Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A lesson in guild gardening

A little while ago I attended a seminar about leadership, where a CEO was sharing his experiences from his career. He didn’t present any extraordinary new ideas; he rather talked about common sense. But there was something in it that appealed to me. Maybe it was the humble appearance he did, not quite what you expected from the young executive manager of one of the largest online gambling companies in Europe.

The funny thing was that throughout his lecture I couldn’t stop applying his ideas to guild management. (I guess I’ve really played too much WoW.)

Above all I liked the way compared leadership to being a gardener. I think it fits exactly with the role of a GM. So I thought I’d share a few of his lines with my own added WoW-related comments.

1.You are the sun! Good leaders give out energy.
Applied to WoW:
Of course a GM can’t and couldn’t be the only source of energy in a guild. After all it’s a team work. But in times of struggle and despair you can’t deny that the courage and persistence of the leader is important for the outcome. You need to be able to shine. And if you can’t anymore, if you’re burned out or sick and tired with it all – then you should move aside and let someone else shine.

2. You must like flowers! You must want the flowers to grow and give them water regularly.

Applied to WoW:
If you’re going to succeed as a leader in the game, it isn’t enough to master your class, the game mechanisms or the boss strategies. You must have a solid interest and curiosity about other people. You must enjoy seeing – and even helping them to grow and progress – in knowledge, maturity or gearwise. You should find it just is good – or even better – as if you were doing the progress yourself.

3. You should be willing to take out the weed, to protect the good flowers from the bad one.

Applied to WoW:
This is the not-so-pleasant side of being a guild gardener. You need to take out some weed from time to time. People like you and me who aren’t leaders can afford to be nice to everyone and avoid unpleasant events as they turn up. But being a leader you can’t always go the easy way. In the end it’s your bloody duty to take some pretty uncomfortable decisions or you’ll ruin the whole garden. I’ve seen those decisions a couple of times in my own guild – when new players for some reason haven’t passed their trial, and been denied membership. Or when an underperforming player has been removed from a raid. At those occasions I’m so glad I’m not the one who’s supposed to hand over the news. Potential conflicts are another kind of weed. It needs to be dealt with and sorted out before it spreads and take over the garden. As a gardener you haven’t got to personally sort those things out but you have to make sure some does it.

4. You must do it every day, over and over again. If you turn your back at the garden and don’t give it attention the flowers will soon dry and die.

Applied to WoW:
I think a GM needs to be present and take part of the everyday life of the guild. There’s no way around it. I don’t say that I expect a GM to play constantly – but you really need to be present regularly, playing at peek hours, taking part in guild chat, instance runs, pvp and other activities that the members are into. Of course it happens that a GM needs to be away from the game for a week or so when real life interferes. And that can be dealt with, provided that you have a solid back-up system and some active officers with good judgement and authority to deal with whatever comes up. But in the long run a GM needs to visit his garden almost every day. Weed can grow amazingly quickly. And the flowers need their dose of sunshine and water to thrive. Many of the problems I’ve seen in guilds have originally emanated from a not-so-present guild master.

A few words to the gardeners
The workload for a GM certainly is heavy. You’re expected to let the sun shine, to love and water the flowers, to take out the weeds and to tend to the garden every day. How do you prevent a burnout?

I think you need to ensure that the gardener gets sun and water as well. See to that you have people around you who can help you to refill your mana pool so that you won’t run dry. Have officers help you to deal with the weeds. And listen if they tell you that you’ve spent too much time in the garden and rather should go out for a walk. Your gardening style must be sustainable; you can’t tend to a garden in small outbursts and then grow tired. If you one day realize that you’re sick and tired at the thought of flowers and gardens – don’t clinch to your position. It won’t work in the long run. Go find another gardener.

Finally: to all of you guild gardeners out there: don’t forget that you’re just as important to the game as any Blizzard developer. Managing a guild and organizing guild events is so challenging that it’s a miracle that it works at all. You make it happen. Every day. From the deep of my heart, on behalf of all the flowers, I just want to say: Thank You.


David said...

I've been through many guilds on my many alts. As a member of a guild, apart from having the GL online and active, what keeps me 'watered' is:

1. A relevant GMOTD that is interesting or helpful.

2. An ingame mail from the GL or some chatting about what he/she wants from me as a guild member, maybe once a month, or less if we chat regularly.

3. An easy system to ask for something from the guildbank (if permissions are restricted).

4. A stable roster. Nothing makes me want to leave a guild more than seeing people joining and quitting frequently (sometimes the same people repeatedly), or the GL and officers using gkick as a joke or 'warning', then reinviting. Seeing this kind of activity shows me guild membership is not important to these people at all.

Anonymous said...

Larisa, this is just the post I needed after the weekend I had. I hope you don't mind if I post this on my officer's forums so that some of my co-gardeners can feel the ray of sunshine you provided me today.

Much <3

Larísa said...

@David: very valid points. Perhaps you could see them as good tools to use in your garden?

My experiences from ingame mails from GL aren't overwhelmingly good though. I think the best thing to strive for is to get a guild forum which is alive, where members go in more or less daily, in combination with a very much alive guild chat. But maybe ingame mails work for some guilds.

I think a stable roster is the effect of great gardening. The flowers will grow and not walk away...

@Oriniwen: of course you can! Thank you very much, I'm so glad if the post ment something to you.