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Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

State of the Cataclysm

Posted by Malevica on February - 2 - 2011

Well there’s nothing like leading a 25-man guild through a new expansion to suck up all of your free time, and nothing like writing up a thesis to suppress your love of writing as a hobby!

Anyway, what pearls of wisdom can I share?

Levelling

I’ve got my Priest and Paladin to 85 so far, and my Shaman is close behind at 83. I levelled Malevica as Discipline and had a blast. It wasn’t as quick as it could have been as Shadow, but I usually find that the time I spend reorganising all my bars and learning how to Shadow just isn’t recouped in time savings while levelling; that’s not to say that’s universal though.

On the other hand, I really regret trying to level my Paladin as Holy. Levels 80-83 were OK, but Uldum and Twilight Highlands were just pretty awful. And the problem was easy to fix: Exorcism just costs too much damn mana. I could keep Inquisition up fine but my main nuke is Exorcism. Exorcism does plenty of damage but just can’t be cast for long enough to kill more than one mob before needing to drink again. Give me a glyph, or even a talent, to reduce its mana cost by half and the problem is solved. It has no impact at end-game because DPS specs shouldn’t be mana-starved now.
But, I hear you cry, you’re doing it wrong! Why not just go Ret like everyone else? Well, I chose to go Holy because I was instancing a fair bit and trying to maintain two completely separate gear sets on an alt felt like just too much work. Plus, don’t forget, I’d just finished levelling a Priest as a healing spec with no problems.

And don’t even get me started on quest mobs with 150,000 HP for no very good reason. If a mob is in no danger of killing me (and in Cataclysm there’s no single quest mob which poses any risk to the player unless you’re AFK) then all you achieve by giving it twice the HP of a typical mob is making me press Nuke No.1 twice as many times. Which is boring, especially when I’m already killing mobs slowly.
Let me be clear, I’m in favour of big scary mobs at the end of quest chains, but what makes them big and scary should be more complicated mechanics to deal with and a real sense that they come close to killing me, not just more hit points.

On the subject of linear questing, I love the story-telling and how the heavy use of phasing keeps the zones feeling less crowded, and since my focus is getting to 85 so I can run heroics or raids the ease of finding quest hubs is a bonus. But I will admit that levelling my third character is feeling a bit less exciting when I know I’ve done every quest before.

Heroics

At the start of the expansion, Blizzard seemed to have achieved their goal of making heroics hard, even taking into account the huge numbers of people carrying around PvP gear or Shadow Priests with plate gear just to game the itemlevel restriction.

What they did well from my perspective is make the encounters problematic if your group tries to nuke ignore the mechanics, while making them fairly manageable if your group avoids the bad, interrupts the Spell-of-Death and kills the adds.

Which leads me to the biggest realisation I had while adjusting to the new expansion, and the best piece of advice I’d give to any new healer:

If the thought going through your mind constantly is “I can’t heal through this!!!”, there’s a very good chance your group is doing it wrong.

Of course, maybe you are just undergeared or not adapting to the new expansion at all, but bear in mind that it’s probably not your fault.
Case in point, my first (guild) run in Lost City was a nightmare. Especially High Prophet Barim (didn’t he use to sell reagents?) and Siamat. Why? We weren’t killing the Soul Fragments in time on the former and we were killing the adds too near to the group on the latter. And no one had the gear to compensate for it.

In WoW, people like to talk about Skill > Gear. Really it’s more like Potential ~ Gear x Skill. If you need a certain level of performance to defeat a boss, you can make it possible by raising your gear or your skill/execution/tactics, or both. Right now, as February dawns, the general levels of gear in the playing community are rising which makes heroics a bit more manageable for the average pickup group, yet they’re still defeating groups regularly if they ignore mechanics, which I count as a success.

Raiding

My guild is committed to 25-man raiding, and we’re 9/12 at the moment (Cho’gall is so dead this week!), making us the 3rd Horde guild for 25-man raiding (the other two are 10/12, curse them!)

I’ve loved the pace of the raids so far. We’ve generally spent at least a couple of hours on each boss before downing them, so there’s not been a Naxx moment where an entire wing drops in a night. Trash is well-designed, often demonstrating the principles of the fights (Ascendant Council is a great example) and making you think, while not taking hours to plough through.

My favourite encounters are probably Chimaeron, for daring healers not to heal and then challenging them to switch gears in a second, and the Conclave of Wind for the incredible scenery as well as the coordination needed of the whole raid.

