balance, and self control issues that result in drama, temper, sulking, tantrums and other forms of behavior that nobody in your organization is going to enjoy. Sometimes a formerly High Performance, Low Maintenance person shifts into these types of behaviors due to Real Life issues and stress.

From a recruiting perspective, you really have to ask yourself whether the (potential) gain justifies the (potential) risk. If you think it would, I would also recommend a frank discussion with the person about acceptable behavior and the consequences if it’s not. Leadership may have to periodically reign these folks in, and their turnover level is often high. On the flip side, they can be incredibly creative contributors. Many high-end raiding guilds (and companies in creative industries) recruit many of these players. They need obsessive perfectionists to achieve guild-first kills, and accept high drama and high turnover as the necessary side effects.

I can’t tell you what’s right for your guild or business. However, if you want to attract long-term High Performance, Low Maintenance raiders or employees, you have to give them an attractive environment to hang out in. At a minimum, I suggest you keep those members who fall into the fairly unstable High Performance, High Maintenance quadrant out of positions of authority. Giving these folks management, raid leading or guild officer positions is pretty high risk. Nobody enjoys abusive management, and organizations never thrive on it, long term.

Not Safe For Work Extreme Examples

The following videos contain lots of abusive and obscene language, and are extreme examples of perfectionistic raid leaders without control of their tempers. Don’t even think of hitting play if you’re at work or have a young child nearby, please. They illustrate extremely well why many of our potential applicants ask to listen in on a raid before applying.

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.

bellcurvey

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.
-Proverb

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.

 

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.