Wednesday, October 13, 2010

How you can turn a terribad BG into a valuable leadership training ground

Gevlon is on strike.

Some bitter losses in WG crushed whatever remained of his fighting spirit, so from now on he refuses to leave another order to the entire raid group. He'll only act in small teams that are doing things on their own. And the objectives, to actually win the BG, will have to take a second place. No more leading of ungrateful M & S (his label for "morons and slackers" in case someone has missed it.)

This means that Gevlon takes the same path as the Superior People in Atlas Shrugged, if I remember it correctly. They went on strike, leaving the rest of the world citizens to handle whatever challenges that awaits them, without using the services of the elite anymore.

I'm not sure of Gevlon's motives for his decision not to lead. Maybe he's just very Randian in his view on life, following in her footsteps. Mostly it seems that he judges that the M&S are beyond the reach of any leadership, so there's no point in even trying. It's just not possible to direct them and help them to become useful. And it's also apparent that it's about his own enjoyment of the game. He has noticed that he simply doesn't like to lead other people. Fair enough.There's no reason to burn out yourself on a game activity that you don't enjoy. Better leave it to those who are natural leaders and can't stay away from it.

Missing the opportunity
However I think Gevlon is missing an opportunity here, namely to develop his ability in this area, which I'd argue is the most best and most useful longterm benefit you can get from spending a lot of time playing WoW.

While the usefulness of increased hand-eye coordination can be discussed, as well as the value and longevity of virtual friendships, the leadership training that players get as they run guilds and premades, is pretty solid.

I wouldn't recommend you to put it on your CV yet (maybe in a few years, when gaming has become more socially accepted). But if you're really interested in those perspectives, you can easily go from min-maxing your gear stats to min-maxing your management skills.

Azeroth is nothing but a huge sandbox, where you try out your own ideas of how to lead a group to a common goal. You can learn to become better at leading by trial and error in longlasting guilds or short-lasting BG:s. I'd dare say there's a lesson to learn in every situation. Even when you're starting from a bad position, having a sub-optimal group of "M&S"ers, you can learn from it.

Riding the M&S horse
If we go outside of WoW for a moment, the art of taking command in a BG or a pug reminds me a little bit of horse riding. If you're taking riding lessons, it's a normal thing to change horses every week. Inevitably there are horses in a stable that are considered "better" and "worse". Sometimes you'll get THAT horse, which is hard to get started and isn't easily motivated to jump or to gallop. It's a slacker who'd rather stay in the stable, munching on his oats. When this happens you know from the start that you'll have to work twice as hard as anyone else during that lesson.

But if you put in the effort, if you do it right, you will succeed, and what a triumph isn't that! The horse was never on autopilot; it was you who made it happen thanks to your leadership skills. You made the difference!

It's all a matter of perspective. Running a BG or a raid instance doesn't have to equal maximizing the amount of XP or honor points per hour. You could as well see it as a training ground for yourself to work on your confidence, to become better at giving orders, organizing other people, adjusting to the situation and motivating them to cooperate towards a common goal. And with those eyes, a crappy random group can be as good as a premade guild run.

It's the same thing in real life. Sometimes you are asked to do something with the odds to succeed against you. Sometimes you have to lead a group of average - or below average people - who you wouldn't have picked in the first place if you were given a choice. It' s a normal thing, really. Most grownups have to learn to cooperate with and lead suboptimal groups.

What is special in the case of random BG:s is that you have to be quick in everything. You haven't got more than a minute or two to establish yourself as a leader, to catch the attention and trust of the group, to figure out a strategy depending on the group composition and to assign players to different tasks. It resembles a bit of management in a real life crisis situation, where you also have to grasp the situation quickly, being clear and confident in everything you communicate.

An M&S leader
There are tons of management books, but in the end, a good leadership isn't just something you can study in theory. You learn it by doing, and I can't see why you shouldn't practice in WoW when the chances appear. By resigning from the leading role, Gevlon is missing out a chance to try out one of the most challenging, interesting and meaningful roles in WoW.

One of his commenters goes further, accusing Gevlon of being an M&S in his leadership.

"The best guild on your realm and the worst guild on your realm had access to the ***exact same people.*** Just because most of the people could be dramatically better, does not mean that leadership doesn't matter. A leader can't change human nature or gravity or the speed of light. But good leaders can accomplish more than bad leaders with the same people. It is not easy and it is not a science. But some people hire engineers and make an iPod; others make Zunes."

