Jan 31, 2012

Posted by in Council Chambers | 4 Comments

Council Chambers: Good Officers, Apply Within

Council Chambers is all about the ins and outs of guild leadership in Star Wars: The Old Republic.  Each week, we’ll look at running and managing a guild through good times, bad times and everything in between.  

To wrap up our Guild Formation series, I wanted to spend a little more time talking about officers – in particular, what to look for when hiring or promoting them.  (You’ll notice this nicely dovetails into the next couple entries about guild advice!  So stay tuned.) For the majority of TOR guilds, you’re just getting started in this new game – for some of you, your guild was established through the Guild HQ before the game launched, for others your guild was ported over from another game, and for some of you, your guild may be a brand new one formed since launch.

Regardless of how you got your start though – good officers really can make or break a guild.  You want officers that are responsible, fair, active, and reliable.  To make it even more tricky, being an officer isn’t even a paid position! Even so, having reliable officers that you can count on to manage the roster, deal with issues when you are offline or not around, and who can support you and the workload that goes with running a guild is a tremendously vital asset for any guild leader.

Let us begin by looking into the qualities that seem to make a good officer.  This can be tough – some are easy to measure (time online, for instance), and others can be harder (how does one measure maturity?)  Ultimately, it’s going to be a combination of observation, current officer consensus (for guilds that already exist and have officers), and a bit of sixth sense or gut hunch thrown into the mix.  Below is an initial list of qualities I usually request from prospective officer candidates.

Primary requirements are:

1.       Ability to be online around 15 hours a week.  Being an officer is a time commitment, and while officers don’t need to be around that much *every* week, they should plan on that (or 3 nights a week) as an average.  If your guild raids or is active more often, you may need to alter this to meet your own guild’s needs.

2.      Willingness to chip in on a number of tasks.  This may include things like new member recruitment, dispute resolution/mediation, raid organization, and social events and outings.  Ideally, a guild will have one officer take point on each of these issue areas (see below) but other officers may be asked to help in outside their area from time to time.

3.      Leadership and initiative.  The other big part of being an officer is to get things done for the guild!  So initiative and a willingness to go out there and do is a big plus – guilds are looking for people who have the time, energy, and commitment to make those visions a reality.  No matter how nice a person, if they don’t have leadership skills, probably not a great choice for an officer.

4.  Ability to manage conflict situations.  This can be the toughest one to fill – nobody likes conflict or arguing with people, and the rare few who do probably aren’t good officer material in the first place.  But, it’s a core part of the job – someone has to be willing to step in and resolve member disputes when they flare up out of nowhere and the guild leader isn’t around.  Also – no matter how wonderful the guild leader, we all have bad days and periodic bad decisions (or, less than ideal decisions) – and if you have a guild full of officers who are just yes men and won’t speak up to raise the questions that should be asked in these occasions, who will?

Aside from this, you want people who are level-headed and not prone to being reactionary.  (By reactionary, I mean they won’t rise to the bait if someone is trying to provoke them.)  You want someone willing to lead and assert themselves, but not so much so that you’re battling them for control on a regular basis.  So a lot of this is a balancing game – keeping a good eye on the members, seeing who might have some of these qualities, talking to them to see if officering interests them, and then trying to match them to the position that best suits their skill sets.

Some generalities on that, from my own observations:

  • Social event and recruiting officers are often extroverted and outgoing members, since you need to be comfortable gathering groups and talking to strangers
  • Raid leaders are often very good at details and organization – they benefit from knowing and prepping members about boss fights, gear lists, and good web sites for classes
  • Technical officers are tech savvy (duh, right?)  Not much more to be said there, really

My final comment is to realize that not everyone asked will want to be an officer.  A lot of the people I’ve approached over the years as showing good competence in the above areas were already officers elsewhere and for other games/guilds for exactly those reasons – or perhaps, that’s where they learned those skills.   Some of us are willing to serve more than once, others – once they retire, they retired and they like having a place to just play.  Do not push someone if they decline!  There’s a lot to be said for just being a player and only having to worry about your own playing experience, rather than everyone in the guild’s.  It’s a high burnout position, so if you ask and the person declines – respect that, and don’t push.  Plus, if you don’t force the issue – a lot of times, they’ll reconsider and offer.

So, that’s some of my experience on what to look for in an officer.  Next post, we’ll talk about how to handle it when officers don’t manage to keep up their responsibilities and some diplomatic ways of managing that.

  1. I’ve been an officer for a couple of months in a guild that had 30-40 raiders which they did around 3/4 days per week.

