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Officers' Quarters: Mailbox roundup 4 -- raid leaders


Every Monday, Scott Andrews contributes Officers' Quarters, a column about the ins and outs of guild leadership. He is the author of The Guild Leader's Handbook, available now from No Starch Press.

Here at Officers' Quarters, I receive a number of emails every week that don't get featured in the column for various reasons (which I explained the first time I did a roundup). Today it's time to examine two of these shorter -- but no less interesting! -- topics. This roundup's theme is raid leaders.

Bad player = bad raid leader
Scott,

I really don't know if I'm writing just to get this off my chest or to ask for advice ...

We had the same raid leader through several expansions who was very authoritative, decisive, and effective. Then he had to step back due to irl stuff and we were left with a leadership gap. No one really wanted to step up and be raid leader but eventually one of our officers decided to take it over. I'll call him John.

John had a very different leadership style. I'm not sure if it was your column or elsewhere that I once read about the personality differences between a raid leader and guild leader but John has much more of guild leader style. Very much focused on having everyone get along, trying to get everyone to agree with everything, trying to get everyone to like each other ...

When John makes mistakes that contribute to something bad happening, he likes to take whole blame for it. He won't look beyond his own contribution to the fail to find that the tanks failed a switch, a dps pulled aggro, or someone failed to move out of the fire, which is what put them in extreme danger in the first place. When I try to point out that I need him to be more critical than just taking all the blame, two things happen. First, he backtracks and tries to say he's not taking on all the blame, even if he's typed out explicitly that something was "all my fault." Second, he becomes completely demotivated and sullen in Vent, which effects the mood of the raid.
The first effect is frustrating because it's a technique he uses in officer discussions about other raid business as well. He'll say something, seemingly without thinking about it, that is either factually wrong or shows a complete misunderstanding of a mechanic/situation/etc and when called on it, tries to say that wasn't what he meant or that he was joking.

The second effect has caused one of the other officers to ask me not to 'yell at him' until after the raid in the future. This would be a lot easier to do if John wasn't one of our four worst players, judging on pure performance.

Which sort of leaves me in a predicament. I fully respect the fact that he's doing a job no one else (including myself) wants to do. I also fully understand we have wildly different leadership styles and goals (I'm much more task and progress oriented where he's much more community oriented). But it feels like I'm getting close to a position where I'm going to need to sacrifice raid progression for the sake of maintaining a peace which, because of my goals, I'm loathe to do. What can I do here?

--Trying to Win
This is a tough situation, no doubt about it. It sounds like the problem began when the officers allowed someone who isn't a good player to be a raid leader. A raid leader who isn't very good at playing his class and doesn't understand game mechanics is going to fail, end of story.

A raid leader needs to be an expert at his own class and have excellent working knowledge about what everyone else is supposed to be doing or could be doing better. If he doesn't even know what he is supposed to be doing all the time, how on Earth could he possibly know what others are? If he can't improve his own performance, how can he motivate or inspire others to do so?

I imagine that he's taking the blame at least in part because he just doesn't know who else is screwing up. And that alone is a big issue.

Speak privately with the other officers about him. Bring specific examples and incidents to the table to make your case that he needs to be replaced. If you can build a consensus on that, then you can collectively approach him about the possibility. He might actually be relieved to step down.

The trick will be to find a replacement before you take this step. You seem to have a pretty good handle on what's happening in the raid. Have you considered volunteering yourself?

If the other officers want him to continue, however, there isn't much you can do that you haven't already tried at that point. Eventually, you may need to find a new guild if the situation is unacceptable to you.

The substitute

Hey,

I'm a member of a medium-sized guild and a raider of one of the cores. One of our new healers is quite a nice guy, and an experienced one too: he's played WOW way longer than anyone in our core, and he's very competent playing his class. He also has experience as a raid leader, so he offered to step up and lead whenever our raid leader couldn't make it.

Yesterday he led us. Because the original raid leader and two other players would be absent, people were a little unwilling to pug the empty spots when we'd be dealing with a boss we've never killed before. He stepped up and got the raid set up and ready to go -- the only "pug" was one of this friends who he knew to be a competent player. He would -- naturally, as a raid leader should -- point out our mistakes, give advice and generally coordinate the encounter which we all (except for him) had no experience on. And he was a lot less ... well, angry than our original raid leader is, and he never pointed fingers too whenever a wipe happened. I felt weird having a different leader, but I think he did very well and I'd like to see him leading us again -- even though we all love our real dirty-mouthed RL -- in similar situations.

However, two or three players of the core don't think as I did. They accused him of being rude and acting superior, and of being a terrible raid leader. One even went as far as saying he'd never raid again if the new guy would be the one leading. I was, naturally, shocked ... but that was after the raid and they logged out, so I couldn't speak to them. The new guy was also taken aback and whispered me saying he came to me because I was sort of a big sister/voice of reason there and asking if he had done anything wrong, or if I had any idea why the guys had hated him so much. One of the players had already apologized to him and said it had just been hotheadedness because we had wiped so much and not killed the boss and that those things would never leave his lips again, but I still think it was terrible.

It was terrible because the guy did his job very well and people still rejected him. It was terrible because nobody else would step up and lead the raid, which I think they should have done if they thought they could do it better. It was terrible because I really can't believe we might lose another great player and potential friend just because people had their egos stabbed a little.

I made a post about it in the core's forum and I plan to talk to the raid leader later on.

Is there anything that can be done to change this situation, or are we fated to suffer yet another loss in our ranks? Should I approach the raiders and try to ease them or leave that to the raid leader? Really, what is up with those guys and all that alpha-male-ness!?

Thanks,

Worried

It never fails: People both fear and resist change. If you genuinely don't believe your fill-in raid leader did anything to warrant this response, then stick up for him and say so.

The fact that someone already admitted that he or she was out of line is a sign to me that the sub didn't actually do anything wrong. He just did something different, and some of your players didn't like the change in style. To me, they come across as kids who think they can act up because their regular teacher is absent, only to throw a fit when they realize that they can't.

As the email above yours shows, a competent, willing raid leader is an all-too-rare and all-too-essential thing. Don't let anyone give the new guy a hard time unless they have a very good reason to. Consider your guild blessed that you have a substitute at all. (The Light knows what would happen in my own guild if our raid leader were suddenly unable to play.)

If someone is going to leave over something so petty, then so be it. You can't control people's opinions. You have to act in the best interest of the guild as a whole, not cater to a few grumpy individuals.

/salute

Recently, Officers' Quarters has examined how strong new leadership can create a guild turnaround, the pitfalls of promising more than you can deliver, and lessons learned from Scott's own guild demise. Send your own guild-related questions and suggestions to scott@wowinsider.com.

Filed under: Officers' Quarters (Guild Leadership)

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