I liked this part, where the same Anonymous talks about what constitutes the optimal strategy for AV:

"I remember TBC AV and people were talking about the optimal strategy. The optimal strategy is what is the most that can be accomplished with the players in the BG. Not a guild premade; Not what some M&S leader wished they were, not what they could be or should be but what they are."
That's my philosophy too. A good leader has the ability to detect and the best use of the talents and abilities of a given group. They look for the gems.

Less random groups in the future
As you know, things are subject for changes right now. Come Cataclysm, there will be more incentives to run content within the frames of a guild - be it in raids, dungeons or rated battlegrounds. The content is also supposed to be much harder, which probably is a good reason to avoid pug groups as far as possible.

With this in mind, it's not a daring prophecy to say that we're likely to spend less time in randomly assembled groups in the future. So if you want a real challenge to see how far your talent for management might take you, you'd better do it now. See if you can bring that terribad battleground group to a win! See if you can make people listen to you!

If you succeed you'll be rewarded with a sweet sense of accomplishment, which is way better than any title or loot drop in my opinion.

Unless you prefer to be on strike of course and would rather lose a WG than to take command over it. The choice is yours.


Imraith Dos Santos said...

Bravo! Well-written and to the point. Too many whiners and complainers out there, nice to read about redemption and value in what we do.

Klepsacovic said...

Only a socialist would go on strike, with their stupid anti-market unions and ridiculous demands such as not dying at work and getting paid enough to live. Gevlon is just insufficiently rewarded and would surely get right back to his valuable work if only we paid him more. Attention.

Redbeard said...

You don't know how you'll handle leadership until you're thrust into it. Period.

I've been there, done fairly well, but I didn't like it. I prefer being someone in the background, being the support personnel to the group, if you will.

With BGs, as with most of WoW, I find it hard to play and type at the same time. I know others can do that well, but I sure can't. As communication is important to leadership, I defer to others. If everyone were on Vent, it would be a different story, but that's not often the case.

Gevlon said...

I've seen good leaders in BG motivating M&S by emotional manipulation like "XX the team need you here" and then thanked him several times when he wasn't totally useless.

It's not impossible, just another form of boosting. I do the work, now not only by guarding Stables/Farm but also by watching and talking to them, and they get the same reward.

I'm not on strike, I'm on a permanent change. Rand imagined this "strike" but it never took place in the real world since she did not developed the methods to do it. I am working on that now.

Larísa said...

@Imraith Dos Santos: Thanks!

: Actually he might. He's presented a few alternative models for raiding, where you pay the raid leader for organizing or buy yourself a share in the joint venture. That kind of things. Not that easily applied to a random BG though. It could work for premade BG:s. Yoy pay for the expert guidance and coaching.

: Oh, I agree about the typing vs playing thing. It's definitely an issue when you try to lead and play your toon at the same time. I thought a bit about it writing this post, but since it was lengthy as it was I didn't include it: wouldn't it be sweet if you could coach/lead a raid or BG from the sideline? Seeing everything without having your toon in it? Then it would become more like chess, the battle of two minds... Think of any game of sports. The coach isn't out in the field chasing for the ball himself is he?

I've been drabbling a bit in BGs lately, actually finding it pretty interesting and enjoyable on my druid. And I've noticed that the ones that are successful more often than not has a self appointed leader, giving a few instructions every now and then. It makes miracles! I wouldn't hesitate doing it myself once I've learned more about BG strats. As it is now I'm afraid I haven't much directions to give. Even though I wouldn't hesitate to speak up. Not for a second.

@Gevlon: Well I suppose you can say that you're "boosting" others, but that is always the case in a group. There is a bell-curve and there will be players that are better than others. It isn't static where on the bell curve you are. You can improve over time and many times those boost things even out. As I'm starting to do BGs now I'm no doubt "boosted" by better players. But give me a year of practice and maybe I'm the one helping others to pick up their game? And I'll feel pretty good about myself as I do that.

Anonymous said...

I'm the anon you quoted. :-)

I would have responded differently to Gevlon than you. You are correct that people are not as bad as he says, but he does not exaggerate that much.

Thought experiment: Gevlon hires me to lead his WG raids, say 10k gold per victory. If I said that victory really needs me marketing WG in the cesspool of trade chat for 20 minutes, he will tell me to just go do it. If I said that it will require hard work and really researching the strategies, he will tell me to just go do it; it's my job. Now what if I told him I wasn't willing to do it because it would offend my sense of justice if these undeserving M&S got two extra marks due to our victory? My guess is he would tell me to go earn my pay and do my job. The Wilde quote is "The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what Fiction means."

