Guild Guide: How to pick out good potential officers

What traits make someone look suited to being an officer who's actually going to have a positive impact?

Running a guild is hard work. This is not a controversial or novel statement; I've been saying that for a while now. But it does mean that the people who are running guilds are generally looking for any and every possible way to make that work less onerous, and that's where officers come in... theoretically.

The problem is that a bad officer doesn't just fail to reduce the work of running a guild, they actually add to it. Before, you just had all of the usual guild business to handle; now, you have the usual guild business to handle and some jerk with power who should never have power. Which means that a lot is going to come down to the ability of leaders to pick out who will actually make good officers rather than just whoever fills the roster.

Fortunately, there are traits to look out for, which is helpful information for anyone looking to become an officer or guild leaders aiming to recruit some new officers. So for both groups, let's talk about how you can pick out good officers from your guild membership, from the top and the bottom.

Liked is good, not disliked is better

Let's start with something which might seem a bit counterintuitive. You've got two members who might serve as new officers, Marcus and Sandra. Marcus is the best friend of one of your existing officers, and a lot of people like him... but the guild members who don't like him really don't like him. Sandra, meanwhile, is no one's best friend (within the guild, that is, Sandra's outside life is not the subject of discussion) but has no one who strongly dislikes her. Thus, the ideal candidate is...Sandra.

One of the biggest elements of having an officer is making sure that they help to maintain a positive atmosphere. You want officers who members are happy to talk with, happy to work with, and willing to engage with. That's that much harder if someone in your officer corps is strongly disliked, even if several other members of the guild do like that person.

To put it more simply, if half of your guild hates Marcus and the other half loves him, making Marcus an officer sends a clear message about which half of the guild is more important to upper leadership. It's the sort of thing that can lead to nasty schisms, and it's not a road you want to go down. You don't want an officer who is universally loathed, but you should aim for the person who has the smallest negative impact and find whomever people like the most within that batch.

Spirit contributions matter (material contributions don't)

Let's wipe the slate clean and use Marcus and Sandra as examples again, chiefly because I hate coming up with names. Let's say both Marcus and Sandra are well-liked enough and neither one gets any member's hackles up. Both have been active members of your World of Warcraft guild for years. Marcus runs lots of events, coordinates dungeon runs, and keeps people engaged, while Sandra is responsible for about 70% of the useful stuff in your guild bank. Clearly, the better officer is... Marcus.

Material contributions are really easy to track and they make an easy metric for determining someone's worth to a group. If you're in a MOBA team and one player is present for all of your big wins, it's clear that the player in question is contributing a lot. But that doesn't make them a decent leader - it's quite possible that the player in question is really good at working with the group, being a team player, not providing a direction for the team as a whole.

The problem, of course, is that it's much easier to look back in this hypothetical and see all of the things that Sandra's provided, while Marcus has offered more ephemeral worth. But Marcus has already been stepping up to the plate and trying to provide officer-like functions. In business terms, he's dressing for the job he wants. He's contributing what you want an officer to contribute without power, and that makes him far more likely to deliver when the time comes.

You should probably do something to recognize Sandra's contributions. But a leadership position isn't there for recognition, it's there to lead.

Whether they want it matters a lot...

Again, we're wiping the slate on Marcus and Sandra. They're both good candidates for officer status thus far, and you present the fact that you're thinking about the promotion for both of them. Marcus responds with the textual equivalent of a shrug and a muttered "sure, whatever," while Sandra response with absolute exuberance. And thus the better officer is...

...well, this one should be obvious.

There are people in any job who will react to an offered promotion with humility rather than excitement, and sometimes that's a result of trying to appear humble. More often, however, it's a case of someone not wanting the promotion but not really being able to turn it down. Lack of ambition and lack of drive is not generally seen as a positive trait, and so there's a strong temptation to accept a promotion even if it's not really wanted.

So the person who actually wants it rather than just not refusing it should be the person who gets the promotion. But before you rush off to make someone an officer, there's an important corollary.

...assuming they want it for the right reasons

Just because someone wants something doesn't mean they ought to have something. There are people who will seem like ideal officer candidates and are quite enthusiastic about having the position, and you quickly find out that the reason they're enthusiastic is that it'll give them an opportunity to punish anyone in the guild who steps out of line and fails to abide by guild rules by the letter.

Those people should not become officers.

One of the sad truisms of existence is that the people who want power the most are also the people who want to abuse that power the most. It's entirely possible to give someone an officer's position only to find out after the fact that their goals chiefly center around what they consider positive changes and the rest of the guild (and the world) would consider horrifying sociopathy. Enthusiasm alone doesn't mean that you have the best interests of the guild at heart.

Thus, it's important to find out what someone wants to do once they become an officer. It would be easy and satisfying if simply asking questions like "are you a horrible person" actually provided useful information, but asking for someone's long-term goals in an officer position should give a reasonable idea of whether or not they plan to make the guild better or if they plan to simply take out other frustrations on guild members.

Sadly, there's no way to know if someone is going to be a good officer. Someone can meet all of the criteria and look like a perfect candidate while actually proving to be an atrocious example of misaimed leadership. But you can at least pick out candidates that seem likely to be good officers, and that means it's that much less likely you'll need an entirely new officer corps every week or so.

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Published Mar. 30th 2016

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