25-man raids do seem to be in dire straits at the moment though. On my server a lot of the big Horde 25-man guilds either broke up into 10-man guilds around the expansion or have subsequently dropped to 10s. We have no plans to change the format of our guild, but if I were looking to set up a new guild I certainly wouldn’t be trying to start a 25-man guild.
I’m not predicting the death of 25-man raiding though, just a consolidation into a smaller number of guilds dedicated to the format.

Shameless plug

Mental is currently looking for a few more good applicants to top up our roster, particularly a couple of reliable healers. If you’re an EU player looking for 3 nights a week 25-man raiding, you could do a lot worse than Mental!

The Blog

I’m still here and I do intend to post more, especially as the guild/raid leadership demands begin to lower a bit, but I also have a lot going on and honestly TH4H is dropping quite a way down the list.

I will be updating the raid strategies by the weekend though, I know some of them are way out of date. I’ve got up-to-date versions on my guild’s forums that just need converting.



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[Leadership] The Influence of Celebrities

Posted by Malevica on December - 10 - 2010

I was reading Kurn’s latest post, and a comment in it caught my eye:

The problem with being a GM who has a blog that’s mostly healing-related is that I have a LOT of healers and they’re all awesomesauce and all chomping at the bit to get in there and HEAL.

Now this is something I’ve observed in other guilds as well; not with bloggers (not that I know of, anyway) but with the GM and Officers in those guilds. There seems to me to be a rough correlation between the high-profile figures residing in a given guild and the number and performance of the members of that same class or role. So if your GM is a healer, you’ll find you tend to have strong, enthusiastic healers around.

I think there are two main reasons for a plausible link:
 

  1. Fame and respect – A well-respected class blogger and commentator like Kurn or someone known around the realm as a good player will obviously attract people to them. And the people drawn to them are more likely to be of the same class or role because we tend to pay more attention to people with similar interests as ourselves.
    They don’t need to be Officers to attract this sort of attention.
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  3. Representation within the guild – If your Officers are all ranged DPS, you might expect they they’ll have a different, possibly less sympathetic, perspective on the challenges faced by healers or tanks compared to a more balanced Officer team. Your potential recruits might not even be aware of this, but it can still affect them subconsciously.
    I know I consciously looked at the Officers when I chose my current guild, because the last guild I was in with a DPS-dominated Officer corps was not a place that was sympathetic to healers or tanks at all.

 

I’d strongly advise guild leaders to keep an eye on their Officer compositions, and if you have to have a corps dominated by one role or another, make sure you have good strong links with the high profile people from the other roles to reassure people that they are listened to and understood.

Early in my raid-leading days I realise I was guilty of being a bit overly demanding on the DPS, until I spent a few months forced to play Shadow. That changed my perspective a lot. You need to be open to the other person’s point of view, so make some critical friends who will tell you when there’s a real problem.

And don’t forget to pamper and spoil your blogging colleagues, because basically we’re awesome!



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Categories: Anecdotes, Leadership

Constructive Criticism

Posted by Malevica on December - 9 - 2010

I thought I’d break from the Cataclysm stuff with an old post I’ve finally got round to finishing.

A concept that crops up from time to time, particularly in raiding circles, is the idea of “constructive criticism”. A vast majority of guild charters and guild applications will mention a willingness to accept criticism somewhere within them, but what do we mean by “constructive criticism”? What does it look like? And how do we make sure we’re giving it?

A definition

First, let’s look at “criticism”.

Criticism is the judgement of the merits and faults of the work or actions of an individual or group by another (the critic). To criticize does not necessarily imply to find fault.

(Emphasis mine, Source)
Criticism is simply an analysis and judgement, it is not automatically negative or fault-finding only. That’s a key point to remember.

Now for the “constructive” part.

Constructive criticism is criticism kindly meant that has a goal of improving some area of another person’s life or work.

(Emphasis mine, Source)
What makes it constructive is that the criticism is meant to help the recipient improve. It does not say anything about the content of the criticism.

What does it look like?

I’ll illustrate this with a hypothetical example.

Your guild has recently taken on a new recruit of your class, who says in their application that they always welcome constructive criticism. It’s been noticed that they seem to be struggling with mana and going OOM a lot, calling for Innervates a lot more than the other healers.

Let’s say that you’re asked by an Officer for an appraisal of that player; they want to know about the new recruit to evaluate their trial. At this point you’re still probably in the realm of simple criticism. Your feedback to the Officer might be quite brief and factual, for example:

This player seems to be fitting in well, asking questions in the healing channel.
They stick to their assignment well.
They put out good healing on the meters but they do seem to have mana problems, calling for a lot more innervates than I usually do.

Recall the definitions above. From the definition of criticism, note that there’s both positives and negatives in there, and some judgement, but the feedback is pretty objective and factual. There’s no real attempt to help the person improve, which would be required to meet the definition of constructive.

