Some Thoughts on Guild Management

A couple of weeks back, the Guild Master appointed me to an officer role, on what seemed a bit like a whim. “Because you’re helpful” was her reason, and while I couldn’t help being flattered, in practice I only served as a sort of social officer or something. While this guild advertises itself as social / raiding, the guild revolves around the latter, so having a late-night player who only joins a raid for last-attempts-before-calling-it because a healer had to leave early made me the odd one out (the rest of the officer staff being part of the raiding core).

That got resolved two nights ago when the Guild Master rearranged officer ranks and simplified the hierarchy around people she knows and trusts personally (we’ve had some funky events with some other officers in the recent past), concentrating the duties she laid out on four people instead of 10ish. One of the four remaining officers last night thought I’d want an explanation about my demotion, and to take it up with the GM. I didn’t.  I’ll blog about it instead :)

For some reason, I’ve always gravitated towards officer positions in my entire online gaming career no matter the setting – wizard on MUDs in the 90ies, then in two linkshells in FFXI (BTW, while extremely simplistic I still think the very flat hierarchy of Linkshells is actually one of the positive things FFXI did), and every single guild I’ve been part of in WoW. Through all these years I’ve seen most of the different people who end up in such positions, from the serious “public servant” minded person to the slightly less mature teenager who has the power get to his head and starts playing the little dictator.

During the first months of TBC, when I was running my failed experiment at creating a raiding school, identifying and promoting the kind of people I wanted to be part of the management was probably my biggest difficulty (beyond actually not realizing the initial guild’s purpose, but I’ve written about that already). It starts with recruiting powers. You want recruiters to get new members which will mesh with the guild culture, and they will by virtue of not being you have a different take on that  than yourself. In Post Tenebrae, the first people I gave the /ginvite command to initially asked me about every single potential candidate they had talked to, and surprisingly, conveying to some of them that I gave them the role because I trusted in their judgment took some convincing. At the same time, it gave me confidence that I actually made the right choice picking them, because their questions showed that they were able to think about the bigger picture and see the guild as more than just an umbrella with a common chat channel.

It didn’t just help me to quiet down my little interior control freak but also convinced me that I had found, among them, the proper officer material for the then young guild. A couple of weeks later, when one of them approached me to “confess” he actually had been slack with recruiting and felt he didn’t deserve to be a recruiter, I didn’t just keep him in his role, I promoted him to full officer a couple of days later. Why? Because he put the guild’s best interests ahead of his own, and with time, I’ve found that picking those kind of personalities was the best choice for running the guild. Steptoe was cut of the same cloth, and when Post Tenebrae, our raiding school, fizzled out, we moved servers together.

In an officer cadre for a raiding guild, I think making a distinction between technical and social management is important. Raid Leaders, Class Officers, Preform Commanders are technical roles,  but what cements a guild and holds it together are the social roles, and they aren’t necessarily the same people. Based on my relatively short tenure as a GM, I believe these social roles should form the core of a guild’s management and hold the highest ranks.

The ability to visualize the guild as more than the sum of its individual players, and to put its interests and reputation ahead of your own ego are core skills for such people, along with a knack of smoothing things over and taking the pulse of the members. No matter how you do it, there are things the rank and file won’t tell the GM, for a lot of reasons. You need ears to hear their voices for you, and a voice speaking to them on behalf of the whole guild, and ideally, they should be able to be autonomous enough that a GM shouldn’t have to micromanage every single guild concern.

In short, to get back to the change described in my current guild, if I were in the GM’s shoes, any person you have to demote if you reorganize the guild’s management structure who needs long explanation or even makes a fuss about it probably wasn’t what I’d pick as officer material in the first place. A normal member can and does have his own needs and wants, and only the more mature among them will place the guild above themselves (they may be more prone to put the raid above their own needs because it serves their direct interest too). Managing a bigger guild, especially a raiding guild, is often a thankless job, something which gets very tangible the moment the first loot conflict erupts. People who lack the ability to share a guild vision will burn out eventually or worse, generate their own share of drama.

To name a managing officer is to trust them with the responsibility to drive the guild where you want it to be, on your behalf, even in your absence. This obviously also assumes that the GM has a vision about the guild and an understanding of its purpose and objectives beyond being a private chat channel for a couple of buddies. The officers you pick for the guild management duties instead of the technical management duties should be those who do not just share but embrace your vision. And one who raises a fuss when he gets demoted because the management needs the GM has set have changed will demonstrate that the best decision as far as he is concerned was to demote him.

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4 Responses to Some Thoughts on Guild Management

  1. Pike (6 comments) says:

    You know it’s interesting for me; I’ve never been one to be a leader-type or an officer-type in any sort of situation. My boyfriend, however, has this thing where he pretty much has to be in charge. So a lot of the times I sort of become… adopted into leadership positions by nature of relation. He made an internet forum; I became the co-officer. He made a large and successful guild in WoW, currently I’m the highest rank besides Guild Leader.

    Oh I’m not just sitting around in these positions; I have responsibilities that I take seriously. And the boyfriend isn’t stupid, he wouldn’t have put me in these positions if he’d thought I couldn’t handle them. But it is sort of awkward because a.) I didn’t really “earn” the positions like others do and b.) I’m much more of a “follower”. Fortunately for being a “follower” I seem to be doing a decent job as a guild officer.

  2. Adventsparky (84 comments) says:

    “Steptoe was cut of the same cloth, and when Post Tenebrae, our raiding school, fizzled out, we moved servers together.”

    And promptly enough, around Christmas time, he vanished altogether, never to be seen again for a couple of weeks.

    Will be back soon I hope m8, Don’t forget me :P

  3. Gwaendar (217 comments) says:

    OMG! The warlock lives!

  4. Galoheart (46 comments) says:

    I could say a good degree of my life gave have being spend in leadership position to some degree though the most important years of it was during the 8 years I spent in the military (Navy) due to my rank which I earned myself as a result was given some degree of leadership though a lot of it is management I would say. I know I have a lot of leadership and management skills but I would say in WoW I don’t go out of my way to express them much even sometimes when I can I don’t.

    I would say the only time I ever usually express much of those ability is when I’m tanking for obvious reasons being tactical. I don’t really have much of a interest in being a guild officer at least I wouldn’t care much to want the position though I know if given can be good and diplomatic at it with level headness. A bit of the reluctant leader.