If he doesn't enjoy leading in a game, he shouldn't.

My M&S analogy is that I do not see a significant distinction between,a M&S player who is not willing to do what it takes to come up with a competent DPS and Gevlon not being willing to do what it takes to be a WG leader. Like most humans, they have their internal justifications - the M&S says "I have a life" and Gevlon says "it would boost the undeserving." Regardless of what each tells themself, they are both slacking.

Taekwandean said...

One wonders how far one can push the 'strike' strategy. For example, lets say we establish some reliable criteria to determine who the 'Superior People' are. We can now form a group solely comprised of these superior people, and this is presumably what Rand and Gevlon want in the end. But, there will still be some variation within the group - some better and some worse. Can we repeat the process? What happens when we winnow down the group further? Again, presumably the process can be reiterated until there is only one person left - the superior person, so to speak.

So, what is my point? The definition of the 'M & S' is unstable. There will always be someone who is 'not pulling their weight' or whatever. Indeed, even if you stipulate that the selection process from before has some end before you arrive at the final individual, this stopping place will be arbitrary. If there is no consistent way to arrive at a meaningful definition of who is 'superior' and who is not, then what good does the distinction do us? In the final analysis, the better route, I think, is to find a way to work with the people you have around as Larisa suggests.

Anonymous said...

This is the same Gevlon that paid a guild to carry him through raids! He is a lot of things but certainly not a leader!

Syl said...

I'm no fan of Gevlon's generalizations and stereotyping. I do very much agree that good leadership does not only mean to be able to lead those that are already doing well on their own - because really that's easy, you know. good leadership is the skill to bring the best out in everyone and help those to improve that might not be just there yet.

I'm not saying that you will be able to achieve excellence with each and everyone, but as someone that is trained to be a coach and teacher IRL, I know very well the wonders patience and support can work in an individual.
it is of course also a matter of time - and there's limits on the effort or patience you can put into a player in WoW, very much depending on your guild's ethos and goals. I think it's important for leaders to know their boundaries as much as their guild's.

That said, I have always enjoyed the aspect of leadership and organization in WoW and it is completely the same as in RL, people work in the same way and there is a lot to be learned if that's how you chose to play the game. To me it is the reason why I am still playing.

Redbeard said...


I like the idea of a coordinator who hangs back at the initial spawn point, taking information and relaying it to the field. Also having an active minimap where you can see the unit information observed in the field, simulating dispatches from the front.

I guess my old wargaming background is coming to the fore, but it just makes sense to me.

Larísa said...

: I don’t know if I said that people aren’t as bad as Gevlon says. What I think though is that it’s a little silly to run away like a coward when you could as well accept the challenge to make the best out of the material you have. You know. Gevlon showed it himself: it’s possible to raid in blues. Equally I think that you can accomplish more than you believe with a sub-par group if you’re a good leader. You don’t need to have only epic players around you to succeed. But it requires effort.

: That is definitely a problem with the randian way of life. I think it has a hard time dealing with the shades of gray, the nuances. As well as the change over time. People move over the scale, between slacking/moron and superior. Back and forward over a lifetime. Sometimes you carry others, other times you’re the one who is carried. There was a time in my life when I wasn’t exactly randian, but at least found some of the ideas fascinating and attractive. But as years passed and I experienced more sides of life I moved away from the randian arrogance towards a more humble approach where I acknowledge the very different life conditions that different people are born into. You can change a lot with your own power. But not everything. Even if you wish the world was that way.

: hehe… well. I actually think he is a leader. When he wants to. But obviously he doesn’t want to be that in bg:s.

@Syl: I definitely think there is a lot to be learned in WoW in those aspects. If you’re want to you can learn a lot about organization and management, by reading about other’s experiences as well as by trial and error of your own. But you can also learn a lot about yourself, by reflecting over your behaviour and think about how it parallels to real life. Some players who stand up as leaders in WoW are very quiet and shy in real life. Could you transfer some of your experiences and abilities out from the game? Are you living your life at your full potential? And if not, why? How could you change, provided that you want to?

Anonymous said...

Anecdotal evidence doesn't prove anything but after I made the iPod/Zune analogy, I thought it was synchronicity when today I read

The bottom line: 'If you had purchased $10,000 of Apple stock the same month that Jobs again began leading the company, your shares would be worth $554,000 today. Not a bad return on the investment.'"

Personally, I believe leadership matters.