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Officers' Quarters: Regime change

A blood elf becomes a goblin
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 from No Starch Press.

In sports, I think one of the most difficult tasks of all is taking over for a superstar at a key position -- the backup goalie who gets called upon when the starting goalie is injured, or the relief pitcher who steps onto the mound with a lead.

In WoW, one of the most difficult leadership tasks is to take over a guild from a trusted former guild leader. The talents and contributions of your predecessor are on everyone's minds. Expectations will be high, and if you fail, you'll be letting your friends down. You could destroy a community that's an important part of people's lives. The pressure is enormous.

This week, a brand new guild leader asks for advice.

Hello,

I've recently been promoted to Guild Master of a very large social guild after being an officer for over a year.

As you know, although the change-over is friendly and I'm trying hard to make it as smooth as possible, there's quite a bit of work that's going into it.

Keeping an eye to preserving the atmosphere and focus of the guild, I've made some slight tweaks to help streamline areas we've been having problems with lately, like bank maintenance.

I make sure to involve the officers in the decision process.

We do not run current raids, nor do we PVP. Luckily, drama is a rarity.

My question is this: What pitfalls should I watch out for in this transitional phase?

Also, any tips on running a large guild would be appreciated.


Congrats on the promotion! It probably doesn't feel like much of a reward, with all the extra responsibility and whatnot, but take some satisfaction in the fact that your guild trusts you to do a good job and keep a level head.

First tasks

My advice is to evaluate all of the guild's policies and make sure that they all still make sense for the current state of WoW. Some longstanding rules can become irrelevant, nonsensical, or even harmful over time. If you're going to make any changes, you might as well do it now -- with the approval of the other officers, of course.

Doing so has the added benefit of putting your own stamp on the organization to let everyone know that you're trying to make improvements over the old regime. It sounds like you've already done that in some areas, so you're ahead of the game. However, don't change the rules just because you can. That's not what real leadership is about.

It's also appropriate to make a "speech," usually in the form of a forum post. Let people know what your goals are for the guild moving forward and how you plan to achieve them. Tell people who might be newer to the guild a little about yourself and your MMO background so that they can get a bit more comfortable with you running the show. Make it clear that you're open to suggestions from any member about how to improve the guild.

First weeks

The first few weeks after the transition can be a tough time. People will say, "Well, the old guild leader did X or Y" and expect that you will do the same. Don't fall for this trap. Heck, they may even be lying about it, like trying to trick the substitute teacher.

It's your guild now. In order to preserve your own sanity in the face of this daunting task, you need to do things the way that works best for you.

That's partly why it's so important to be available to your members to answer any questions they might have, so they can understand where you're coming from. While you're at it, talk to people about improvements they'd like to see. Even if the suggestion is crazy, hear them out. You might not be able to implement their suggestions, but simply listening can do wonders.

Long-term concerns

Don't let the new position alienate you from the guild. Run heroics, joke around like you normally would. In other words, take opportunities to remind people that you're the same person.

As far as running a large social guild like yours, one of the more difficult aspects in my experience is regulating guild chat. With so many personalities involved, there's almost always going to be a member who rubs another member the wrong way (and I'm not talking about what happens at the Goldshire Inn).

Make sure you have specific policies about what is and isn't OK to say in guild chat. Swearing, inappropriate humor, sexual discussions, and political/religious topics can all be hot-button issues. With written policies in place, you'll have enforceable guidelines to crack down on language or subjects of conversation that could cause unhappiness. It never fails to amaze me how what people are saying in that channel can have a huge negative effect on someone's play experience.

The other big issue is recruitment standards. Because your guild doesn't specifically raid or PvP, the criteria for membership can be a bit vague. For this reason, some real jerks can find their way onto large social rosters. Don't be afraid to give them a final warning and then kick them if they're consistently causing problems. Enforcing firmer standards, such as age requirements or a recommendation from one or two existing members, can prevent many of these situations.

Finally, my advice is to enjoy yourself. Try not to think of it as a job. It's hard sometimes to get past that feeling. Try to think of it as a volunteer position that makes people you care about happy. By extension, it can make you happy, too -- but only if you let it!

/salute

Officers' Quarters keeps your guild leadership on track to cope with sticky situations such as members turned poachers or the return of an ex-guild leader and looking forward to what guilds need in Mists of Pandaria. Send your own guild-related questions and suggestions to scott@wowinsider.com.

Filed under: Officers' Quarters (Guild Leadership)

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