Posted by: ariedan | April 5, 2009

10 Things I’ve Learned the Hard Way

In one day, the guild I created will be celebrating its one year anniversary. I’ve gone through a lot, and I’ve definitely grown a lot in character. Instead of reflecting on my successes, I’d rather just focus on the things I learned from my experiences for any prospective or current guild leaders/officers.

1). Drama Happens.

Say it with me, folks: drama happens. You could have the best group of people and the most incredible leadership, but it will happen. When you put a group of people together, online or in person, you have to realize that all people disagree at times.

How I Learned From It: I thought my guild was immune to it. We’re a very small and close-knit group of friends, and we thoroughly screen new members to ensure we bring in the right sort of people for us. So when people would get into disagreements or balk at officers giving constructive criticism, you’ve got to just take a step back and fully assess the situation.

How I Deal With It: A lot of people have the misconception that in order to run a guild successfully, you have to keep drama out, and if you don’t you’ve somehow failed. Don’t fall into that category. Your responsibility as a leader is not to ensure that drama never happens, but to realize that it inevitably will and to constantly nip it in the bud before it spreads like wildfire. When somebody is upset, talk to him/her and try to find the root of the problem. If there’s a disagreement between two people, try to hear both sides of the story without taking either side. If you sense a negative vibe, fix it.

2.) Never Assume.
Never assume anything, and never leave a rule you expect to be followed unspoken no matter how much you think it’s common sense. Outline all raiding, social, and guild rules you expect your guild to follow that way, they never have cause to complain when you chastise them for breaking them.

How I Learned From It: There were many instances where I learned this lesson the hard way, but the one that really stands out deals with an inexperienced raider that had just transferred to play with us. Before I explain the situation, understand that we run with a very small roster at probably around 30 raiders. On a good night, we might have a few people sitting out, but it helps us deal with bad nights when a few people can’t make raids. We were progressing through Black Temple at the time, so it wasn’t a one-night-deal for us, and since it was new content for us, of course everyone showed up. We invited the new guy to Tuesday night’s raid where we cleared all the way up to Illidari Council, and on Wednesday, we invited another person who had sat out the previous night, and sat the new guy. Well, he didn’t like that at all. Within minutes, he had started a drama post on the forums (instead of approaching an officer with his issue!) about how it was rude to get him saved to an instance without inviting him to finish the rest of it (consider also that it was still progress for us, so there was no “finishing” happening). Everyone was completely floored at the audacity of his post, but mostly, because we assumed that was something everyone understand about end-game raiding. Apparently, common sense isn’t so common.

How I Deal With It: I’ve written guides based on the rules and expectations I hold my guild to, and I cover all bases so I don’t have to deal with another situation similar to the one described above. If people choose to not read and/or follow the rules… well, the consequences are also outlined in the threads so it’s no one’s fault but their own!

3.) Share the Work Load.
Running a guild is not a one-man/woman job! Hand-pick officers and help delegate responsibilities. Be ready to give new officers a push in the right direction, though. Getting your officer team to understand they don’t need you to hold their hands in making decisions and taking initiative to get things done is necessary.

How I Learned From It: When I first started my guild, I was so overwhelmed. I was unemployed at the time, and running the guild essentially became my full-time job. I was online the majority of my days, trying to juggle recruitment, playing member babysitter, working on the guild website, answering people’s questions, while still being expected to online and around to get to know my members.

>How I Deal With It: After making sure I made the right decision on picking my officers, I resigned as GM and instead gave us all the equal rank of “officer council.” Each one of the officers has his/her strong and weak points, and our own little niche in running the guild. This really helped establish that it was a team effort, and has really helped even out the work load. Now, if I don’t log into WoW one day or decide to take a vacation, I don’t even think twice about it. I trust my officers, and it has really made all of our guild successes possible.

4.) Be Active.
Running a guild means you need to know what’s going on, and you need to be around to see it.

How I Learned From It: I actually work swing shift at my job, which has me working overnight. As a result, that means I can’t always be around when everyone’s online. Have there been issues because of it? In the distant past, yes. But being active doesn’t necessarily mean you have to always be online.

How I Deal With It: I make myself available. I’m always on the forums, and our forums are very active. People have my cell and text me all the time. Just be around and let people know you’re around. >

5.) Establish Relationships With Your Members.
You’re probably very busy, but always make time to try to get to know your members better.

How I Learned From It: Well, our guild is an exceptionally social guild as it is, and we pride ourselves on how close-knit and easy we are to get along with. But every once in a while, we get your social wallflower who just won’t open up or talk at all. If someone won’t try to open up, then it’s really hard to become friends with him/her and he/she ends up being ignored and feeling out of place.

How I Deal With It: Make it your duty to know every person in your guild. I don’t talk to one person more than another, I don’t run groups with the same people over and over. I consistently whisper people just to say hi, and I greet people when they log on. These may seem like small things, but they really go a long way.

6.) Watch What You Say and Do.
People are always watching you. As a leader, you have the most thankless tasks and hardest role to play in a group of peers. Mistakes are less forgivable, and your actions/words are always scrutinized. You are always under the pressure to reinforce your created rules and lead by example. Even if you do nothing wrong, people are always reading too far into things you say.

How I Learned From It: Last Tuesday, we had a horrible raid. We didn’t have a full 25-man group, much less our best group to pursue our last few achievements left for Heroic: Glory of the Raider. People were unfocused, dying left and right, pulling extra trash mobs, letting tanks die, etc. My boyfriend, who is the raid leader called the raid. The following day, he and I were running errands and met up with old friends we hadn’t seen in forever. We got carried away with time and had to call in for our first raid in months. Turns out, people read too far into our actions and thought we didn’t want to raid because we were disappointed in them, so we had to go about reassuring them all that things were fine.

