Thursday, 18 June 2009

Directorships Work

This chapter will focus on why guilds lead by cliques and councils are destined to fail.

Do you know that the mental illness schizophrenia occurs in one out of a hundred people? Wherever you go in the world, the median will be approximately the same. Evolutionary psychopathologists reason that, back when we were still living in tribes, the ideal group size would be around one hundred people and there would be typically one individual with schizophrenic-like symptoms. For example, he or she would hear voices from an unseen deity, or claim to have battled demons that everyone else has failed to spot. Therefore, this 'special' person would be naturally promoted to leadership status to command the group. Nowadays, taking orders from such a nutter seems to be the completely wrong idea, but we can borrow some of these elements and apply it to our own guild-leading strategies. After all, this was a very effective group model that allowed our species to survive for millions of years, so why can't we use it today?

Just like being on Ventrillo, eh?

I understand that you're (probably) not schizophrenic. Supposing that you charged around Dalaran proclaiming that you'd been hearing voices from God/Ra/The Smoke Monster/Yogg-Saron, I'd assume that you were crazy and you'd never gain my respect. As we all know, the one who attempts to act the most in control via extreme measures is the guy who is the least in command. Insisting that you're the avatar for some divine being (which would have worked in tribal times) will just be condemned as insane on a videogame. Instead, you must become a god. Everyone has more respect for the guy who is well-geared and possesses a number of impressive achievements than one in bad equips and no titles. I've covered the importance of personal character development in other chapters, but it is key when leading a guild on your own. You may have more wit and ambition than the next guild master, but people are more likely to believe you if you have proof. True schizophrenics really do believe the demented stuff that is apparently happening to them is absolutely real, and you must approach managing your guild with a similar amount of conviction and commitment – even if you have to go 'prove' your divinity through fairly useless trinkets.

Leading a guild by yourself can seem like a very intimidating prospect. Still, if you have followed my tips so far, then life will have already been made easier for you. I'm not suggesting you install a dictatorship, either. Your members should follow your lead due to them having a large amount of respect for you, not because you're forcing them to. This is not the army, nor is your guild supposed to be a beacon of discipline on an otherwise chaotic server. You are a group of people that have come together for a common purpose. While members will tolerate a lot in order to get their hands on epics, everyone has their limits. Bossing people around due to your leadership status alone and making up flimsy, idiotic rules to boost your own ego is a sure way to be branded as an arsehole. For guilds that don't even have the tantalising treat of good gear to wave in the faces of their members, keeping them in line will seem like a huge task. However, if you've read the other posts on this blog, then sustaining membership shouldn't be a problem.

So, why go it alone? I'm not saying that you should totally wander off and do your own thing completely and treat everyone in ranks below as scum. I actually highly recommend that you have an array of officers willing to support you but at the end of the day, it is you who takes the responsibility for the well-being of your guildies. In council-based leadership systems, every decision takes time and must be approved by the majority. Even then the final result may be ridiculous, and not appropriate to the circumstances or context of the incident that initiated the decision-making process. A guild lead by a tightly-knit group can be more corrupt than one run by a single player. A hard-lining, lone trooper who is abusing his authority will quickly lose power and either be overthrown by his sub-ordinates, or will inadvertently make them all quit. A group of such disliked characters will have an easier time staying in power, due to their ability to collectively pressure people into doing things their way. No one wants to be in that sort of situation. Ruling by committee is ineffective and promotes an elitist circle, whereas ruling alone allows for flexibility and openness between everyone.

Er... I'm not sure if this is proving my point or going against it.

The main problem with leading a guild as a council is the diffusion of responsibility that comes with more people accepting a powerful role. Initially, this may seem to be beneficial, especially when managing a large guild. Simultaneously, the lack of a single spokesperson to take the blame when something goes wrong (or credit when something goes right) is idiotic. Unless the people you are leading your guild with are all very mature, competent and sane without having outrageously large egos, then when something does go wrong, people will begin to point the finger at each other. This ranges from when an incident occurs during a raid, to when you can't even get a group together in the first place. Drama breaks out and before you know it, one of the council has left the guild. Alternatively, they take 'executive action' to enforce their own demands, resulting in them becoming the true leader and highlighting how stupid the whole council idea was to begin with. Unfortunately, the organisation is used to a more 'democratic' approach to leadership, and despite the new model being far more efficient, members tend to leave in their droves due to the unexpected change.

