An Interview with Ferrel, Author of The Guild Leader’s Companion

After reviewing The Guild Leader’s Companion, I wanted to gain a little more insight from Ferrel about guild leadership.

How about a brief introduction about who you are and what you do?

Hello there! I’m Adam Trzonkowski but most people know me as Ferrel.

First and foremost I’m a raid junkie and guild leader. I’ve been raiding since around 1999 and leading the same guild (in its numerous forms) since about 2004/2005. Somewhere in that stretch of time I started to write on our guild website and eventually morphed that into Epic Slant, my design and leadership blog. That is where I found my inspiration to start my novels. In that place we call reality I’m just a boring engineer.

What were the factors that motivated you to become a guild leader?

I never really wanted to be a guild leader. I did have the privilege of dealing with a few horrible ones. When I got to Iniquity in EQ2 the officers saw potential in me and asked for me to be an officer. I agreed and eventually we decided to bump our absent, non-raiding, non-max-level, paying-a-teenager-to-level-his-character guild leader out of office. We talked it over and I drew the long (or short) straw.

Can you share any good lesson-learning stories throughout your years as an officer or as a guild leader?

I guess the story that I tell the most is a really personal one. It basically teaches the lesson of never giving up. In the early EQ2 days we were raiding Darathar. Our guild was the only one working on him on the server and very few had killed him worldwide. We had been pretty unlucky on gear drops and our main tank was missing this one bracelet that literally reduced all damage types (the only item like it at the time). We had been working on him eight hours a day for a week and our morale was low.

I played with my main tank and one of our main DPS in person and on the fifth night the tank looked at me and said, “We’re not going to win. We don’t have the gear. It is time to call it.” This was a tough thing to deal with. I’m in person with two friends. I took the approach I think is right. I looked at him and said, “That is too bad because we’re going to kill him with what we have so buck up and get back to it.” He and the DPS were obviously upset with me but I felt like we had to do it. The best part is, we killed him that night!

In your mind, what is the single most important aspect a truly brilliant guild leader needs to possess?

Positivism at all times. Players respond far better to a positive leader than a negative one. If you are positive and confident your members will be, too. Positive raid teams and guilds last far longer. Believe me, I know. I used to think being a guild leader meant being Furor or that “more DoTs” guy. The truth is, they’re doing it horribly wrong.

What is the optimal method when it comes to delivering feedback for underperforming players? How do you squeeze more out of them?

To be honest, at this point, I don’t do individual counselling anymore. We use a completely positive method in Iniquity now so to be honest, we do everything at the macro level now. If the DPS is short I just tell them I have faith they can do more and ask them to. Thus far, every time I ask, they give it to me. I praise what we do right, ask for more, and we succeed.

What is your biggest frustration or pet peeve when it comes to leading guilds?

I really dislike the attitude of people that assume guild leadership isn’t leadership. I’ve seen someone “take exception” to using the term guild leader. I’ve managed people in MMORPGs and in reality and all of the skills are the exact same. If it weren’t for MMORPGs I would have never become a leader in reality. The skills transferred so successfully that my raid career has impacted my engineering career in completely positive ways.

Have you had a chance to try out SWTOR?

I was in the beta and was not impressed at all. The game was good; I’m not suggesting otherwise. It just wasn’t “new.” It was just prototypical MMO + Star Wars. I’m also horribly addicted to Rift’s class system. I play healers and I loathe being backed into a corner as someone who can’t do anything but heal. Rift lets me raid heal and smash face. 

Let’s talk about the book, the Guild Leader’s Companion. One of the golden rules you mentioned is that you can never please everyone all of the time. What is the next best achievable goal after that?

The most important goal is to achieve your own (realistic) happiness. That sounds selfish but how can you lead and be positive if you’re miserable? Once you’re happy and positive you can start trying to keep the majority of the guild feeling the same way. That tends to work well and if someone gets upset they find solace in their guild mates.

What are your thoughts on multi gaming organizations/guilds?

It takes a huge commitment but is just taking guilds to another level. Perfectly fine and fun if you’re willing to put in the work. We focus on a more intimate group so it wouldn’t work for us but I think a good guild is a good guild whether it is in one game or twelve.

You mention that one of the big obstacles in MMOs is the fact that egos can often get in the way. How would you recommend dealing with them?

Lead by example. If you and your officers have an ego it rubs off on others. I don’t have a public ego anymore. When I screw up I call it. I make fun of myself. I tease my officers when we mess up. It takes the level of tension down so much. We also focus on the macro level as I said. It is hard to get an ego when we praise the team rather than the individuals.

And finally, the Guild Leader’s Companion has been out for a while now. What other projects are you working on (if any)? Can you share anything?

The Guild Leader’s Companion was my first book and I’m both proud and ashamed of it. I have had a lot of growth as a leader, writer, and publisher since I wrote it. On the last one (publisher) I would say a TON of growth. I want to go back through the GLC and change it up some. I’m actually working on that now with a fusion book. It is more of a book on leadership and team building that is applicable to MMORPGs and uses them as examples but works in any place. One of the curious things about the GLC was that some of the business people in my office liked it enough that they wanted a “non-gaming” version. I hope to meet them halfway.

Beyond that I just finished up The Raider’s Companion (it is actually available now). That is my effort to teach new players how to raid and show old raiders new tricks. We get set in our ways and eventually something new comes along that makes us go, “wow, I wish I had known that.” I’m offering a different perspective on raiding because at this point I’ve done almost all of it. I’ve been a server-first raider. I’ve been a world competitor. I’ve been ultra-casual. I’ve been ten-man. Now I’m current-tier-content. All of those different experiences gave me the chance to borrow what I feel works from each. I also know I can learn more! So I wrote The Raider’s Companion to share my experiences and stimulate ideas.

Thank you for the opportunity, Ferrel!

Friends, be sure to congratulate him on his recent engagement! Remember to check out and subscribe to his blog!

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