Monday, September 7, 2009

Raiders Suck at Leading!

Kay the title is not meant as harsh as it sounds, but it's in response to Saresa with her post Raid Leaders Suck!

In this post she explains what a lot of raid leaders do wrong from her point of view as a raider. I will put against this my experience as a raid leader, and will try to show things from the other side.

I know this might come accross oddly at first, but bare with me.

Raiders are like a group of young puppies sometimes. They are jumping all around and tumble over eachother, very excited to go out and find a tree to pee against. Problem with this is that if you don't have a person (boss) to actually tell these puppies what a tree is, and what really is the sofa they will cause a lot of issues, and frankly....all they'll create is mess.

Raiders, like puppies, need structure. Structure and guidance. They need someone to steadily take the lead, stay calm when things go wrong, stay positive when wiping, and just generally a person who knows what he's doing.

Raiders also need to be given their own responsibility. You can teach them a trick, but it is far, far more efficient to teach them how to think about something themselves. That way they will learn their own tricks, and will be able to apply it to the next time something similar comes along.

There is a time for praise, there is a time for but slapping.
Saresa complains that your raiders should always be praised, always reminded of what they were doing right. I agree.

That is to say, in principle I agree. It is far more powerful as a raid leader to lead from reward and praise than it is to lead from fear and discipline. However, discipline is needed in a raid group. Especially if this concerns a 25man raid group (remember the sofa peeing puppy?).

So while it is very very important to praise your raiders, it might be even more important to discpline them when needed. Not all the time, but decide on your own limits, and when they cross that line, stop them.

Be stern and clear, but fair. There is nothing wrong with calling your raiders out on behaviour that is considered unwanted, or actions that cause the group to be compromised. There is also nothing wrong on calling your raiders out on bad performance. In fact the only way for someone to improve is to know they're doing it wrong.

Provide structure
Saresa is right on this one, mostly. A lot of raiders can think for themselves, but when you see that all the freedom you give them to think for themselves is mainly causing confusion, narrow it down.

A good example is healing assignments. I often leave it fairly open, and instead of assigning very detailed I often give out the assignment 'fill up where needed' to one or two healers. However, you can only ever do this with healers that you know will be able to see indeed the gaps where their heals should land. If you give this assignment to a healer who needs more structure, you will only cause chaos in their head and nothing good will come out of it.

This has a lot to do with knowing your raiders, and if you don't know them you should be able to guestimate it after one or two attempts. It's not science unfortunately, but if you lead enough raids you will get better at recognizing this.

Also, give your raiders the option to ask for structure. It is perfectly alright to ask your raiders if your explanation has been clear, if the assignments are clear, and if they have any questions left.

Understanding is the basis of doing
Don't read out what an ability does, interpret it for your raiders.

For example:
Freezing Slash — Inflicts 25% Froststrike weapon damage (Frost or Physical, whichever will cause more damage to the target) damage to enemies within 6 yards in front of Anub'arak and freezes them in a block of ice for 3 sec. Instant
Would translate to:
Don't stand in front of him or you'll get frozen and will take damage.
The last part is particularly important. Your raiders need to know what the consequences are of standing in the wrong spot so they understand what their doing wrong, but also what they can adjust when it does accidentally go wrong. If a raider has no understanding of the fight he can never compensate for any accidents, and all flexibility is lost.

So yes, tell your raiders what to do, but mostly tell them why they're doing it.

Be the leader
People need someone to make decisions for them. Well, no, perhaps not on a person to person bases. But once you stick people together in a group they need someone to stick their head up and say "We will do it like this".

They will have to look up at this person and trust this person to make the right decision. If the raidleader calls it, they will have to trust the raidleader has good reasons to do so.

A small example.

We were in ToC last weekend with our Pugtastic raid, and I had called it. We had wiped on Anub several times, and I could notice the attention span dropping. Some people almost begged me for another try, but I had already gotten tells of people getting desperate.

So I called it. Told them that I had full confidence that we could do it, but that we simply needed a bit of time to digest the information that we had gathered by wiping on him that evening. I know I left some people disappointed. But I also knew that if I had continued I would not have left them disappointed, but annoyed.

Now I've left them with the feeling, no with the knowing, that we can do this, but that we just need a bit more time for it. And though they were disappointed that we didn't beat him this week, they know that we will beat him next week.

I know this too, you know why? Because people aren't annoyed with the boss, and from banging their heads against it, just more eager to kill that bastard.

If I had let the raid lead I would've banged our heads against it a bit longer, the people who were already starting to despair a bit would've not looked forward at all to going in the week after, and the people who did feel they had to go on would possibly have been so discouraged by it next week that they would already start with a negative positions. (positive thinking is half the deal).

I know this group can do it, but it is important that they know as well, and feel it.

So yes, while Saresa is right and you shouldn't get arrogant about it, you should be the leader, and you should be calling the shots.

Allow for folly, but never never at the expense of others
While this is generally a good advice for anywhere and any situation, it's even more true for a raidleader.

To me all my raiders are precious. Each of them has their own spot, and their own role to play, and I value all of them. And within my 10man we even know each other well enough to actually make a little fun of each other with a good heart and have the best of times.

I've known most of my 10man for 2 years or longer.

Unfortunately most raids don't know eachother this long already. And as the raidleader you should never show bias to anybody, not even jokingly. Be very very careful about this, and better be darn sure if you do poke fun at someone that he/she knows it's meant as a pleasant tease.

You want your people to be positive, and my experience is that no matter how well something is meant, if it goes towards the personal directed at a specific person side, it often is not taken as funny as it was meant to, and the atmosphere will become less good. Even if you don't notice at first, under water it will fester.

And like Saresa is now waiting for her raid lead to chew her out, I'll sit back and watch for reactions from my raiders.

And yes, you guys are MY raiders. My 10man leads itself practically, and while a lot of people think raid leading is stressful, with this group it's relaxation and fun. And pugtastic, pugs...well, hardly pugs anymore by now, they're so amazingly cool, that I'm very honored to be leading them.


  1. Pfft Raid leaders got it easy these days, Try in when it was 40 people raids. Those were Real Raid Leaders.

  2. Hi !
    I will be changing raid leader this week. Actually, I will be changing guild and even server.
    I don't know if reading this made me less or more anxious...

    Recent blog:=- The end of GoW