Officer  Tagged Articles RSS Feed | Officer  RSS Feed on en Launch Media Network Guild Guide: How to pick out good potential officers Wed, 30 Mar 2016 06:37:31 -0400 Eliot Lefebvre

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.

Guild Guide: Learning how and when to say "no" Fri, 30 Oct 2015 10:00:52 -0400 Eliot Lefebvre

No one wants to be the person who says "no, you can't join the guild." No one wants to tell members "no, you can't do that in guild chat." No one wants to be thought of as the one who tells others to stop having fun. And if you're an officer, you may as well get used to doing things that you don't like doing, because that's what you signed up for to begin with.

Being a jerk isn't satisfying, but it's an important part of any sort of leadership position, and one of the things you need to learn how to do. Straddling the line between being an intolerable jerk and being firm when it's important is a hard thing to learn, so let's look at learning the first step - learning how to say "no."

Even when you really want to be able to say "yes" despite that.

I say whatever I want, dude.

Why you need to learn

As an officer, your first job is to make sure that the group you're leading is the best it can be. That means that you need to be the person who looks at what people want and can be ready to say "no, this is a bad idea."

Sometimes it's a transparently bad idea, and sometimes it's a more subtle one. But your goal is still making sure that the group continues along and remains a comfortable, positive place for everyone. Sometimes that means being the police officer and being willing to look at the long-term costs with a critical eye.

Members - not officers - are not concerned with any sort of overarching vision. They shouldn't be. It's important for members of a guild to specifically push those boundaries and nudge the group into new styles, because otherwise the whole group remains a very insular and closed system. But as an officer, you need to be ready to edit things, and you need to be unafraid to put your foot down when you need to.

You shouldn't want to put your foot down unless you do need to, of course. But you should be willing to do so when you must.

Yeah, this seems like a great idea right here, no one will mind.

The fears of saying no

There are lots of reasons to fear saying no, but I think the core three are fairly simple: you fear being disliked, you fear making a bad call, and you fear misunderstanding.

Making a bad call is the most obvious of the three, because it's so easy to do completely by accident. You think you've got a handle on what the group as a whole is doing, but then you realize that, say, you rejected an application for someone who would be a major asset to the guild as a whole. Or you agreed to permit a certain behavior in group chat and then realized only after the fact that it has far-reaching impacts that ultimately make other members of the guild feel less welcome and less happy. You worry that once a bad decision is made, it can't be unmade.

Fearing misunderstanding is pretty straightforward, as well. It cuts both ways - you don't want to be the person who makes a decision that directly opposes that of another officer, and you don't want the person to whom you're saying "no" to misunderstand why you're saying it. Perhaps you're saying no to something that another officer said yes to for another member, and that means you're sending a non-unified message that also damages the sense of group cohesion. That's not a desirable outcome.

Last but not least, fearing dislike is subtle but also the most important, in some ways. If you're the officer and no one likes you, no one wants you to remain an officer. Absolutely no one ascends to a position of some prominence with the intent for others to think they're a jerk. You want to be liked, you want to make the guild better, and if all people see is you roundly denying what they want, you get a reputation. Even if you are absolutely sure that NO is the right thing to say, you might want to make sure that people like you after all.

It's important to have these fears, though. I've seen too many officers discard these fears, and they're important things to bring along as questions. It's the difference between examining your options and deciding you're not wrong and starting out with the assumption that you can do no wrong.


Assuaging the fear

The fear of making a bad call is, oddly, the easiest one to assuage. Yes, you might make a bad call. Your odds of making a bad call increase to near-absolute certainty with enough time. But bad calls are one of those things that can be reversed with time. You can make a decision on Tuesday, find out it was a bad choice on Wednesday, and reverse that decision on Thursday. No, it might not fix everything, but the idea of never saying no because eventually your decision might be wrong is making the same mistake from another angle. Far better to make the bad call and deal with the fallout - or, quite possibly, realize and reverse the decision at a decent clip.

Misunderstanding is a bit harder to assuage, because it is eminently possible to misunderstand something no matter how thoroughly you try to avoid it. You might make a mistake, and your actions themselves might be misunderstood. However, understanding only comes from making a conscious and consistent effort to learn and do better, which means that the solution to this isn't "saying yes" so much as it is to ask for all of the information ahead of time.

Misunderstandings can also be mitigated by making a point to not make every decision as a snap judgment. It's perfectly fair to stop an argument unilaterally if you intend to then step in, check out both sides, and do what you can to address underlying issues. Press pause if you need to, even if it's just for a little bit.

Last but not least, there's the issue of being liked... and that's simultaneously the thorniest and least complex issue.

On the one hand, you can't allow yourself to be pushed into things based on whether or not people will like you. On the other hand, it's entirely fair for you to say that you want to avoid being disliked if at all possible, and the best you can do for that is explain your thinking and your motivation. Allow members or prospective members to make their case, explain why you're saying no, and if they disagree with your decision afterward, at a certain point you just have to accept that there's going to be a disconnect.

You might want everyone to like you, but you can't make that happen. What you can do is make sure that if they dislike you, they dislike you for the right reasons, and your goals are entirely aimed at making the guild better as a whole. Think about it, but don't let it stop you from making important decisions.

It should always be hard to say no. Saying no is important, and it should be something undertaken with care. But you should be reluctant to do so, not afraid. And it's important to understand the difference.

