Raid Leading 101: 3 Important Communication Tips

Last week, we covered some of the basic pro’s and con’s to both 10- and 25-man raid styles. Thanks everyone to their input and comments. I’ll be updating the post soon to get those new items in there! This week, we cover the art of communication.

Now that you’ve donned the crown of Raid Leader, you have to pontificate with your subjects… meaning you have to talk to your raiders. This sometimes can be the hardest aspect of the job. You definitely have to be more “on the ball” than the other people on the team. In my time as a raider, and also as a Raid Leader, I’ve always found the best Raid Leaders have been great communicators.

Choosing Your Style

When I raid, I like a positive and friendly environment. In raid environments, I usually do best when people are laughing, smiling, and overall having a good time. This is a game for me, and although I take it seriously, I work hard to make sure people are having fun. As a Raid Leader, I try to impress that upon my raiders.

It’s on you, as Raid Leader, to decide how you’re going to motivate your team. Positive reinforcement? Brow-beating? Drill Sergeant? I’m particularly biased towards the positive reinforcement, but I also see the benefits of other styles as well. Think of it this way:

  • You can take each good thing from a wipe and build on it. Encourage that kind of behavior or style of playing. Praise the healers for an excellent job handling that attempt, even if they ended up wiping.
  • You can point out the faults in each attempt, in an effort to discourage that from happening again. Even take it farther and threaten substitution if it happens again. Point out that if the mage doesn’t move the split second he needs to, he’s getting replaced.
  • You can be the strong, silent type. No news is good news. Set your assignments, and let the raiders discover what went wrong.

Either way you go, you must be aware of what kind of style you possess. This will easily decide what kind of raiders you’re going to have. There are plenty of raiders out there that enjoy different styles of raiding. Some like tough competition, some like the team environment. Be conscious of the tone you’re setting, whatever that may be.

Your Intentions

Just like in the olden days when a gentleman would court a lady, they would state their intentions. You must do the same. This goes back to our discussion on motivation. Have you been honest with yourself about your motivation? What do you want to achieve? How do you want to go about it (all things we’ll eventually cover)? You need to be up front with your raiders on what the goal of this adventure is:

  • What size are you going with? 10 or 25?
  • Are you going to work towards heroics? or just normal?
  • Are you bringing close friends? or are you valuing performance over history?
  • What sort of attendance policy do you intend to have?

By setting out the groundwork to your raiders, there’s very little room for guessing on your part. When you talk things out, it solidifies it in your own mind. Also, all of your raiders and potential recruits will know what they’re getting into, and what to expect.

Honesty is the Best Policy

An awesome line from my favorite movie, Swingers: “Respect my ass. What they respect is honesty.” The same holds true for being a Raid Leader. You need to be a straight shooter. If you want someone on your team, you need to be up front about it. If something’s not working out, you gotta speak up.

I’ve learned this first hand as a Raid Leader. **STORY TIME** When I was running the original Team Sport raids, we had a warlock that was never up to snuff. We tried to be up front from the beginning about what we expected of the raid team, and we knew that this warlock wasn’t up to it. Nice person, and fun player but just didn’t have the extra “oomph” to raid at the level we wanted to. Constantly long AFKs, not paying attention in fights, etc. Since we let it go on for so long, it had become acceptable to this player to act like that. When it came down to saying that we wanted to move forward but without the warlock, we were met with some unnecessary drama.

Essentially, if we had been honest up front regarding what we expected and that the warlock’s behavior wasn’t what we were looking for, we would’ve saved a lot of trouble. Now, within the Raid Team, I have little to no problem telling people that not signing up is unacceptable, or that not having food/flask is not gonna cut it. I’m not a jerk about it, but I’m honest with my raiders about what I expect of them on the team, and when they’re not getting invites or raid spots, they should know why.

How have you stepped up to the task of communicating to your raid? Are there any alternate methods/tips you’ve used that have been particularly efficient?

15 thoughts on “Raid Leading 101: 3 Important Communication Tips”

  1. I raid led my first raid (and my guild’s first Cataclysm raid) this Wednesday, due to our regular RL being AFK for the moment. My style (and hers) is being the “nice leaders” – pointing out the good things and the bad things, but keeping it constructive. I had the displeasure of playing with a drill sergeant-type leader and I never ever want to experience that again.

