Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Why you shouldn’t let one man run the show

Niniel at Swiftmend wrote a sad post about the ending of his until now successful raiding guild. They had been raiding together since they were in greens in Karazhan, and now they were one of the top guilds of their realm.

But the other night, when they expected their GM to post a run list of the upcoming ToC raid, they got something else: a goodbye post, out of the blue. The guy who didn’t only run the guild, but also all of the raids, had suddenly decided to transfer to another realm to join a top raiding guild, free from the burdens of guild management.

And this didn’t only mean that this guild had lost one valued player. It meant the end of any serious raiding in this constellation, as the guild apparently was all depending on his leadership. To quote Niniel:

“He was so good at it and had full attendance that there were never any need for an alternate leader but this created our dependence on him. We never did raid with Teamspeak/Ventrilo so instead we got used to his macros and fast typing and it was the way we did things and we were damn good at it.”

A lesson to learn
I can’t help getting a bit wet in my eyes reading this post. The pain is real. He describes their emotional reactions spot on, and how they’re trying to handle it, sharing their thoughts, seeking comfort in excessive chocolate consumption. As a fellow gamer I understand them, but I also can see the difficulties they have explaining their upset feelings to their spouses. The best strategy is probably not even to try to explain, but to do as one guy: putting on “Marley & Me” at the video to get a reasonable cover for the sadness.

But apart from feeling sympathy, I also think that there’s a lesson to learn from the story. It's only natural that it seems to be very convenient to be gifted with such a dedicated and brilliant guild master and raid leader, who willingly takes care of everything. It’s tempting to let yourself be carried by his enthusiasm and energy. But it’s also highly risky.

Exactly this is what is likely to happen, sooner or later. There’s no chance in the world that this kind of person will last forever. Sooner or later he’s bound to leave the game. It may be for a server transfer, it may be for real life intervening in the form of changed economical circumstances, a divorce or illness. Or he may simply burn out, wanting to get away from it all as soon as possible.

Don’t put yourself into this kind of situation! This reminder is actually directed to guild masters/raid leaders as well as to officers or ordinary members. A one-man-show is a bad strategy, both for the show master himself and from the perspective of one of the foot soldiers.

The shared responsibility
I don’t deny that the ultimate responsibility and power over a guild is in the hands of a guild master. But if he cares the slightest about himself and about the future of the people who have invested so much time and effort into the guild, he should make sure that there are people who could take over in case he would have to leave, players who have been trained to lead raids, players who have the confidence and authority needed to take decisions for the guild on their own.

But it’s not just the responsibility of the guild master to see to that this situation doesn’t happen. It’s also up to the ordinary guild members. If you suspect that your guild could end up as described at Swiftmend, you should raise your voice. Make it clear that there are more players in the guild who would be willing to take their share of the burdens. Don’t take it for granted that this is obvious to him.

Some of those one-man-show leaders are blinded from their own success and just don’t see the danger right in front of them.


Anonymous said...

Another great blogg Larisa :D

Here in CC we have 4 raid leaders, who are able to sort out raid invites etc...thereby removing some of the pressure on our poor guild master,Blossomshade :D

Sad to hear when a good raiding guild disintergrates....but what doesnt kill us makes us stronger.


Flex said...

Spot on.

I still remember the first guild I was a part of, the great things we accomplished, the feeling of pride I had in it, and the feeling of utter betrayal when the guild leader disbanded the guild and took down the website and forums without notice.

Yet for most of us, I think there is some deep educational value in that experience; but what exactly we learn from it depends entirely on our personality.

One player will determine "right, so the guild only exists to further personal raid progression, thus, loyalty is irrelevant" while another will conclude "this was, probably, the most horrible thing I've ever experienced, the game is supposed to be fun, avoiding this problem in future is paramount."

I would suggest that the difference between either response depends on which way you swing in the [Social] vs [Achiever] rankings in the Bartle test.

Personally, I like being in a guild for the people more than the purples. When I went on to form my own guild, longevity became a metric in my definition of success.