How I Deal With It: It’s simple: I think before I act and talk, or at least most of the time. Especially when making a particular announcement to a group of members. I try to say things in a manner they expect from me, instead of my usual sometimes too blunt and open manner.

7.) Know When to Grow a Spine
As if trying to become friends with all your members is bad enough, the true test of leadership is knowing when to grow a spine. There are times when you need to take disciplinary action, and it’s even worse when it’s your friend you’re dealing with. Know when to put on your “officer hat” and to do the dirty work.

How I Learned From It: This is a lesson I still struggle with daily. It’s the hardest part of being a peer leader, and twice as bad since I’m close friends with everyone in the guild. I’m the approachable officer, the friendly one, the one people talk to when they have issues (in-game or otherwise). It’s hardest for me to get stern and tell the friend I was just giving relationship advice to that he’s being demoted to casual because he misses raids without posting out. It’s hard to tell a person that you personally find funny that his jokes annoy half the guild, and then deal with his continuous attention-seeking whispers every day since (“Everyone hates me.. ever know what that feels like?”). And it’s hardest to /gkick. Friend or irritating kid, /gkicking is something I’ve had to do very few times and I remember every single individual.

How I Deal With It: I struggle with it inwardly, but I never hesitate when I have to put the guild first. It’s hard, but that’s the job I signed up for when I wrote my guild charter. If you’re ever unsure of a decision, always ask yourself if you’d rather spare the individual’s discomfort at the risk of your guild. Losing your guild or possibly losing a member; which of the two is greater and more important to you? If you can answer that question, you know what to do.

8.) Always Look For Ways to Improve.
Raiding-wise, socially, guild rules.. there are always things you can work on.

How I Learned From It: It’s easy to grow complacent with the way things are, and I’ve definitely been guilty of it. Don’t settle for mediocrity. Know when to push for more, and when to stop. A good example is achievements. Half my guild loves the idea of raid-themed achievements, and the other half doesn’t care if it means repetitively dying to a previously easy encounter/instance for a single achievement. But our raids were growing boring doing the same thing over and over, people were growing restless, and the officers finally realized we had to change our mindset on achievements if we ever wanted to progress.

How I Deal With It: I read the guild relations forums and various blogs of that nature. By familiarizing myself with other guilds’ struggles and successes, I’m able to pick up good ideas for things, and really analyze my guild and see where we could improve. Talking one-on-one with other guild leaders really helps too.

9.) Don’t Give Up!
Guilds will go through good times and tough times, but you better believe you’ll have your share of both. There will be times where nothing you do works, things get increasingly worse, when you want to do nothing more than just crawl into a dark corner and cry- well, maybe not that extreme, but you get the point. I’m a blackjack dealer, and so I’m going to use this analogy: when you gamble, you have to realize you’re going to eventually have to lose some in order to win. Nobody likes losing but you’re never going to enjoy the game if you get angry every time you lose. Accept it and move on; it’s part of the game.

How I Learned From It: You wouldn’t believe how many times I and my other officers were about one step away from calling it quits on our guild. I remember our first difficult period, we lost a few members and were having troubles evening putting together a decent group to progress in ZA, much less making it into 25-mans. And to make it worse, the issues caused the guild to have low morale, and so even more people left because we lost our fun, upbeat atmosphere. I recall one of the other officers making a thread called “Sink or swim?” in the officer forums when we were essentially a day away from just disbanding, and it was like a beacon for us. It was exhausting and stressful, but we picked up the pieces and kept going. There have been so many other times when we were ready to just give up, and I’m so glad we hadn’t.

How I Deal With It: Just in the last two weeks, we’ve been having difficulties with attendance due to a combination of spring break and people being bored while waiting for new content. All the old feelings of anxiety that my guild is going to fall apart over night are back, and even though I know it’s totally irrational, I’m still losing sleep over it. Every time I lose a raider, every time we have difficulties downing easily farmed bosses, every time we have raiders stop showing up, I lose sleep over it. I shouldn’t, and neither should you. When these things happen, you’ve got to just learn to sit back and relax. If I lose a member, I hit the guild recruitment forums while telling myself over and over the guild isn’t falling apart. If guild/raid morale seems to be on the negative side due to recent happenings, schedule an off night for fun activities like naked gnomes races.

10.) Learn From Your Mistakes.

There are three types of people: those who “never” make mistakes, those who never let live down their mistakes, and those who learn from their mistakes. You want to be the latter of those three. We’re human and we all make mistakes. Think of mistakes as learning tools, and take advantage of them: use them as stepping stones to your successes.

How I Learned From It: I fall into the second category, personally. I criticize my mistakes from every angle, and instead of seeing them as learning tools, I see them all as failures. At one point, my disappointment in myself rubbed off and people were able to sense my feelings, and mistook them as me being disappointed in them.

How I Deal With It: I still get angry with myself if I do something stupid in raids or make a bad decision for the guild, but I’ve finally realized criticizing my mistakes doesn’t make them better. My band director in high school always said, “There’s no such thing as a stupid mistake except the one you didn’t learn from.”



  1. This is really helpful…I am currently the leader of my guild and have run into many of these problems recently.

    Wish i had seen this sooner because i have lost a few of my members because i let the guild become stale…we were barely making our raids each week and when we did we rarely had enough people…Watching my guild lose 25 nax gear to pugs was the worst but knowing that i cannot ruin my guilds rep to save a few complaints in guild made it happen. This week was a little better but its nothing special as after a great night i still lost another member due to drama. If you have any other tips for me please send them my way.

  2. […] prowling wowcocks away. To stop it turning into a nasty little ASBO teenager. So I’m posting this link from The Wordy Warrior about guilds just to keep me on track when I need […]

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