The other issue is that no one answers to anyone else. You're basically giving up all your power to six or seven people who may not work together very well at all. 'Shush!' I hear you scream, 'they're all working for the good of the guild!'. Yes, they are. The whole concept of a guild is abstract, though. For instance, say you're in a raiding guild. Now, are you simply there to gain purple items? Is raiding with like-minded people a way for you to socialise easier? Which is more important? What you interpret as the overall, final goal for the guild may be completely different to someone else's perception, especially if you don't have a firm cause outlined to begin with. This usually wouldn't be a problem if there's only one person in charge; they shape the direction of the guild how they wish. Now imagine a tonne of people insisting that their frame of mind is the best for the guild. A lot of the ideas will overlap, but essentially a lot of the time differences will occur when it comes to reaching goals. You want to get your hands on some pretty good gear? One council member may suggest raiding five nights a week, but another may only insist on one. Compromise is essential here, but given the average size of a player's ego, it is likely that reaching an agreement that truly satisfies everyone will be impossible.

Is your current management model as useless as this kid? If so, its time to change!

Be aware that a one-leader policy will never please everyone, either. Still, by actively asking for suggestions from time to time (preferably taking the pre-emptive before your guild becomes dissatisfied) you can still appease the people while exercising your own influence. People will still leave when they realise that they don't want the same things the rest of the guild do from the game, but it is up to your recruitment system to make your intentions clear from the get-go. Taking polite suggestions from subordinates is a lot easier than outright declining the idea of an equal (as what would happen in a council situation) and a lot less harmful to their ego.

Despite the presence of the tips above, I've still seen the single-person leader system being abused. Raid guilds are certainly guilty of this. There are thousands of guilds out there that follow the above guidelines to the letter, but are seen renown for elitism. Why is this? Surely if you have the gear, a powerful cause and a fair and just leader, then you're set to go? But even when a guild is well-established you must stay focused. It is easy to slip into Stalinism, especially if you lose the respect of your followers (by getting too close to them, letting them overtake you with gear, etc.). You must be at the top of your game because lashing out at members who rise above their position will only make you look weaker. A lot of raid guilds believe that gear is equatable to status so highly that they go as far as to make 'officers have priority over loot' rules. Certainly the higher ranks will look better, but at a cost to them being just. In this example, respect for the leader moulds itself into another form. Not fear (which comes with making ridiculous rules and trying to enforce all of them), but members will simply become bitter and begin to loathe the leader.

To help avoid your guild turning into a fascist state, I've devised these three guidelines:
  1. Don't be a dick.

If you're a twat and simply too rude to your members, then they will outright /gquit without warning. You should not be bothered by the occasional random /gquitter, but when they start leaving in their droves, then consider your own tact to be the cause. An intimidating guild leader is an unapproachable one, and even if there's something in your guild that is causing people to leave other than your own character (say, the activities of another or a whispering campaign), no one will want to speak to you about it if you're an arsehole. Work on respect, rather than getting them to fear you.

  1. Keep rules simple.

Assuming you have any special rules at all. Ideally, terms and conditions should be never placed on a website or guild information tab. You should be recruiting people that naturally fit to your manifesto and have each new member undergo a simple screening test before joining. If you're recruiting on a large scale, then just ask people if they're active, and tell them personally, upon signing up, that you expect them to be social in guild chat. Even if you aim to attract very specific, skilled players, you should still aim not to over-complicate things. Supposing these players are really as skilled and mature as their application makes out, then surely they shouldn't need to be explicitly told not to spam public channels, and to keep swearing to a minimum, etc.. It should go without saying. When you find yourself kicking a lot of people, due to them breaking a lot of rules, then you're either recruiting the wrong sort of player, or you have too many pedantic rules.

  1. Set aside time to manage all aspects of your guild.

When you don't have the time to thoroughly run your guild, then I recommend simply joining another and naturally climbing their rankings. However, you should be secure enough in your position of power to maintain control even if you only spend an hour a day online. In the situation that you can only get in-game for a short time every day, have your officers send you a report on the main activities that have taken place (if any) and check your logs (both the guild one, accessed through the 'Guild Information' from the main guild list, and the bank).

