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One of the most difficult tasks any raid leader is going to face will be one of communication. Communication is a complex, ugly issue. It can be one of your strongest assets, but it can equally be your biggest downfall. This is because communication operates on two levels.
First, there's the obvious data-based communication. Things like "The next boss is named Anub'arak" are data-based. It's fact, unassailable, and fairly meaningful. Almost everyone's going to agree with quantifiable information. You're not going to round the corner of the instance, and find something that's not Anub'arak.
Second, however, is "shadow" communication. This is a level of communication that can be a great deal more complicated. In the absence of quantifiable information, the recipient will "read into" your words a whole series of meanings and concepts that you may not have intended. For example, "This next boss is Anub'arak, so you should get ready" can be interpreted as "Get ready because we're going right now" or "get ready by reading up on the boss strategies." Now, that's a fairly hyperbolized example, but it's a true one none-the-less. We've all had experience with "I didn't mean it like that" in our lives.
One of the oldest business cliches is that "Workers don't leave companies, they leave supervisors." While a raid leader isn't a supervisor in the same way as a business manager, some of the viable tips from the corporate world can still apply to raiding life. Let's take a look after the jump at some simple tips to enhance communication.
In the context of this post, I'm not necessarily talking about "on the spot" communication, but the overall level of trust and engagement between your raid leader and your raiders. This kind of meaningful communication will enhance your raid's trust and cohesion, and should hopefully prove for a longer, more successful raid team.
1. Pay attention to what your raiders tell you.
Sure, it seems like a simple thing to understand when a team member says, "I hate waiting around to find out if we have enough people to raid." That's a fairly simple statement at the surface.
But if your raiders are saying that more than a few times in a row, then you could be facing a more serious problem. Not only is their statement true, but the repetition of that kind of complaint implies "I hate waiting around and I'm not going to do it much longer."
Be honest when you listen to your raiders. It's easy to alt+tab and surf the web when they're talking to you, but resist that urge. Be present and real in the conversation, and actually try and engage in what the raider is telling you.
2. Make time for each person in your group.
It can be one hell of a task trying to talk to every active raider in your raid group. Some simple napkin-math says that if you talk to 24 raiders for 10 minutes a week, you're looking at a 4 hour commitment in raw communication. But, if you consider the standpoint that your raiders are also spending their valuable time and effort on the raid (maybe just as much as you), then 10 minutes a week doesn't seem unreasonable.
While you'll probably have to find a middle ground, taking time to communicate one-on-one with each of your raid members is going to be key to their longevity with your raiding effort. It stresses to them that you value their opinion and time, while allowing you the opportunity to satisfy the first tip: paying attention to what they say.
3. Ask engaging, maybe painful questions.
Few raid leaders want to ask "Where are my biggest failures in the raid as a leader, in your opinion?" It's a pretty harsh pill to swallow if a raid member opens up and tells you where they think your weaknesses are. But, still, you're getting two things out of doing so.
Again, just like we said in #2, this communicates to the raider that you value their opinion and knowledge. They're trusting you with their time and energy, so it seems fair to ask them whether they're seeing a return on that investment. It also channels purposeful, meaningful feedback to you without having ugliness crop up in the middle of a raid.
The other thing you'll get is another perspective. It's not only possible, but downright probable, that your raid's going to have perceptions and opinions different from your own. And while the raid decisions are usually up to the raid leader, having another approach to each problem will provide you more tools and better data to find your solutions.
4. When you make decisions, communicate in a predictable way.
Nothing frustrates team members more than finding out about decisions from an unexpected source. If you usually communicate decisions on an internet forum, it's bad form to announce the information on Ventrilo one night and leave it at that. You need to be consistent every time, to reinforce what channels of communication you're going to use.
If you announce raid lineups at the same time every week, your raid members will know that is the day to check the forums. This also provides you the opportunity to include other information at the same time, insuring your raiders will actually encounter it.
5. Be consistent about your message, goals, and values.
If you've been saying for two weeks that you're going to use DKP for a loot system, but spend hours chatting about how a loot reel would be pretty cool, you are guaranteed to confuse some of your raid members.
Sure, it seems somewhat restrictive to think that you have to monitor what you're saying even during "off times." But you don't stop being the raid leader just because you're not actively raiding. Your raid members will continue to look to you for information and guidance. Be aware that your communication will always be received, if your raiders are capable of seeing it.
6. Avoid surprises
This is somewhat on the tertiary side of communications, since expectations and surprises can be considered a leadership issue as much as a communication issue. Still, the idea that you should avoid "surprising" your raid members is a huge part of the "shadow" communication I was talking about before.
Not only are surprises bad for morale (and thus an instant failure to meet any existing expectation), they create a situation by which raiders have to figure out why the surprise happened.
Have you spontaneously changed loot rules? In the absence of contrary information, your raiders will wonder if maybe someone complained loudly enough that you capitulated. Or, they might wonder if there's a statistical reason you changed your loot system, maybe to benefit yourself.
Have you suddenly changed which instance you're going to do? Your raiders will speculate that maybe someone wasn't pulling their own weight. They'll wonder if you lack the faith to go further in content. Or, even worse, they might think you're "bored" with them, and might panic that you'll leave for greener pastures.
Avoiding surprises means you never have to mitigate the stories people make up for themselves.
Communication is pretty significant to any group. As you build your raid group and try to extend its longevity, keeping these communication tips should help you get a better, strong place. Good hunting out there.
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