And by that measure, at least, the guild did very well. There was a plan for the future, drama minimisation, and succession. And two years after handing over the guildmaster role and website I'm pleased to see a guild I started still going strong when so many of its peers have folded.

So yes, I agree with you - the social atmosphere in WoW is what we make of it. When we learn from guild drama we make a better game for ourselves and others. And maybe the rage-disband GMs we've met along the way won't GM again for the same reason.

Sounds like a win-win situation.

spinksville said...

I really felt for that guild leader. Just trying to imagine how much pressure they were under, knowing what effect it would have on the guild if they left, but not having any other way out.

But it is partly the guild leader's fault for not training up any replacements or extra raid leaders. I agree with you, it's not smart to let one person run the show.

And so sad to watch your raid drain away like that.

HP said...

I've actually been in a guild that was a one man show and at times I wish it was still around. My RL got hospitalized and the guild basically atrophied and fell apart in his absence. I have fond memories but the dissolution of the guild was slow decay that resulted in bad feelings all around when I left. We all still highly respect the RL though of course, he was that type of leader.

Shintar said...

My guild was a one-man show when I joined, and it was a difficult time for us when our beloved guild leader burnt out and just stopped logging in all of a sudden...

But no guild, not even one run by one guy, is doomed to fail when the leadership leaves. In our case we suffered a month or two of not doing much of anything when the GL disappeared, some still hoping that maybe he would be back, but others decided to simply take matters into their own hands - they got us back into raiding and are now our officers.

So seeing a guild go "well, that was it then" and just fold when their leader stops playing is to me also a sign of athropy and indifference from the regular guild members.

Larísa said...

: yeah, we have several capable raid leaders as well. It's a wise thing to do I think. To share the burdens and responsability a bit.

@Flex: I share your ideal about longevity. "Sustainability" could be another attribute. You have to strive for systems and a climate that will support the guild and make it work in the long run, through ups and downs, in spite of the sudden strikes that inevitably will come and crit you. Almost anyone can form a raiding guild that will last for a couple of months. Few are so capable of management that they can build an organization that will last for many years.

: I agree. My intention about posting this was far from saying: "look at the evil betrayer". It's not like that. I just wanted to point out that avoidence of one-man-shows are in the interest of all sides, the GM as well as the members.

@HP: I think that it isn't too uncommon actually. There are a few of those self appointed heroes out there, who we're far too willing to shuffle over all the responsablitiy to, since they so happily accept it... It's very easy for everyone to be seduced by it.

@Shintar: good to hear that you managed to pull it together. Those things may happen too. You say "they", so hopefully the responsabilities were a bit more shared the second time around.

River said...

Sometime I feel a successful guild is like a business. The raiders it's employees the raid leaders it's boss. Too many you have a company going in many directions, and sooner or later will fail. Too few though the company will have focus, if those leaders fail then the company goes down too.

Anonymous said...

I was in that guild ....

Yesterday we had a last raid a simple ToC 10 and boy did it feel good to be together.

I think by now we have all realized that the option of getting a succesor is not going to happen. So we are all making our plans as to were to go next.

The GM has made it clear that there will be no more raiding going on once he and many others ship out in order to avoid the situation described by HP.

Even if this has happened and it is hard to take, I don't think that any of us are bitter against the RL he was a damn fine leader and it is understandable that given his workload he jsut wants a change.

I want to thank Larísa for posting in Niniel's blog and calling my attention to your guild. I hope to be raiding with you shortly.


Larísa said...

: you really seem to have had a wonderful guild as long as it lasted. What happened to you is a reminder that it could be wise to try to build sustainable systems in a guild to prevent guild/raid leader burn out to happen.
I'm glad to hear that you're not bitter about what happened. It's like a book coming to an end. It was enjoyable while it lasted, but it's time to put it to the shelf and pick up another one and see what it contains.

I'm really looking forward to see you in Adrenaline! It won't be the same book as you read before. But hopefully you'll still enjoy it for what it is.

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