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Guild Guide: Dealing with problem officers in your guild, group, or clan Fri, 24 Apr 2015 09:54:47 -0400 Eliot Lefebvre

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The upside of dealing with problematic members in a group is that you always have a secret weapon - the officers.  If someone is really proving to be more trouble than they're worth, an officer can always wish them well and possibly suggest what they should or should not do vis-a-vis the door and the soon-to-be-former member's rear.  

Which is great!  Until the problem that you're dealing with is the fact that the member who gives you so much trouble is the officer.

Officers, by definition, set the tone of the group. 

If there are three officers in a small guild in World of Warcraft, odds are good to absolute that all three of them are crucial to the running of that guild.  More than likely, they founded it and built it in the first place.  So on some level, there's the obvious element that if you don't like the officers you should probably leave the guild altogether; you are there to be a part of this group, and asking those officers to change for you is kind of like coming in on the second reel of a movie and then demanding that it be a movie you like better.

But that doesn't mean that every officer is actually a boon to their guild.  Officers are people just like any other, and it is eminently possible to have even a founding member of a guild turn out to be harmful to the group as a whole.  So, just like last time, let's take a look at some of the most commonly encountered problematic officer types and how you can deal with them.


The autocrat

You know those people who say, "I'm sorry, I don't make the rules"?  The autocrat is the sort of person who says that just after he makes the rule, and then he screams at you for breaking the rule. 

To these people, being in charge is fun because it means you get to bark orders at everyone and you get to make all of the decisions, and in the worst cases their "rules" are just whatever makes them feel most powerful at any given moment.

The bright side of officers like this - yes, there is a bright side - is that they are the people best suited to deal with disagreements, because they're willing to wade in with a hammer and lay down the law.  This is, in fact, an advantage.  Unfortunately, dealing with them at any other time is a bit of a problem, as they will decide what they want to have happen without any regard for the people involved, as their goal is to be the biggest kid on the metaphorical playground.

Dealing with this sort of officer is something best brought up with another officer, but if that's not an option your best bet is to speak with the officer in private and explain your issues.  If they use that as the pretense to start trying to drum you out of the group, leave immediately.  Most officers who've gone on the autocratic side are doing so out of a need to have a strong hand; if that need is personal rather than guild-wide, nothing but disappointment awaits you in the future.

One big happy family that is not big, happy, or a family.

The cronyist

Officers in a guild should be able to stand one another.  It's probably even for the best if they're friends.  But you can run into problems when the officer core becomes more like a clubhouse, with a very small number of people all covering for one another.  That's what cronyism is - appointing friends and companions to high-authority positions regardless of their qualifications - and the cronyist is an officer whose behavior centers around doing precisely that.  Their method of operation is to be surrounded by friends in the officer corps, regardless of whether or not those friends are qualified, and to be surrounded by friends who will vouch for them no matter the circumstances.

The problem here is that the whole point of having multiple officers is in making sure that everyone has a check or two in place.  The guild leader has other officers scrutinizing their decisions, the lesser officers are being watched by the other officers, and so forth.  If everyone is basically just patting one another on the back, you don't get any sense that anyone who isn't part of the elite officer in-club has a voice.

If the entrenched power structure isn't actively malicious, this might not be a huge problem - it's often enough to bring up your concerns and ask, politely, that the officer lineup shift slightly.  This becomes really problematic when you're dealing with an officer who falls victim to one of the other problems on that list with friends who will defend them endlessly.  At that point, it's probably time to move on; you can't trust the people in control, and you can't trust them to make changes when needed.

I can't help but notice we're a bit thin on attendance.

The absentee

I'm just going to let Cake explain this one for me.  Except less about a romantic relationship and more about, you know, an officer never being there.

Usually, officers who just sort of check out do so because they see their duty as one of putting out fires; if there are no fires to worry about, they don't need to stick around.  Which is a reasonable idea, but the fact is that officers do more than just show up and fix squabbles.  They provide direction to the group, keep members engaged, and generally give everyone a place to rally around.  When an officer is never there, well... you're deprived of all that.

Fortunately, this is honestly the easiest sort of problem officer to deal with.  Very few officers who have largely checked out are going to take it as a personal assault if you point out that they're never around.  Most will either step down and let someone else take over or simply show up a little more often.  Either one works, in the long run.

That's right, blow it up.  I want to see what will happen.

The ego

Some officers don't seek power just so they can have a power trip; they seek power because they want to have their point of view validated.  While the autocrat wades into problems with a hammer, the egotistical officer doesn't wade anywhere; they declare their point of view and more or less dare anyone to speak otherwise.  Or they don't even state a point of view, just stake out their claim as the king of the hill and knock around anyone who steps out of line.

These officers can be almost invisible for long stretches of time, because so long as you're one of the people they like, you don't have to pay any attention to it.  For this officer, the only rule is that they're always right, and if you challenge that or they don't like you too much, you're out.  There's no appeal or discussion, because there's nothing to discuss - either you are friends or you are enemies.

Of course, to point out the problem is to also point out the major issue with addressing it - trying to confront this officer just puts you into the enemy category.  Assuming that you want to stick around, your best bet in this case is honestly to just avoid this offcier as much as humanly possible, because there's no configuration of words that will convince someone engaged in proving how great they are that they're worse for getting into that mindset.  It's also not a bad idea to bring up the behavior with another officer, but be forewarned that this sort of officer will try to poison the well before you can do so.  (They figure you'll do it first, after all.)

Unfortunately, when dealing with bad or untrustworthy officers, you don't have the power in the relationship.  You have to take a gentle touch, and at times, recognize that your best option is to move on rather than fight out a conflict that you're just not going to win.  Which isn't pleasant, but neither is staying in a group when you're not welcome.