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!

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.

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.