Trying to Solve the World’s Problems

One of the things that has dogged me whenever I’ve been a guild leader is a desire to solve every problem that I am made aware of.  Even outside of a leadership position, I tend to internalize every little thing that goes wrong.

I have high standards for myself, and when I find myself playing with people who don’t share those standards, I get frustrated.  That’s bad enough in itself, but taking it a step further and trying to “fix” those people is completely futile.  I’m rarely going to be successful, and when my attempts fail, I’ll just get more frustrated.

Of course, I can’t take a completely laid back position – even if my personality would allow for it, there are some problems that guild leadership should address.  There are valid performance and behavioural issues that leaders should raise and address when the see them.  The skill lies in knowing what the scope of leadership covers, and what is not your problem to solve, even if you think you can help.

The core problem is a theme that’s come up before – trying to assert control over others.  Too little leads to chaos, while too much leads to a guild nobody wants to be a part of.  If you’ve ever felt that your guild was “slipping out of control”, you may be facing a mismatch between how much you want to control and how much you can.

Sometimes, the frustration with that gap gets turned inwards.  Rather than the problem being unrealistic expectations, you see the problem as an inability to maintain order.  At that point, the thing you enjoy becomes a chore.

The solution is to get realistic about what is and what isn’t the responsibility of guild leadership.  From the pile of things that are the responsibility of the guild, figure out what you are capable of doing and what needs to be delegated.  Don’t get pulled into things that aren’t the guild’s problems.

Simple advice, but if it were so obvious and easy to follow, I’d have no reason to write this post.  So let’s take a look at some of the issues that you might encounter as a guild leader:

Retention

You can’t expect to keep every one of your members forever.  Guilds are by definition a collection of like-minded but not identically minded individuals.  Everyone sacrifices a few ideals when they join a guild in exchange for the benefits that the guild offers them.

Some people will, against their better judgement, give up more than they really want to, and allow this to fester over time.  Over time, subtle things in the guild may change, or a new policy may be introduced which push them past their breaking point – when the sacrifice seems too much.

So long as you aren’t actively making policies to antagonize specific people, or going out of your way to alienate members, this isn’t your fault.  Some people will be happier elsewhere, and the best thing to do is part company on a friendly note in case they come to regret their decision and you need their class/spec.

Infighting

Guild members are going to disagree with each other from time to time.  Reasonable disagreement and discussion is a good thing, but when it descends to the level of ad hominem attacks and schoolyard fistfights, you may have to step in.  But don’t try to be a negotiator, delving deep into the root cause of the argument and finding a middle ground.  That’s not your problem.  Often the conflict is as much about the conflict than it is about the original disagreement, and mediation works best when the parties still have sight of the root cause.

Have simple policies about members having respect for each other, and ask both to keep it civil.  If neither do, take action against both.  If one does and one continues the attacks, take action.  Make it your job to keep the guild a friendly place, not to make friends between two people who might have no such interest.

Real Life Issues

People will often bring up real-life issues about their job, relationships, living situation or mental state.  If a member finds their guildmates to be a good sounding board for these topics and nobody is made uncomfortable by the discussion, I wouldn’t pay much mind.  Sometimes people just need to talk or vent, and come around to making a rational decision on their own.

Avoid become a relationship or marriage counsellor, or providing anything along the lines of legal advice.  At most, direct people to the places where they can get more information.  This is one of those situations where it can be hard for people to tell when you’re wearing the guild leader hat and when you’re wearing the member hat.

In-Game Behaviour

If you hold yourself to a high standard, it’s inevitable that others will fail to measure up.  I’m not going to suggest that you lower your personal standards, as I could never do that.  Just recognize what the standards of the guild are vs the standards you keep for yourself and apply them appropriately.

When it comes to things like maturity in guild chat, you’re probably just going to have to give up, unless the behaviour trends to the extreme.  I once handled this type of problem extremely poorly, and the lesson I took away from it is that I have reasons for not hanging around with people 15 years my junior in real life.

If I invite those same people into my guild, I’ll quickly be reminded of those reasons.  I have just two choices: change my recruitment methods to only bring in mature people (and accept the downsides of doing so, like a smaller applicant pool) or learn to put up with the natural behaviour of people that age.  Trying to change the way someone acts to be more like me is only going to drive us both nuts.

Your Real Job

The job of the guild leader is to keep the guild operating smoothly.  You are responsible for making the guild something that people enjoy being a part of.  You need to know what the short and long-term goals of the guild are and organize activities to meet that goal.  You may delegate some of these tasks to officers, but ultimately this is what you should concern yourself with.

Anything you do above and beyond this can be a rewarding or risky endeavour.  It all depends on what you choose to do and what you expect to get out of it.  Misjudging either increases the risk.

Archetypes to Avoid Being Tagged With

A side-effect of trying to solve all problems is that fairly often you may succeed.  I’m not talking about the big problems above, but the little questions and requests for help that come up in any guild.

The Person Who Knows Everything

I’m sure everyone knows a “resident wowhead expect”.  This is the person who answers any little question about the game, seemingly faster than anyone could tab out and check a reference site.  If they don’t know the answer off the bat, they’ll tab out and do the search themselves.

Without a doubt, it feels good to be that person, at least at first.  But searching in wowhead is not exactly a taxing thing to do.  True, some of the more advanced features of the site take a while to master, but by doing other people’s searches for them, you just encourage them to rely on you.

If you really want to help people search, the first time they ask about loot that meets a certain criteria or a comparison between two items, send them the link to the search you did.  For example, I have a bunch of links like this one bookmarked.  It lists gear usable by a Paladin that is purchasable using EoT or EoF, sorted by gear.  Anyone can plug that in and change the “Usable by” dropdown to their class, providing a quick reference to gearing up an alt in patch 3.3.  I’m sure some readers don’t even realize that this “group by slot” option exists – it was new to me a few months ago.

By passing on the how instead of the results, you’re still helping people, but encouraging them to learn.

The Person Who Will Help Everyone Anytime

Another trap is to be known as the person who will help anyone.  Need a tank?  You’ve got a main for that.  Healer?  You’ve got an alt.  Character with keys to an old-world dungeon?  Check.  All someone has to do is ask, and you’re re-logging.

Again, being able to come through for people can be a rewarding experience.  But once you get a reputation for being someone who will stop whatever they’re doing to help out anyone else, your play time is no longer your own.  There will come a time when someone will ask for help while you’re doing something that you need to do.  Don’t feel as though you’re letting someone down if they encroach upon your time.

Dungeon Runs and Your Principles

Outside of guild runs, there’s no real advice other than to let things go.  Most runs will go well, some will suck.  None will have any direct effect on how the next run goes unless you let it get to you.  As I talked about in a recent post, standards of performance belong in guild runs and progression raids.  Form your own group and state expectations up front if you want to enforce them.

At the same time, don’t feel forced to the other extreme.  If you have a reasonable principled stand on something, don’t be afraid to stand up for it.  Just be prepared for the group to not agree with you and force you to leave the group rather than bend them to your will.  I’ve left Halls of Reflection groups on more than one occasion when the group wanted to do the ledge strategy.  It just feels too much like an exploit for me, and I’m fine missing out on the final loot.

Have you found yourself trying to solve the world’s problems, or exert too much control over your guild?  What did it take to recognize the problem, and how have you learned to deal with it?

Until Next Time

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