Give Honest and Sincere Appreciation

This article is part of the series “How To Win /friends and Influence /guildies”.  See the introduction for more.

If you’re reading the original book alongside, this corresponds to Part 1, Chapter 2: “The Big Secret of Dealing with People”

A feeling of importance.  My article on what motivates your raiders could have just been that one line and it would probably have covered most everyone.  How we get that feeling differs somewhat, but underneath it all that’s what we crave.

In this chapter, Carnegie lists off a number of things that people want[1]:

  1. Health and the preservation of life
  2. Food
  3. Sleep
  4. Money and the things money will buy
  5. Life in the hereafter
  6. Sexual Gratification
  7. The well-being of our children
  8. A feeling of importance

Forget about the first seven in our context, as they all exist in the real world (save perhaps for a bit of #4 – though in-game that just leads to more of #8).  It’s that last one – a feeling of importance that I think drives many, if not most WoW players.

The Desire for Greatness

The desire for greatness is easy to understand.  It’s why people expended so much time and effort raiding in vanilla WoW, strutting around town in their tier 1, 2 and 3 finery.  Not that every raider did the peacock thing, but even if you didn’t flaunt it a full set of tier gear would turn heads if you joined a 5-man group.

This was in the days before the armory and achievements.  Your avatar was the measure of your achievements.  Today of course, tier gear falls from trees and doesn’t say much about your skill as a player.  Now greatness can be quantified, catalogued and searched online by anyone.  Your greatness isn’t acknowledged by anyone face-to-face – it’s reduced to a number on a web page.

That change doesn’t mean that people desire a feeling of importance any less – only that the way in which they are made to feel important has changed.  Carnegie goes into several examples in this chapter about how various politicians and captains of industry built empires not upon business acumen, but their ability to deal with people.  Their secret was to be “hearty in their approbation and lavish in their praise”.

So, in addition to not criticising your raid members, I’m now suggesting that you shower them with praise?  When did this become a the love-in guild blog?

A Spirit of Approval

The advice in the book is mainly about one-on-one situations rather than dealing with groups.  Obviously when showing appreciation and paying a compliment to a group of people, you have to find something in common.  This can be difficult in a raid setting where sub-groups play different roles.  Will people improve their performance on the next boss attempt if they hear the raid leader say “good job healers”?  Or an even wider-ranging compliment like “nice attempt everyone”?  Don’t these sometimes feel like they’re just something to say to fill the air while people are running back and rebuffing?

I have yet to find the person, however great and exalted his station, who did not do better work and put forth greater effort under a spirit of approval than he would ever do under a spirit of criticism.[2]

That quote from Charles Schwab is great advice for any raid leader.  In past articles I’ve talked about the technical aspects of figuring out what went wrong for a boss attempt, and further how to talk to those responsible about the problem in a reasonable way.  But if you have the ability to diagnose what went wrong, then you must have the ability to diagnose what went right.  If people will perform better under a spirit of approval and you can point out both the things that need correction and the things that people did right, then you get a double benefit on the next attempt.

I’m not suggesting that raid leaders don’t do this – just that the praise doesn’t tend to be focused.  It’s easy to look at the various mechanical aspects of a boss fight and say “we got him into phase two with 6 minutes left on the enrage timer, good job!”.  It’s a step up to look at the interrupt meters and single out for praise the member who interrupted a large number of enemy casts.

I remember when I was raiding Serpentshrine Cavern, specifically the Fathom-Lord Karathress fight.  When we started the fight, we always gave interrupt duty on Caribdis to one specific rogue.  He wasn’t amazing at it the first time, but every cast he stopped let us progress further.  After every attempt, the raid leader would compliment him on that job.  His DPS suffered for the role he’d been put in, but everyone in the raid knew that he was playing a critical role, and that made him feel important.  Over time, he became so good at that job that we saw no casts complete at all from that mob.

In and of itself, that’s not exceptional.  Rogues have a low-CD interrupt when properly talented, and anyone with good reflexes should be able to pull that off.  What I’m calling attention to is the improvement that came from the approval and praise he received.  I think that kind of improvement can be replicated in any raid.

Acknowledging Non-standard Contribution

Absent any comments from a raid leader, people tend to judge their personal performance against dps, threat and healing meters.  It’s a nice easy number to focus on, but as we’ve discussed in the past, trying to push that number higher can lead people to make poor decisions.

When people are assigned to a role in a raid that doesn’t push that number higher, or drops it significantly lower, it’s easy for them to feel as though their importance has been diminished.  I’s a tad myopic to think that way, but raid members aren’t the ones who have the big picture in their head.  When the raid leader takes the time to specifically recognize the contributions of someone whose contribution to a kill is non-standard, they can give back that feeling of importance in just a few words.

What you have to be wary of is doling out flattery, or cheap praise.  The difference is one of sincerity.  “Flattery is telling the other person precisely what they think of themselves”[3].  Everyone tends to have high opinion of themselves.  Reinforcing that image with flattery may sound good to the ears, but it’s pretty easy to see through.  It’s the complement of something that you hadn’t already thought of yourself that stays with you and has the desired effect.

Relative Importance

One word of advice – the feeling of importance is relative.  Don’t try to find a compliment for everyone in the raid after every attempt.  Look over the meters and data as you always do, but when an improvement in a member jumps out at you, take a moment to recognize it.  Trying to boost everyone up all the time doesn’t make anyone feel important.

Did someone’s DPS jump significantly since the last raid?  Mention it.  This goes doubly so if that person has been recognized as needing improvement in the past.  Did someone contribute to the kill in some other way, perhaps by farming consumables so that everyone was able to use a flask where they otherwise would not?  Mention it.  What about that Warlock or Death Knight who took a hit to their personal DPS to ensure that the 13% increased spell damage debuff was up on as many mobs for as long as possible?  Don’t forget about them.

Don’t forget about your star performers either.  Every guild will have a few members who always do everything the way they should.  You never have to point something out to them, and you know that once you’ve explained what you want done, they’ll execute cleanly and without further questions.  It’s all too easy to forget that these people, but make an effort to point out their contributions, even if their performance is consistent from raid to raid.  You may not be able to do so every time they do well (otherwise you would be calling them to attention all the time), so a whisper after the raid may be a more appropriate way to recognize their contributions.

I encourage you to give this a try and see what results it brings to your raids.  If you notice improvement (or even people eyeing your new attitude suspiciously), let us know in the comments.

Next thursday, we’ll delve into chapter 3: He Who Can Do This Has the Whole World with Him.  He Who Cannot Walks a Lonely Way.  (Now you see why I name the articles after the principle rather than the chapter they’re based on.)

This article is part of the series “How To Win /friends and Influence /guildies”.  See the introduction for more.

[1] Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People.  (1936), pp.19

[2] Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People.  (1936), pp.25

[2] Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People.  (1936), pp.29