    Ironically, I also have a problem warlock… who doesn’t even have the redeeming feature of being a nice guy. He never pays attention, he’s a loot whore, his performance is mediocre at best and his idea of joking is not even remotely funny. We knew it when he joined the guild, but we wanted his tank friend and they came as a package deal. Now the tank is gone and we’re stuck with the warlock… and despite our hints or outright call-outs, he keeps being bad. Lesson learned: never take a bad player because his friend is good.
    (I still haven’t figured out if we should just tell him he sucks, gkick him, or simply not take him to raids. I absolutely hate telling “bad” things to people so I feel this problem won’t be solved very soon…)

  2. I think a mix of styles works best. Feel the mood of your team and adjust. Last week I threatened people that they had to pay me each a stack of herbs if they managed to break the shields on Omnomnom again…guess what we killed that try after…

    It was said in a half-joking manner, but everybody knew I was serious about that they absolutely had to pay attention to not breaking those shields.

    Most of the time I try to listen, be patient and do it the nice way, but sometimes you really just have to put your foot down, and do it the your way or no way.

    A ship should only have one captain, a raid only one leader. And sometimes that leader just has to make sure that it’s understood that they are the leader and actually…well yaknow, lead.

    I do totally agree about the honesty. And, I also learn from my raiders. One of them was very wise and taught me to ‘praise in public, and critize in private’. I’ve been trying to stick with that since 🙂

  3. Oh hey Jen, think of it this way. Your 1 bad warlock is ruining the fun for 9 or 24 other people. So by keeping him on you’re basically ‘saying bad stuff’ to many more people. Plus you’re showing that what he does is ok.

    My experience is that having the talk is really not a nice thing to do, but afterwards your raid will breathe freely again 🙂

  4. I’m guild leader / raid leader for a guild that slapped itself together before ICC last expansion. I recruited out of Trade chat and we absolutely had to claw our way to our ICC drakes. It wasn’t easy for us.

    This isn’t the normal group I’m used to playing with, but I wanted to kind of ‘relax’ and enjoy the game more for the social aspect than the hardcore raiding.

    With that said, I still retain the ‘my way or the highway’-style attitude from hardcore raiding. I still find myself at least once a night cursing and screaming and asking my raiders exactly why it is that I have to play their classes for them, etc etc etc. I can’t help it. And honestly, the team is cool with it. They come to expect it, even rely on it. If I ask nicely, they may or may not remember my request. If I reference their mother when explaining it to them, it sticks in their head. ANd we kill stuff. We do it happily. I love my team, and I know they love me.

    Gotta say, though, don’t ever try to have a casual raiding team led by a ‘bad cop’ without counter-balancing it with a ‘good cop’. One of my Officers is the guild ‘good cop’: after any particularly nasty rant I spew, he’s there to remind the team of what went right, and to re-iterate what I said more nicely, so that ‘happier’ tone is the last sound in their head before the next pull.

    … 🙂 I love my guild.

  5. Sometimes you should have multiple people doing multiple roles, too. The military learned this a long time ago with the officer/NCO setup. It goes all the way back to the Romans.

    We have our raid leader. He makes the strategic decisions — to takes what role, the strats, etc — and take on the NCO role. I run buff checks, keep track of meters, etc. I keep him informed of things that are out of the ordinary so he can keep up with the big picture.

    When the raid is doing something as a whole, he talks about it. When someone needs individual attention, I talk to them. And when someone has to be the heavy, it needs to be me instead of him. Even if it’s just dropping my voice an octave and shouting into vent, “listen to the raid leader!” (which is usually more than enough.)

    As the designated heavy, I don’t do much talking on vent. Most of the talking I do is directed at him, and then he leads the raid in general. And yes, there is a time or two where he tells me in /o, “yell at them.” Sometimes you need the drill sergeant type. Unless you have some serious problems, those times should be rare and memorable, and everyone should know where to expect it from.

    (Sometimes I can make the point by just keying up vent and not saying anything for 10-15 seconds while everyone stops in anticipation. That’s really fun.)

    • “to takes what role, the strats, etc — and take on the NCO role” should be “who takes on what role, the strats, etc — and I take on the NCO role.”

  6. I start off by telling everyone about the fight in the simplest way I possibly can. Everyone always says, you make it sound so easy. I tell everyone, it is. All encounters are. It is just a matter of following the mechanics. I make sure, even if I know we will not one shot something, that I make them feel as if they could do it with their eyes closed.

    I always try to find something good about failed attempts and then point out what we can do better in a respectful way to those that might have made a mistake.

    I am always up for trying different things and make sure to let everyone know that they are part of a team. It is not just me telling them what to do, it is me explaining what we, as a team, are doing.

    I try to keep things relaxed.