Check your logs! Wait, what?

I'm not saying that you should have to run a guild all by yourself. I will argue, however, that officers should merely enforce your will, not create one of their own to challenge your power. This is why you must promote your very best and most trusted friends into high ranks. They must be totally loyal to your cause and methods. Say you promote someone to a high position who comes equipped with a hidden agenda, you can guarantee that the guild will spiral into madness at some point or another. By the time you start your guild, you should have already thought of a strong purpose, and set of rules that everyone can abide by. Assuming these are solid, then you should rarely have to consult a fellow player for advice, or ask for help. Remember that guilds run by councils are not democracies at all, but rather just collections of self-elected individuals who are too insecure and incompetent to rule alone.

To summarise:

  • Leading a guild by yourself is a daunting task, but can be extremely efficient when compared to the alternatives.

  • Be committed to your vision and get others to associate your personal success at gaining titles with that of the guild's future.

  • People should respect you, not fear you.

  • Let officers have their say, but do not be afraid to give them a slap on the wrist, should they pursue too much power.

  • Don't be a dick.

  • Keep rules simple.

  • Time manage.

  • Officers should always do your bidding, not their own. Giving someone so much power also naturally grants them a level of freedom. Make sure they don't take advantage of that.

  • Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Share it with your officers, but make sure you're still the one calling the shots.

[Here be da credit for da images, mon. Here. 'Ere. 'Ere. 'Ere. 'Ere. 'Ere.]

Saturday, 6 June 2009


You are not a rock star.

Until your guild is the best in the world, you have no right to act like you are God's gift to WoW or whatever MMO you choose to play. In fact, if it was the best in the world, you would have certainly realised that there are better things to worry about than how big everyone thinks your e-penis is. Having an ego made of glass is not productive. Neither can you start crying when your guild doesn't follow you to the ends of the Earth/Azeroth/New Eden simply because you demanded them to. Believing that people should respect you without giving them a real reason to first is selfish, unrealistic and immature. Displaying such characteristics will only attract idiots to your guild. No one wants that.

There will be a time when you can snap your fingers and your entire online member-base will come running. Expecting such behaviour off the bat, however, is foolish. Dealing with people online is a lot different to managing them in the real world. There's a reason why popular retail brands have terrible conversion rates when it comes to Internet sales. There's a reason why Downing Street ban people from making comments on all their videos on YouTube. People are not harder to deal with online, but definitely different. On our planet, people are motivated by factors such as money and self-gain. Companies keep their employees in-check by providing these elements, in return for productivity. What are you offering people if not money? Initially, nothing. With nothing to restrain people, they go crazy. Consumers won't buy from brands online if they're less expensive in the shops and self-proclaimed political pundits will take full advantage of anonymity and will say exactly what they feel about the government, so long as they don't show their face or real name.

Would you be able to get half a million signatures from people off the street? No, because the everyman in real life is a coward, or would simply think you're nuts. Online, however...

There's a point to all this. You can't simply pay people gold in order to get their loyalty. Believe me; I've tried. Even relying on epic gear to keep players in the guild will not be enough sometimes. What happens when summer hits, and people start to go on holiday? If you have no other hold over them, then the people who stay around to play will look elsewhere for raiding fulfilment. By the time the rest of the guild returns from sunning themselves in different parts of the world, there won't be enough members left to continue raiding. Well-run guilds take measures to negate such downturn, like recruiting excessively before summer, or officially declaring raiding over until September. However, at the end of the day, you're going to have to use innovative techniques to get people to stick by you. Being in a guild is never perfect for one hundred percent of the time. It's part of your job to keep people by your side, even when things are looking shitty. This is an art.

It starts with being professional. A lot of people say that you shouldn't treat leading a guild like a job, and be as casual as you want with members. I'm not saying act like an emotionless psychopath. You'll find that I recommend communicating and bonding with your guild on a very regular basis. Simultaneously, you must work hard to remain aloof from any drama that may personally affect you. Getting involved with things on a private level just so you can satisfy your bleeding heart doesn't help anything. If you're angsty, go make a blog or listen to My Chemical Romance. Lashing out just because someone has attacked you or one of your friends will do nothing but worsen your own reputation. When people start seeing you as a crazy megalomaniac who will do anything to protect his or her ego, you're screwed.

