One of the pitfalls I see new leaders stumble into (with great frequency) is attempting to handle everything alone. It is easy to slip into the role of “control freak,” but it will do a lot to wear you out. The truth is that you’re going to need help, and it is best to be prepared on how to find it. Before we discuss the why and how, it is important to look at who makes a good candidate for an officer position.
The positive thing about looking for an officer is that you’re trying to find someone who meets the same criteria for leadership that you did. You don’t want to pick someone who is clamoring for the spot. Instead, you want to seek out someone who exhibits or at least can learn the STAFF virtues and who brings a certain degree of member support and charisma to the job. You really need to decide whether you want someone who is going to support you or someone who will challenge you.
It is easy to pick decent officers who will just go along with whatever you say. Anyone with any sense can pick out the yes-men. The question—even though it may seem like a foolish thing to ask—is whether a yes-man is who you want. Wouldn’t we always want someone to go along with us? I don’t believe so. In Iniquity, the four senior officers all had very different methods by which to reach the same goal. We all wanted to achieve the same thing, but how we planned to reach it was rarely in alignment. This was a very positive experience since we had to work together and compromise. Doing so led to us making far better decisions than we would have ever made individually. Finding someone to challenge you is not a bad thing, as long as they’re capable of compromise (also known as being flexible).
Now that we know in general the type of person we’re looking for, it is important to understand the purpose he or she will serve. Officers are chosen to augment you in the roles you perform. As the leader, you can expect to perform any and every role that relates to running your organization. That is why we need officers to succeed. Leaders carry a great burden of responsibility for one person, and we are rarely good at everything.
The key to choosing a complementary officer is an understanding of where we are deficient as a leader. When it comes to recruiting new people, I am weak. I do not like the job and, while I understand how it works, I don’t get out and do it enough. Therefore, as a leader, I must accept that I have a weakness that needs to be augmented. With this specific weakness in mind, in addition to meeting my STAFF requirements, I have previously sought someone who is personable and interested in going out to meet new people to bring into our organization. That is the best for the team and for me. I do caution you to be careful, as there is a danger here. Unless you have to do a ton of recruiting all the time (which is a terrible situation to be in) you don’t need someone who is only good at a single task. Early in my career as an officer in Iniquity, we quickly identified some officers that were good at only one thing and went through the painful steps of removing them from power. By doing this, we also lost them as members. That was to be expected. No one likes being involuntarily demoted, but it was what we thought was best for the guild. I want to drive home the point that when it comes to selecting new officers, try to avoid players who simply fill one niche. This is where things get a bit more complex.
You need to understand one universal rule when dealing with officers: once you promote one, you will find it nearly impossible to demote one, unless you accept that the player will likely leave the organization. With that in mind, it is important to limit your officer corps to as few people as necessary to achieve your mission. When filling an officer position, try to seek someone who can handle two or three roles that augment you and your other officers. Never give an officer position to someone as a reward for good service or due to a friendship. This choice will ultimately lead to a weakening of your members’ opinion of you.
Poor officers stick out very obviously in organizations and do a lot of damage to morale. If you have an individual who boasts about being an officer but rarely achieves much in the way of management or progression, you need to start preparing a resolution. It might be as easy as bringing it to that person’s attention. A little private shaming can do wonders. You might also have to look into replacing that person. In my experience, however, it is far better to replace a bad officer and lose him than to let him continue to damage the members’ perception of the officer corps. I made this mistake and suffered greatly for it. I let a single officer sour the social experience of numerous other members to the point where they did not want to play. I did this simply because I didn’t like the idea of losing that particular person. At the time, my method seemed like a good short-term solution. The long-term result was far more devastating for the team. If you think you’re in a similar situation and you’re unsure whether the officers in question are doing their jobs, trust in your members. Listen out for the gossip and match that with the data. If an officer’s job is not being completed and the members are talking, you know you’re in the right for removing or punishing that officer. As I mentioned, this decision may cause a loss, and you’ll need to know how to replace that individual. Always start looking for a new officer before removing an old one. Having as little vacancy time as possible is critical. Just be certain that you’re truly ready to replace the officer before you start this process.
Choosing an officer can be a stressful process to both you and your team members. Whenever a position opens up, assuming you’ve kept them to a minimum, there will be a lot of excitement within the ranks. There are many people who think being an officer is nothing more than fun and games. These are the people who expect leadership to be great without realizing the sacrifices they will potentially have to make. It is important that you shape the expectations of your team members when you start the officer hunt. Take the time to explain what you’re looking for and the work that is actually going to occur. Once you’ve done this how you promote someone will depend on your organization’s culture. I will point out that there are a few traditional methods.
The most common mechanism by which someone is made an officer is through backroom meetings with the leadership and/or franchise members. It is extremely natural for the current officers to chat about who they want to bring up to their level. They’ll have to work with and rely on this new person, and it is quite acceptable that they would want a say in the decision-making process. This practice damages transparency a bit, but it can frequently lead to a better fit. You do run the risk of selecting a yes-man, of course, but if your officer corps is already diverse, you can offset that risk.
Another practice for finding an officer is to allow the members to nominate and vote on candidates democratically. When you do this, you run the risk of electing someone you do not want in your officer corps, but you really raise your transparency and fairness scores. You give the members the opportunity to select who they want to follow, and you generally reduce their ability to complain about them. After all, they made the choice, not you. Sometimes, however, this leads to more of a popularity contest where someone who has no business whatsoever being in a leadership role wins the seat. Be sure that your members understand that they are promoting someone to do work, not to win a reality television show.
A much rarer practice is to seek a professional officer from outside the organization instead of promoting your own member from within. This occurs far more in real life than in online games, but it has happened. Some leaders will go out and find officers they know are good and try to bring them on board. Once again, this method can hurt transparency and really damage fairness. Morale can suffer, since no one was promoted from within the ranks. It may very well be worth the cost, however, as sometimes finding a proven professional officer can go a long way. Getting someone with a track record of success can boost your productivity. This person will also be outside your organization’s culture and might bring fresh ideas to every situation. You just have to weigh the pros and cons when using this method.
Obviously, there are other ways to select an officer, and none of these are entirely exclusive. You can actually mix and match these methods quite a bit. For instance, you could have the officers nominate members and take a public vote. You could even offer up someone from outside the organization as one of those nominees. It simply comes down to using what works best for your culture. Just remember that you’re trying to find someone who is going to fill a role, augment a weakness, and actually do work. Bringing in someone to just “give advice” or “be an officer to help out” will generally end poorly, unless that player does those generic things exceptionally well. Promote someone when a need is not being met. If that need is minuscule or you need only a slight boost, you may not need an officer. In that case, you could possibly get along with the help of a team leader or franchise member, although that brings up a few more issues that must be worked through.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this preview of The Guild Leader’s Companion 2nd Edition. Please check out the product page for more information and useful information on guild leadership.