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.]

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