Now, imagine that the Officer asks you to have a chat with the recruit to see if you can help them with any mana problems they might be having. Now the purpose for your feedback has changed: you’re interested in helping them improve, which is where the constructive part comes in. So your feedback to the recruit might look something like:

It’s really nice that you’re fitting in here so well during your trial.
I’ve noticed that you seem to be using a lot of Innervates though and I wondered if we can help you out. Do you find mana a problem in raids? Why you think why this might be? What do you think of this alternative spec?
It’s also really good to be able to rely on you to cover your assignment in raids.

I know that sounds a bit stilted, it would be much better as a conversation than a single message to the recruit, but it does illustrate a few points that I’ll look at later. The difference between the two examples is that in the constructive example the intention is clearly to help the person improve.

Giving constructive feedback

I can’t hope to offer a pro forma for giving feedback, and you need to use your judgement about the situation and the people involved, but there are a few general guidelines that might help.

  1. Choose your moment – Criticism should be given close to the event so that it’s fresh in everyone’s mind, but doing it in the heat of the moment when emotions might be running high is unlikely to get the desired results. You also need to allow enough time for a decent conversation, including thinking time.
    Use your judgement: if someone’s standing in fire, mention it between pulls; if someone’s underhealing, that might be better saved for between raids.
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  3. Include praise – Some people talk about the “sandwich technique”, where you surround your criticism with praise before and after. I’ve done this in my hypothetical example above, and it looks a little bit odd written down like that, but in a real report or conversation it’s easy enough to end on a high note. The recipient’s attitude to the whole of the feedback is shaped by the tone of the first few exchanges or sentences, so you should start positive; the mood they’re left with is influenced by the last things that were said.
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  5. Address the area that needs improvement, but don’t criticise the person. – This can be a very tricky line to walk at times. It’s fine to observe that someone runs out of mana a lot, but you must not judge the person as a “bad player” or “fail” because of it. Think of those “How to raise your little horror” TV shows: you can, and should, tell your child that setting fire to the cat is unacceptable because animals have feelings too, but just labelling the child as “a naughty child” is not useful.
  6.  

  7. Ask questions – The best way to remain objective and avoid the recipient feeling like you’re picking on them is to let them do most of the talking. Sometimes the best way to help is to ask a really insightful question that gets right to the heart of the issue. For example, rather than saying “you should use this spec”, ask them for their thoughts on the spec or a blog post talking about it. By doing this, you get to make a suggestion, but you also give the recipient a route to refute that suggestion.
    The other advantage of asking questions is that you reduce the risk of simply telling people what they already know, which can come across as patronising.
  8.  

  9. Focus on solutions, not causes – While it’s important to understand what’s going on, your goal in giving the criticism is to help the person improve, so move on quickly from the problem to solutions. This also helps to keep the discussion positive and focused on the future.
    Where possible, the soltions should also be phrased positively: instead of “stop using spell X”, have the solution as “use more spell Y”. It sounds corny, but it does make a difference.
  10.  

  11. Be objective – Your only agenda should be to help the person improve, so you need to keep your own prejudices quiet. Don’t just push your solution on the person, but work with them to find the right solution for them.
    And make sure that the solution can be objectively assessed later, so that when you come to do follow-up (you do intend to follow up, right?) you can keep your future judgements objective as well.

Dealing with defensiveness

Sometimes, despite your best intentions, you might not get the response you’re looking for, and the most common response to feedback is defensiveness, where the recipient of the feedback refuses to listen or might even become angry.

In my experience, the first thing you should do is stop and step back; pressing on is likely only going to antagonise the person further. Wait a while, and you might find that point you were making might be taken anyway, once everyone’s emotions have faded and the recipient can consider your words more calmly. They may approach you again, or work out a solution on their own.

If you get no results from this though, you have two main options. The first is trying again, using a different medium. Changing the medium will also almost certainly alter the tone of the conversation: a whisper is less personal than Ventrilo, while a PM allows the recipient to take their time in dealing with it and can relieve a lot of pressure they might feel.

The second option is to have a different person try. Sometimes it can be a personality clash, or it could be your position in the guild, your gender, nationality, or one of many factors that causes the recipient to respond differently to you than to someone else.
Some people get very defensive if someone not of their class/role tries to offer criticism, while others might get defensive around someone who is the same class/role because of some percieved competition.

Your input

I’ll freely admit I’m not the best at people management, so I would really welcome comments from other people about how they deal with giving feedback, be it in the form of advice or anecdotes.

Have you had to give feedback? Did it go well? Did it go badly? How do you take feedback yourself?



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