On Leadership and Communication

My apologies for the length between blog posts this year, my dear readers. I resolve to write in this space more frequently in 2015. I have things to say and I hope I can organize myself better so that I have the time to get those things down here.

I actually have a couple of different things that I want to talk about, including healing, including my adventures, such as they are, in Draenor… but as we bring the year to a close, I wanted to talk specifically about leadership and communication. Why? Because these ideas are so very entwined with one another that I do not believe you can be an effective leader without being an effective communicator.

How to Communicate Effectively

Okay, so this isn’t going to be a long-winded essay on how to communicate effectively, much as I would like it to be. ;) I’m just going to jot down some important key points and expound on them a little bit.

As a leader (of your guild, your raid team, whatever), people are looking to you for direction. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re going to be all “OH MY GOD WHAT THEY SAY IS LAW!!!”. In fact, most people will probably not listen to you as well as you’d like them to, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not listening to what you have to say. And, in the absence of direction, they’re going to go off and do whatever they want to do. So you may as well give them some semblance of direction, right? Right. Here are some ways to do so.

  1. Communicate Early and Often. You know surprise parties? I have never had one. I have never wanted one. I do not enjoy surprises. At all. You know who also hates surprises? Your guild members. Individually, sure, people may like to be surprised, but as a collective, they hate it. They hate it. Now, most news coming from leadership will be a “surprise”, but the way to help your guildies to adjust to whatever changes you’re enacting is to communicate the changes well in advance and then give them follow-up reminders.For example, Patch 4.3 of World of Warcraft introduced epic-level gems to the game. They were difficult to get and red gems, the ones that boosted strength, intellect and agility, could go for five thousand gold each for a while. As a raiding guild, I knew we would want to take advantage of those beefy stats, but I gave the guild plenty of warning as to when those epic gems would become official raid requirements. I also set up a system to request them in limited amounts from the guild bank for gear over a certain item level. If memory serves, I gave them something like six weeks’ notice and then reminders every two weeks thereafter, then a one-week warning, if I’m not mistaken.

    Give them warning. Then remind them. Then remind them again. Do this for every change you enact in terms of guild policy. It won’t always be enough to deflect all criticism lobbied against you (and you will have plenty of that!) but it will certainly be a better situation to tell them of a change with warning than to tell them of a change that is dumped on them that takes effect the next day.

  2. Be Clear and Firm (and Polite). I was going to write something here about policies, but I’ve already done so over here at Sentry Totem. Basically, remove the word “try” from all of your communications. No, your guild members should not “try” to be on time for your guild events, they must be online for your guild events. But don’t be brusque or rude. Just be firm.
  3. Be Open to Feedback. Even feedback that consists of nothing more than hurled profanity at you and your ancestry is feedback that you need to consider. If you make a decision that goes over exceedingly poorly and there are other options, discuss those with your officers and consider changing the policy … and communicating it. Again.

    I did this in Cataclysm with regards to loot issues. We felt strongly that some individuals were hoarding their EPGP priority and, as such, were harming the raid group. So we were going to change the way we handed out tier armor and unlink it from the EPGP system. This went over like a lead balloon. There was a lot of feedback. And many insults hurled our way. (Thanks for that, folks, you know who you are…) We changed the suggested policy in favour of changing how often we decayed EPGP values. I’m still not thrilled with how this went, nor do I think that solution did a lot to solve the issues we saw in terms of EPGP hoarding, but we were open to the feedback and made changes that made some difference. It was more of a compromise than a real solution and, as is the case with most compromises, no one was really happy. Still, no one was really ticked off, either.

Why Communication is so Important

It’s important because when you communicate with your guildies, you’re not only passing along important information, but because you’re also taking in their reactions and their feedback. This leads to a better working relationship between all parties.

It also lets people know that you value them and their feedback. Had I waited six weeks to tell my guild “HEY, EVERYONE NEEDS ALL EPIC GEMS FOR TOMORROW”, they would have risen up and killed me. I respected them enough to tell them “hey, in six (or eight or whatever) weeks, we’re going to be requiring all epic gems…” and then reminded them consistently.

Communicating with your guild members also helps engender a team spirit, particularly if you write things framed where you are part of the team that your audience is also part of. If that makes sense.

For example, if I wrote this:

“You all need to put epic gems in anything that’s ilvl 410 or higher”

then that makes me look as though I’m not part of the team as as though I’m dictating to the people reading. This is not the tone you want to aim for!

By contrast, if I wrote:

“Everyone (officers included!) will need to have epic gems in any piece of armor that is item level 410 or higher”

then I’m at least a bit more like a team member. Better yet, though, is this version:

“We’re all going to have to have epic gems in any armor piece that’s ilvl 410 or higher”

WE. ALL. Team-related words!

Remember, whatever you’re doing in terms of your guild events, you are a team. There is no “I” in “team”, as the saying goes, and, as I am fond of saying, a guild leader without any guildies isn’t really leading anything.

Conclusion

To summarize:

– communicate early and often
– be clear and firm, yet polite
– be open to feedback
– at all times, try to build up a sense of the team

Of course, if your actions don’t back up your words, people are going to catch on to that and will not be pleased, but that’s another blog post entirely.

Have a safe and happy new year, everyone and best wishes to you and yours for 2015!

(More GM-related advice and information can be found at Kurn’s Guides and you can also find a ton of Guild Leadership columns of mine up at Sentry Totem.)

2 Replies to “On Leadership and Communication”

  1. Redbeard – Right? Who the hell wants to be SURPRISED on a day like a birthday or something? Certainly not me!! :) Glad you enjoyed the post and thanks so much for commiserating with me regarding surprise parties. ;)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *