Teambuilding, Leadership and Management in at least two worlds.

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.

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.

Every organization needs a clearly stated intention. If you don’t know what your purpose is, you aren’t going to have a hope of aligning a team to get you there.

“Our intention creates our reality.”
– Wayne Dyer

My World of Warcraft guild started as a split off from another guild. Many of us had joined it to raid, and yet its most senior officers, although they’d never stated it, saw it as a social guild. The focus and discipline of raiding wasn’t something they wanted to do, and one day one of them told several of us who had been trying to keep raids going, “If raiding is essential to your enjoyment of the game, you should leave.” We waited a day or two for the Guild Leader to retract that statement. We were angry, because we’d never been told it wasn’t a raiding guild – in fact we’d joined that guild to raid. With a little thought, we realized that we’d been done a favor. We had clearly been told we couldn’t have what we wanted there, and we knew what we wanted. Five of us decided to leave and form our new raiding guild.

One reason it has been successful is that we stated our purpose, our intention, in writing at the start. Everyone who joined that guild knew what its goals were. Now, about 80% of the old guild ended up following the few who left, and that became a challenge in the first year, because our vision of progression raiding involved educating all of those people to what that meant and what it cost. However, we had the touchstone of our clearly stated objective for the guild to fall back on, and we stuck to it as we created and refined policy. Anyone in our guild could tell you its purpose, which is one of the essentials for its survival and prerequisites for success.

I’ve often noticed when talking to entrepreneurs, or even employees, that the clarity with which they can state the intention of their organization or role is a pretty good test of how effective they are in it. Ask someone “what do you do?” or “what does your company do?”. If you can’t get a clear, focused answer in 25 words or less, it’s a symptom of a much bigger problem.

Some Examples

Our guild is a guild of friends formed to have fun together raiding all current progression content, while keeping Real Life > Game.

I am a ‘personal business trainer’, partnering with organizations and entrepreneurs that have made the decision to make a quantum shift in their growth.

Try It Yourselfmagnifying_glass

Try the ’25 words or less’ test on your guild, your business, your job. Try it on your choice of friends. In this world of information overload, being able to refine your focus to what is most important is critical. When you can angle the magnifying glass just right, you can light a fire!

 

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.