    I know that my crew is not a server first type of crew but I enjoy raiding with them because they are good people. That, more then anything else, is what really matters.

    There is only one thing that I go crazy on and even at that, I will not yell about it. If I go through my whole description of a fight, ask if anyone has questions and then put up a ready check and someone says, so what do I do here I just got back from the bathroom, they better be joking.

    If I have to explain it again you will never see the inside of a raid instance again in my guild. Never go afk without saying something unless it is a real emergency.

  7. My style of raid leadership changes as we progress. A new expansion brings new challenges, not just in aspects of learning mechanics of fights, but in learning the changes to your class. Generally speaking, going from one expansion to another brings the largest of these types of changes. Yes, there are changes throughout via patches, but not usually so severe as xpac to xpac. Because of that, I’m much more lenient at the beginning of an expansion. It’s very light-hearted, very positive, very reinforcing.

    But as we get deeper into the content, especially as we approach the final tiers of an expansion, I get much tougher on my raiders. I believe that they should have the understanding of their class changes down, they should be able to handle the constantly re-hashed mechanics of “don’t stand in this” types of things, and not screw up on those. If it’s something we’ve encountered a thousand times before, we shouldn’t die to it on the last boss of the expansion.

    They have to learn new mechanics that get thrown at us. They have to be able to adapt and change and get things done. I admit that I can be, at times, a bit too hard on people for those things. It’s because, hey, we’re at the “end of the game.” You need to be able to handle it. You’re used to dealing with this stuff. You’re capable, you’re competant, you’re seasoned. So I assume a faster learning curve by the end. We have a cohesive group, we understand how we play together as a team, covering for each other in weak areas and how to further strengthen the already strong areas. So by that time, I have little tolerance for asinine mistakes.

  8. The one thing we’ve struggled with this expansion is that unlike earlier tiers, it is not possible for us to bring some of the more …casual… members of our raid team. These are people who have been raiding with the guild for *years*, but they just aren’t up to the expectations of the content. Its not about being unprepared, its just simply about not being good enough for the content. It is hard to tell someone who has been raiding with us for that long “sorry you just don’t cut it anymore.”

  9. Communication is the key to a successful relationship, and progression raiding requires successful relationships between the leaders and members. Healers have to communicate with each other, as do the tanks. Tanks need to know when to swap targets and mostly need to talk to do so. I know that I am in charge of coordinating interrupts with other people.

    But there is a ton of pressure on raid leaders. For a raid to progress, the raid leader must effectively communicate the basic (or involved) strategy of the fight that he wants to see. Progression raid members are responsible for having watched the videos on the fights, but it is up to the leader to explain certain dynamics. Even I benefit from a brief explanation of the fight.

    Raid leaders also need to know the attention span of their raiders. Sorry, but I tend to tune my RL out if his explanation of a fight goes beyond 2 minutes. Remember KISS. Keep it simple, stupid.

    At the same time, raid leaders must also make it very clear their expectations of their raiders. This is not an area in which to be vague. Raiders who have been explicitly told what is expected of them do not have an excuse to whine if they are benched for not meeting those expectations.

    During the raid, a raid leader who screams at his raiders is not a very effective raid leader. Okay, some teams might thrive under that kind of pressure. But me? I’ll be quick to drop group. You do not scream at me…ever. I favor positive reinforcement and constructive feedback. Did I stand in fire and not notice? Yes, please tell me in a calm manner. Did the raid team do well, or did a particular person do well? Let them know and watch your team progress.

  10. Great read, especially everyone’s comments.

    My guild made a drastic transition as we experienced a raid leader who yelled and degraded. So much so that we reformed and named ourselves ! It is our credo of sorts and speaks to our approach to almost everything. While we push progression competitively amongst daytime raiding guilds, we stay true to positive reinforcement and constructive criticism. At the same time, as some have mentioned here, we know that sometimes people need a firm hand to get them in line and back on track.

    Time changes things as well. If we’ve spent 30 wipes on a boss, that is more than enough time for people to have grasped mechanics and play them accordingly. Yelling or tearing people down will never be the answer, but a stern tone has its place. Rallying the troops isn’t always the overly dramatic Hollywood speech that gets warm fuzzies going.

    I have found communication is needed to the raid as a whole and also to individuals specifically. Some people need a kick in the ass to get them in gear. Others need a pat on the back and then that is the motivation they need to get performing. Some need forced motivation (“Step it up or I’m subbing you out”).

    Getting to know your players and what they need as a group as well as individually means greater performance overall. Essentially it is meeting people at where they need instead of expecting them to meet you at your doorstep.


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