I'll apply this to a specific example: About a year ago I was leading a rather successful WoW guild on Defias Brotherhood, EU. In the space of a month we'd accumulated over one hundred and fifty members and had really some good vibes going on. One day, one of the founders decided to quit, with her last words in the chat being, 'I don't think much to this guild TBH'. Then she left, for no apparent reason. This particular female never really said anything much and only turned up to the occasional raid. All the same, when she bailed so abruptly with such a vague explanation it made me angry. 'Why!? Why!?' I'd ask. 'Why did you just leave!? If you don't explain yourself, then we can't find out what's wrong with the guild!' She ignored me and I never got to the bottom of why she quit. It infuriated me, though.

Arguments can occur over anything and everything at any time. Stay cool and keep indifferent.

As a result, I came off as an incompetent, out-of-control arsehole and made my guild look bad as a result. I shouldn't have cared that much, but I did and my clinginess led to me being silly. I'm not saying never care when someone quits, but if you don't get a response, then it doesn't matter. Always opt to cut your losses and save face over pursuing a pointless line of enquiry. Frequent open discussions with your guild should highlight any issues your members have. Running after members who have just quit is not going to get you any answers, which means trying to talk things through with them only spawns confusion and frustration.

The key thing to all this is staying laid back. Do not care about petty incidents. As Erik Von Markovik says in The Mystery Method, 'keep telling yourself that it doesn't matter. Soon enough, you'll start believing that nothing is ever 'a big deal''. Whilst TMM deals with picking up women, some of the content covers coping with rejection, too. Managing such behaviour is a key trait of staying in control, as you'll find yourself facing situations revolving around different types of rejection daily. Just tell yourself that it's not a big deal, and it won't be.

This is Mystery. He may look a bit weird, but fits a typical 'guild leader' archetype. Not only is he highly successful with women, but is also able to command legions of men, too. He has a calm, laid back personality which subtly requests respect, rather than demand it without earning first.

Professionalism is a form of damage control. If someone pisses you off, the last thing to do is act like an amateur and react negatively. Cool off, admit that something has gone wrong, and move on. Getting hung up on insignificant people is never the right way to go about things. If someone is pissing you off in your guild, then kick them. Offer a brief explanation before or after you boot them out if you wish, but stay calm. I'm all for people letting their own personality shine through, but if you're a hot-headed moron who accuses everyone else of being wrong and blows your top every time someone says something against you, then guild leading is not, and will never be, your forte. We all have our bad days sometimes, but that should never lead you to taking out your anger on others at the slightest provocation. A good leader knows when to go outside and get some perspective, and when to sit down to do their duty.

Staying cool and dealing with drama will allow you to disarm any situation. Ideally you don't want to kick everyone who starts causing trouble, but you really shouldn't be recruiting such immature idiots anyway. Performing in such a way will not necessarily guarantee that people will fall in love with your guild, but it will certainly buy you some respect and encourage them to act in a similar way. In later chapters, I'll discuss how you can get people to come to you with their problems before they even consider leaving, but for now keeping a clear head and an ego that actually reflects your position in the world will help massively.

If this strange clan can hold together in Dalaran's Underbelly, so can your guild. Just take it easy and keep to the right mindset.

This is all about setting an example. Having a positive-yet-realist attitude will allow others to follow suit. Keeping your nose clean and your allies happy will encourage your members to reprise such sentiments. On the flip side, don't go cybering in Goldshire or lashing out at random guildies. Not only is being caught out on such occasions embarrassing to you, but you're also giving your members permission to do similar things that could be harmful to your guild's reputation.

To summarise:
  • Rise above petty people.

  • Don't act like you're the leader of Ensidia; you're probably not and your guild is most likely still wiping in Naxx. It's fine to have ambition, but that doesn't mean you should act like a dick.

  • Don't act like you're a fifteen year-old who hasn't got more pressing issues in his life than crying over people who insult him online.

  • Know how to stay in control of your own emotions. When you're easily angered, it's difficult to diffuse other people's anger.

  • Respect for you is going to be one of the key motivators for people to stay in your guild for the long haul. Managing member affairs successfully is a great way for you to gain respect.

  • Set a good example.

[Image credit goes purely to myself and Wikipedia today!]