Reasonable Expectations

Against my better judgement, I’ve started working on gearing up another of my characters that I abandoned after hitting 80 in the month after the WotLK launch.  I’d finished with all of my EoT gear on my Paladin and Shaman, and told myself that I was just going to get exalted with two factions for a couple of tailoring patterns.  In the course of doing that, I ended up getting enough EoT to pick up a couple of pieces of Tier 9, and before long I found myself chain-queueing for heroics on a character that I was going to let rot until Cataclysm.

That’s a long way of saying that I’ve been running even more dungeon finder groups than is my custom recently.  It’s taking a bit of a toll on me – I find myself having less patience with people than I’d like to, and at times acting like a jerk in response to jerkish behaviour.  I wiped a group on heroic Halls of Reflection because I refused to exploit the escape encounter with them.  Technically, they wiped themselves, as I was just standing in a safe spot and didn’t move to heal when when the first wave of adds came, but it’s the same thing in the end.

Around the point where my frustration was getting the better of me, I read an interesting article by Matthew Rossi on wow.com.  In short, he says that putting raid-level expectations onto the people you meet in dungeon finder groups is not only a recipe for driving yourself batty but is unfair to everyone involved.

Between the point of his article and the ongoing commentary from my post on selfishness, I started to think about why these groups were getting to me.  Was it the groups, or me?  Were the groups completing the dungeon?  Yes, for the most part – maybe 5% of the groups I’ve been in have failed to complete the instance, and that was usually on the path to Tyrannus in the Pit of Saron.

Reflection

So if the groups were completing the dungeon, and I was getting my emblems and rolls on loot, why was I getting annoyed?  It was because the groups weren’t living up to my expectations.

A much wiser man than me gave me this sage advice: “expectations are just premeditated resentments”.

The groups that I meet in the dungeon finder don’t tick a check box that says “I promise to live up to the standards of an experienced four-year raider”.  So why was I treating them like they had?

In my defense, I’m pretty lenient about performance compared to some people.  The numbers I quoted in the selfishness articles are the ones I live by – I don’t complain about DPS unless they’re consistently below 1500, and I’ll happily heal a tank with 25k buffed HP through the original heroics.  But when it comes to situational awareness and having respect for other people, I take a hard line.  Neither of these are required for random heroics.  The fomer makes things run a bit more smoothly and the lack of the latter is more a comment on society as a whole than WoW in specific.

Yet I find myself pushing the things that are important to me on people who may have a completely different set of values.  I like clean execution.  The myriad melee DPS who have killed themselves on Krystallus obviously don’t.  But they seem to have fun and don’t blame anyone but themselves.  Obviously I’m taking things a bit too seriously if someone else gets themselves killed and I let that bother me.

Does this mean that I’m going to instantly become an easy-going dungeon runner that lets nothing bother him?  Not likely.  But I will try to put myself in the shoes of people who don’t take this game as seriously, and not judge them so harshly.

Type A

Now, some of this self-realization is contrived.  It’s not like patch 3.3 shone the light on my tendency to try to control things.  It just took the constant frustration that came with patch 3.3 for me to reflect on how that aspect of my personality was making my in-game time miserable.

I hope that a bit of introspection will help, but what is more interesting is thinking about how this trait affects matters in a guild.  I rarely see dungeon runners twice, but I have to work with my guildmates for so long as we share the same tag under our name.

I’m sure many of you have heard of the Type A Personality, perhaps even when someone is describing your guild leader.  (Hint: if you’ve never heard anyone in the guild described as such, it’s probably you).  Though the theory has more backing in pop culture than in science today, the sentiment people express when they say it holds some truth: leadership roles tend to be filled by people with a strong desire to express control over things.

In some ways, this is a good thing.  A guild leadership made up of all laid-back people probably isn’t going to work very well.  In the guilds I’ve been a part of, I’ve been one of the people who wanted to take control.  In the guilds I’ve left, I was not the only person who wanted to take control.  While you need one person to provide some structure and drive, too many people trying to do so leads to chaos.  We don’t tend to compromise very easily.

