Saturday, September 29, 2018

Donor Mini Feature: Guild Leaders & Officers

A donor asked me a complex set of questions about guild leadership and officer roles, specifically in rallying member interest in events. I'm gonna try to tackle them to the best of my ability!

Before I get into the specific questions themselves, it's probably important that I establish my credibility on this subject. I have been in numerous leadership roles, and not all of them have been within the confines of gaming. As such, I feel both qualified to answer these questions, but also intimidated by them. 

The thing to keep in mind about this entire blog entry is that every individual in leadership roles is different -- they have different personalities and strengths. One method of leadership may work for N00B13Killur420, but be completely wrong for Princess An'di'ama'lyr'i'an'a'desh the Seventh of the Forestshire Realm. (Stereotypes? Yeah. Sorry not sorry.)

My various leadership roles within computer-based programs and games include: being a moderator and admin of various Second Life estates; roleplay leader and officer across 3D chat programs, AOL chat rooms, and MMOs; various roles of management of academic and/or hobby groups; several years of management in a workplace environment (retail). My specific references will come from the game-related roles, but there will be plenty of wisdom coming from my other people-herding experiences.


* Question 1: How do I game better, especially doing the officer thing?

I was going to skip this question in favor of rolling through the others first, but felt this needed some addressing because it feeds directly into the others.

This is going to sound really corny to anyone who isn't actually taking this blog entry seriously, but I find the best way to handle every single interaction with people (especially if you're in a leadership position!) is to follow a method introduced to me at my favorite past retail job: GUEST+. It breaks down as follows:

  • GREET: Be welcoming and greet people. Even if they're just saying hi. It shows you are approachable and interested in talking to them. It also offers a good vibe to those who are new to the group.
  • UNDERSTAND: Listen! The first step to any conversation is to listen to what people are really saying. If you just strut about, dictating what you want to do, you won't have a clue what the people following you actually want... and that's how you lose those people. This means paying attention to every avenue of communication between you and the people you are leading. Don't just focus on voice chat, don't just focus on group chat, don't just focus on forums. It all works together, and some people will communicate only through one, or better through one.
  • EDUCATE: This one can be tricky. Once you understand what it is that people are saying/wanting, then it's important to impart information to them. If you're in a leadership position, that typically means you offer something the rest of the people cannot. This is usually experience and/or knowledge that the average person doesn't have. Sharing this with people who are seeking it (NOT sharing it with anyone stuck listening to you monologue like a cheap villain in a two-bit play) will help build the group relationship as a whole and increase the confidence that people have in your responses/information.
  • SUGGEST: Tact is required here to suggest options based on what you have learned or observed through your interactions with the people you're leading. If you were with a group of friends trying to decide what to eat for lunch, and they're talking about quick fast-food options because they only have a half hour to eat, then you wouldn't be the idiot to suggest the new steak restaurant because you've been dying to try it... would you?
  • THANK: Always show appreciation for the people who are giving you feedback, participating, or even just showing up. A simple thank-you goes a long way to helping people feel like they belong and that their efforts are appreciated. If they don't feel like a valuable individual, they will likely stop being involved or go elsewhere.
  • + EXTRAS: Really want to be that one leader/officer everyone loves? Be consistent and personable. Offer to do things you aren't obligated to do in your role. If everyone just did the bare minimum, it would kind of suck. Offer those crafting materials. Send a weapon upgrade. Run content below your own level to help someone stuck in a lower area. It doesn't take much, and you'll find people to be much more amiable with you in the long run... and it will help lay a foundation for the following questions.

I can't teach you how to play your game better -- that takes practice -- but if you use GUEST+ as an officer I can at least promise that you'll enjoy your role instead of feeling like it's a chore, which should leave you with the energy and time for yourself.


* Question 2: What are the ways to bring people out into group events?

This is going to depend heavily on the people. There are a handful of ways to approach getting people involved in group events, but the easiest is: Know what the people enjoy.

Do they like a challenge? Do they just want to have silly fun together? Are they trying to max out their gear? Do they want some kind of extra reward for participating, like a bonus handout from the leadership in charge of the event? Do they need an agenda so they know what they're signing up for? Do they need to know how much time it will take because they have a busy schedule outside of the game? Are they not participating because they feel behind, too low level, or under-geared? Do they need help learning to play their character class? Did they have one bad experience that didn't meet their expectations? Do they only want level-cap content?

Once you know what the people want, then it's merely a matter of pandering to the greater majority for regular events, while sprinkling in smaller events for people who have legitimate event-worthy quests but just not as many people in their boat.

Play to the majority if you're trying to increase/improve participation -- but make sure everyone gets to do what they need or want. If it isn't feasible for your group, then it may be that the person needs a different group. There's nothing wrong with that! And if you can help them find the group they should be in, they're more likely to recommend your group to others in the future.


* Question 3: What are the best ways to engage others and/or plan together?

I won't lie -- this is the hard part. And it's really going to rely on the people in your group (again). If this is a struggle, my advice is to find out how people prefer to communicate about group events. This will obviously vary from group website/forum, Facebook/Twitter, chat, voice chat. My own observations have shown that older people/gamers tend to prefer website/forum options, the younger crowed prefers perpetual chat servers like Discord where people can drop in and out of text-based chat 24/7, and everyone else falls somewhere in between.

If you don't know what the general preference is, it might be time to make a poll or survey for your members to give feedback on (I recommend Google Forms, which will create a spreadsheet of all the responses for you automatically). This is what I've done in the past that's had the best results and gives me information to move forward with. I've completely changed plans before because of the feedback I've received through polls. This would be my recommended course of action if the goal is to more efficiently and effectively plan events:

  1. Poll to find out preferred communication -- be sure to give specific, feasible options.
  2. Establish the avenue of communication: Facebook group, forum sub-directory, Discord server, etc.
  3. DON'T bombard that avenue once it is established. Too much too soon will send people packing or make them reluctant to respond. One topic at a time, one event at a time.
  4. Find out if incentivizing will help.
Maybe your group's leaders need a shared Google calendar (or maybe everyone in the group can access a Google calendar to better see what's going on?). Maybe your group's website needs a facelift and de-cluttering. Maybe more trendy communication like Discord will get people to participate more. It's really a matter of taking the pulse of your group and determining how the vitals look. 


Channeling Levar Burton, you don't have to take my word for it. Here's some advice from some of my long-time gaming friends:

"Get to know the people. An officer's job in an online game is to serve people. Help them, not just with the game but what makes them tick. You should develop relationships with people." -Eyarn 
"Don't try and take on everything on your own. In-game stuff is a community effort. So pull in help when needed, we're all there to have fun." -Da Burrrz 

"Be fair but firm, treat everyone the same." -Meeku 

"The one major piece of advice I can give is to actually listen to the complaints and suggestions if those beneath them. They may not be correct or good but knowing that a leader actually listens and values input will go a long way keeping moral up. Don't be afraid to delegate. A good leader doesn't have to be an expert in every single field of knowledge." -Bertimus the Great & Knowledgeable (aka Kataplexy) 

"No matter how hard you try, not everyone will get along, and you have to pick the most disruptive ones, and get rid of them. Never a fun thing especially if you personally consider them friends." -Darck