    My job was mostly about conflict management, when I had a chance I also helped with organising raids a bit.

    My experiences (also IRL) tell me that besides the fact the qualities you want in an officer are very similar to leadership / management qualities, you need to think about how to handle the MMO’s dynamic of it’s pace outrunning the pace of real life.

    For example, when you log out the game when everything in your guild is fine and dandy, it is perfectly realistic that the next evening you log in there are one or more conflicts to be solved. Just as in real life, there will be gossip to deal with the next day, and it comes in LOADS ;-)

    But conflict frequency not only relates to the amount of people in your guild or their expectations (although very important factors), but very much to the way the officers communicate to their members and how they handle information coming to them.

    Good communication is key to having a good running guild, a few personal tips to officers :

    1) “Check your premisses, you will find they are wrong !”

    A quote from a famous book, but this rule works very well.

    I’ve seen all kinds of officers either believing gossip to easily or at least act on it to prematurely. I guess this is part of human behaviour, we have these automatic habits of reacting to fast / emotionally in real life as well ( some more then others :-) ), but the pace of the game also makes it much more difficult in this case, especially for the guild leader, he has to filter through ALL of the information.

    The rule simply means that you always have to check all sides of the story, talk to the persons involved, this sounds easy, but often it is either forgotten or (much more often) when it is checked there are pre-influenced judgements (often via other officers or friends).

    The easiest way of not falling into that trap is applying empathy : how would i like to be approached if it was me ?

    2) “Talk, don’t write”

    Imagine a certain topic sent to you as a movie.
    You put it in your dvd player, press the play button and 2 hours later you have a certain opinion on it.

    Now imagine the same story sent to you as a book.
    The damn thing is 300 pages big, however, since it also describes the characteristics of the persons, their settings, background, and other tiny little details that causes you to take at least a few days to finish it.

    Now what do people like more : the book or the movie ? ;-)

    So replace ‘movie’ by ‘daily whipsers, mails, guid chats and forum posts’ and replace ‘book’ by ‘teamspeak/ventrillo etc’

    3) “No delegates, no information”

    Enough officers are needed to handle the flow in the guild.

    But officers also need good communciation flows between them and what is commonly called the guild’s “cleaning ladies” ;-)

    These are the persons that know all the gossip in the guild, that can tell you every little event that has happened while you were not there.

    Know your cleaning ladies, have a regular chat with them, and you stay up to date how your guild lives.

    4) “Ask feedback, Give feedback”

    Have regular ‘meetings’ between officers and members, ideally you don’t need these because it already happens each day casually and decisions, information etc is flowing automatically. Especially for smaller guilds this will be the case.

    For larger guilds, creating a 1-2 hour teamspeak channel to openly discuss worries, questions, etc works very well.
    Have someone taking notes and publishing the meeting minutes on the guild’s forum afterwards, it will be well appreciated.

    5) “The guild decides, not you”

    Involve members as much as possible in the decision making, use stuff like doodle to find out ideal calendar event days, give a clear signal that their input influences what is decided.

    6) “Phanta Rhei”

    Things always change.

    Even when you have a certain ideal of where the guild should ogo upfront, at some point you’ll be forced to adapt in order to sustain a healthy guild structure.

    The reason is obvious: your guild evolves because of the people, their individual expectations determine in a large part which direction is taken. That means if new people come in, officers have to adapt to them, or otherwise find out that they lose to many ppl over time.

    Finding a balance between the inital goal and the evolving expectations of the guild is probably one of the hardest things for a guild leader to apply.

    I’d probably say it becomes easier if the guild leader surrounds himself with members of the same mentality.

    • Good article, and also a very good addition, Galaxy. Only wrong thing I could find, is “Phanta Rhei”. There’s no h supposed to be in Phanta (greek words starts with a pi, not a phi). But that’s just being old-grammar police speaking.

    • Lady Republic says:

      Thanks for the additional input! I know in our case, we try to always encourage the “24 hour rule” to avoid acting on gossip or heated emotions – it is absolutely astounding how much things tend to settle down after a night’s sleep.

      Also I completely agree, communication is VERY key. More on that next week! (Or perhaps the week after, since BW announced this big guild convention coming hope. Hoping Yours Truly gets to go!)

    • Yes I saw the Phanta mistake afterwards, but I couldn’t correct :-)

      Nice idea about the 24 hour rule, ofc you can’t enforce ppl to apply it, it reminds me of the famous “toilet rule” used at work : if you get mad or upset with a colleague, go to the toilet for 5 min, come back and it’s all fine again (if not, take a smoke, a walk, a swim, whatever that works :p)

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