The problem a leader can easily run into is asking (or more commonly not asking but expecting) guild members to live up to their set of standards.  This is not a slight on having standards or asking people to meet them – far from it.  It’s a reminder that standards and expectations need to be reasonable and communicated if the guild is going to have a hope of meeting them.

The Department of Guildie Resources

I just finished my bi-annual performance review at work, and though I usually look upon most of the administrivia surrounding workplace HR with disdain, the method we use to set goals for the next six months does have some applicability to guilds.

The technique (which I’m sure some of you will be familiar with) is called SMART, where each of the letters stands for an aspect of the goal.  The typical terms attached to each are:

  • Specific: your objectives should be clear and well-defined
  • Measurable: you need to be able to measure progress towards your objective
  • Achievable: set goals that are within reach
  • Relevant: set goals that (in this case) support the guild’s purpose
  • Timely: set a time limit on how long it should take to get there

Using these criteria, a goal like “be ranked in the top 20 guilds server wide according to GuildOx by the end of January 2010” is good.  A goal like “be one the best RP-PVE guild on the server” is not, because it only barely hits the R criteria, and none of the others.  Statements like the latter are more a statement of purpose, and are the things that goals should be relevant to.  If your purpose is to excel at PvE content, setting goals for PvP activity doesn’t make much sense.  If there is a strong desire to measure progress in PvP, then you should consider whether the overall purpose of the guild needs to be re-stated.

I am not suggesting that guild leaders draw up goals for their guild like a project manager at a large company.  That would, in a word, suck.

I would however encourage you to take a moment and write down the expectations you have for your guild: both the guild as a whole (progression) and for individual members (performance).  Do you cringe when looking at damage meters or combat log parses because a few people are consistently below what you think they should be able to put out, even when you’re beating enrage timers?

What about your goals for the guild?  Did you expect to have the first wing of ICC on farm by the time the Blood Halls opened up?

Just the exercise of writing down your expectations for the guild may reveal a few expectations you weren’t really aware of.  Once you’ve written down your expectations, consider how they stack up against the SMART criteria.

Do the people falling below the performance bar know that you expect more of them?  Is the bar you’re setting realistic given the mechanics of the fight in question?

If your progression isn’t where you think it should be, how close are you to achieving that goal?  How far past the original time expectation are you, and what is a realistic new time goal to set?

Share Your Goals

I’m a proponent of transparency, both inside and outside of the guild.  No matter what comes from your review, I recommend posting your expectations on your guild forums.  Go over them again from time to time.  I’d suggest no less than every three months, but you may want to review them more often, or perhaps each time a new chunk of content opens up to you (such as the barriers in ICC coming down).

One of the advantages of making sure that everyone understands the short-term goals of the guild is that you can focus people’s effort and provide rewards or incentives for meeting the goals.  Do you only have one week left to meet your goal to one-shot every encounter in the first wing of ICC?  Since everyone has known about the goal since you set it, you can ask people to give a little extra, encourage them to raid a bit longer, or to sign up for an additional raid night that week.  If you loot system allows, you can offer bonus points for meeting the goal.

If you want to completely co-opt the the work performance review, you can offer some level of reward (either gold or loot points) if the guild meets each goal in time.  Part of me shudders at the idea of taking the processes from the workplace and applying them to guild leadership.  It certainly doesn’t help counter the “raiding is a job” meme.  But I have to admit that many people are driven by rewards, and making the criteria for those rewards open and accessible may be a better choice than distributing them at the whim of the guild or raid leader.

Do you set goals for your guild?  If so, are they shared only among the leadership, or could any of your members tell me what you were working towards?  Have you ever set a long-term goal and rewarded the guild for meeting or exceeding it?  Did it help spur performance, both towards the goal and towards the next one you set?

Until Next Time

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