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Officers' Quarters: Formal invitations

a wedding invitation
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.
To the esteemed druid Shapez:

The Guild of Heroes formally requests the honor of your presence to attend our martial gathering, to be commenced on the evening of October twenty-fourth, in the year of our lord two thousand eleven, for the purposes of assailing that fiendish realm the Firelands, forthwith to slaughter its inhabitants most precipitously and attire ourselves in the abundance of their worldly treasures. The horn heralding our advance shall be sounded precisely at seven o'clock.

Your humble servant and friend in all things,

Orcman
For casual raiding guilds, attendance can often be a huge struggle. The handful of players who seem to show up (or not) on a whim are the bane of their officers' existence. The example above is of course exaggeration, but you do begin to feel that you should send your players written invitations on fancy stationery. This week's email is from a guild leader who seems to be running an entire guild of such people, and he's looking for answers.
I have been the leader of a small, casual, friends-and-family guild for over three years. We have seen good times and bad together, including a LK kill before the end of Wrath. Cataclysm, however, just isn't working out. At any given time our roster is experiencing a great deal of churn, and despite the fact that several of our core members are rock solid, I just can't put a raid together any more. We customize the schedule, confirm it, re-confirm it and still have people not show up. Recruiting is a bit tough due to the atmosphere of the guild. If you're not casual enough to enjoy raiding with three generations of the same family, you probably won't stay, and that's okay. We usually wind up picking up entire clans, for at least a little while, but these affiliations just don't seem to be strong enough to keep the guild running.

I've read your book, and we've adapted a lot of our practices around your advice. Unfortunately, it hasn't been enough. A week ago we lacked enough players to field our regularly scheduled progression raid, even though I had confirmed we were raiding only the day prior. I was angry enough to hang it all up right then and there. I decided I'd give it a week, try harder on the organization and make sure to express how important it was that everyone be on time, etc. Same result this week.

I suspect that because my guild members know that I'll never actually remove them from participating -- because, after all they're all someone's family -- they just don't have any reason to uphold their agreements.
The saddest part is that when we're on, we're successful. We're level 25, progressing through the raid content on schedule, etc. It feels like a lot to throw away.

On a final note it should be said that the guild will do nothing if I'm not there. Even when I schedule in advance my absence, nominate another raid leader in my place, and inform everyone of the differences, the guild does nothing when I'm not leading it. I cannot so much as take a weekend away without harming my guildmates, and am absolutely sure that my exiting or even taking a break will lead to the collapse of the guild. Many will wind up stranded, having never had to earn their spot in a guild before. I have serious issues about causing so much grief to earn a little personal comfort, but still I feel powerless to change any of it.

I come seeking absolution, direction, hope - anything.

Thanks,

Bob
Hi, Bob. I'm pretty sure I can offer you two of those three. As for absolution, I don't play a priest, so I'm not really in that line of work.

It sounds like you have two main issues: attendance and dependence. By dependence, I mean that your guild depends on you and solely you to get anything done. That's not an acceptable situation for any guild leader. But it's tied to the attendance issue. People don't show up, and they particularly don't show up when you're not around.

So it stands to reason that by solving the attendance issue you could solve both issues.

Raiding takes commitment

A raid is like any other team: You can't play if people don't show up. Your players are taking advantage of your generosity -- and their status as family and friends -- to raid when and only when they want to.

If they have a legitimate excuse that prevents them from making it when they've said they would, that's one thing. Otherwise, it's just sheer selfishness, and you're only indulging that by letting them come and go as they please. You have to put your foot down and impress on them that raiding can't be a free-for-all.

First, I recommend implementing a calendar sign-up system. For each raid, put it up on an online calendar, either using the game's own, a shared Google calendar, or add one to your guild's website (which is a sneaky way to get people to read the forums, too). Ask people who intend to raid that night to sign up for it. If you don't have enough sign-ups by the day before, cancel the run.

When someone signs up and doesn't show up, don't let it slide. Ask them about it the next time you see them online. If they have a valid excuse, ask them to notify you or another raider next time that they won't be able to make it. If they don't, well, emphasize that nine or 24 other people were depending on them.

After a few such conversations, hopefully it will sink in that what you're looking for is just a little bit of communication and accountability when it comes to raid attendance.

Prioritize the reliable

Taking it a step farther, you could set up a raider rank within the guild and explain that only those who commit to a certain attendance percentage (say, 80% or so) can possess that rank. Give the players who make and maintain that commitment priority for raid slots over those who haven't.

That way, those who are in and out with raiding can still fill in when they can and when you have room for them, but they can't take slots away from your committed players. You'll have to track attendance, but that's easily done with a simple spreadsheet.

Be sure to impress on them that just because you won't be there doesn't mean it's a night off! All it will take is one successful raid night without you to show them that yes, they can play WoW when you're not online.

Other measures

If that fails, all is not lost. What else can you do? The obvious thing is to recruit. Go out and find the people who want to be there on scheduled nights. Recruiting is another issue altogether, but that's one definitive way to solve attendance (and even attitude) problems.

Another method is to tie loot to attendance. You could do this either through a system like DKP (with point decay) where attendance is naturally rewarded, or you could give a bonus to rolling to your raider-ranked players. In the business world, they call that incentivizing, and it works just as well for raids.

Having a few officers around that put in the same or similar effort that you do could also help to break the perception that you're the only one who can lead. Even in the smallest guild, it helps to have more than one person with leadership responsibilities. The trick is convincing people that you need help. Start by asking for assistance with one or two particular duties and work your way up from there. When the time feels right, offer to promote the people helping you to an officer rank.

A new direction

As an alternative, you could take things in another directly entirely using patch 4.3's Raid Finder. By using that system, you could bring whomever wants to show up on a given night, queue as a group for the raid, and run with some other players. Heck, you might even wind up finding some people to recruit this way.

The best part is, the Finder doesn't lock you to a raid, so everyone in your guild can raid as often or as little as they want to. The system will even let you designate yourself as a raid leader, if you want to deal with the hassle. You'll have a better chance of recruiting as the raid leader than you would otherwise, but admittedly leading a PUG through raid content doesn't sound all that appealing. Still, it's one way to go.

If all that fails, and you can't take the pressure any more, then step down or just take a break from the game. Sure, there may be some dire consequences if you do, but that's not a reason to torture yourself. Your guildmates have been mooching off your effort, in one form or another, for years now. At some point they'll have to learn to fend for themselves.

/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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