Tough Call: Roles – RL vs GM


Welcome back for another issue of Tough Call. This week I want to go over a topic that sets the baseline for a lot of what we do and how we can go about building the most efficient raid without imploding the guild.  Before we can get to that, however, I think I need to offer a fair bit of clarification on last week’s topic.

Stay with me, people

Classification is not “name calling”.  In my last post I discussed one set of archetypes (of which there are many) that could be used to sort out your raiders when determining who to take and what areas of your roster to shore up. The objective is never to belittle anyone, because honestly, putting people down takes too much time and energy that I would rather put towards being awesome myself.  As for the intended message, Calaban & Lument had some great points, and yes, X, you are Rudy.

For the sake of simplicity and efficiency, some topics need to be encapsulated.  This was the case last week.  I could certainly turn that 901 word post into 5,000+ words about how to evaluate, coach, refine, recruit, and even alter raid tactics/comps to support the players you have.  The fact that I omitted many of those elements does not mean that I am against them,or that I do not use them myself, just that they didn’t fit into the mold of that post.  Trust me, there’s plenty of ground to cover when it comes to raid management, and I don’t plan to blow my whole load in these T11 pants. 
One thing I will continue to believe in throughout this series is that no leader should ever “leave well enough alone”, or settle for what they already have. Every team needs to get stronger, better, faster, sexier, etc.  Sometimes this happens with teamwork & growth, sometimes a pep-talk is enough, and oftentimes improvement happens by recruiting new blood. For example, we recently got a new priest who’s giving me a run for my money, and my output has increased because of it. Regardless, there would be no point to me writing this column if either of us was willing to accept the idea that you should learn to suffer through the drawbacks of today without making a better plan for tomorrow. 

Lastly, every raider deserves feedback, and that feedback should be honest and constructive.  Some people do benefit from mentoring, some from competition, and some from caliber of shame-filled guilt trip my mother used to lay on me… you pick which works best and run with it.  Regardless, as I mentioned in the comments, your guild should have some mechanism in place to give your raiders this feedback.  I know our guild has a couple different systems that work, and in the future I’ll elaborate on some of this. 

Now, onto today’s topic:

Lessons in Dichotomy // Who runs this joint?

The person/people managing your raid should not be your Guild Leader.

I don’t care how awesome you are as a GM, how amazing your coordination and multi-tasking is, or how long you’ve been doing both roles.  As we continue, I will illustrate how maximum efficiency and stability dictates that the GM not wear the black hat in raid.

Before we break into a list of what each person should be doing, the key assumption here is that the raid leader/officer is a specialist, hired to do one thing and do it well: motivate the team, execute digital dragons and carry back the rewards. 

The job of Raid Management

  • Make the raid as successful as possible
  • Needs to be Honest, Unbiased, and always performance-oriented
  • Make the tough decisions / wear the black hat
  • Assess players based on what they bring to the raid and how well they are executing
  • Manage the PERFORMANCE of the raid
  • Be a clear and present leader at all times during the raid
  • Get progression, achievements, titles, mounts, fame, fortune, super-model girlfriends

The job of the Guild Leader

  • Be the public face of the guild
  • Mediate any issues between guild members (within reason)
  • Take responsibility for the guild’s reputation
  • Oversee / Initiate recruiting
  • Manage the PERSONALITY of the guild
  • Wear the crown, take the heat, buy the drinks at Blizzcon

I know some guilds may be small/close enough that the GM thinks he/she can handle doing both.  I disagree with this because these are two jobs that require different tactics and it’s human nature to have a tough time separating these and/or staying true to the goals of each position. 
Even in a 10-man environment, it is never more efficient to have one person run everything than it is to have separate guild & raid management. This will also decrease/prevent burn-out among leadership.

How the Other Half Lives

Now, this separation also requires a high level of trust/confidence between the two halves.  The raid officer has to trust that there are the right recruitment/retention mechanisms in place to give them the right components for a successful group.  Similarly, since he/she will be handling the fall-out, the Guild Leader has to trust that the raid officer is making the right calls when it comes to who gets benched, who gets invited, who can/can’t main switch, etc. 

Think of it like the relationship between Head Coach and General Manager in pro sports.  These two don’t need to see eye-to-eye on tactics or day-to-day operations, but they do need to have the same objectives and a plan on how to reach them.

Show me an example

A founding member of the guild has lost his drive to raid, but still likes to come and go more-or-less as he pleases.  Further, he uses his relationship with the GM as leverage to get what he wants.  For the Raid Leader, this person represents a liability, as no matter how skilled they are, the risk that they will abruptly stop raiding is ever-present.  If they were given a starting spot, any loot given to this player over another player could be functionally lost at a moment’s notice, and time spent learning a fight with them would have to be adapted or re-learned with their inevitable replacement.  Not to mention the way this would look to other players who may be fighting to prove themselves and break into the starting lineup.

A wise Raid Leader can still utilize this person as a back-up / call-up, borrowing on his skill & experience in the good times, while still prioritizing those players who consistently show up.  Bring the people who have a commitment to making your team succeed, but keep a Rolodex of viable call-ups just in case.

A wise Guild Master will remind the long-term member that the raid team is an ongoing campaign, not something that is won or lost the few times a month this person wants to show up.  The GM will be clear that he expects progression from his Raid Leader, and that not everyone is entitled to raid if they cannot commit. 

Another example

Recruiting!  Without delving into when/how/who to recruit, it’s a very common situation for a Raid Leader to find themself needing to recruit.  Good collaboration between the RL & GM requires that the RL would keep the GM abreast of the development of players within the raid, or at least give them access to any relevant information needed. 

Say you need more melee dps, so you go out and recruit for that spot.  The GM should know WHY the rogue on the bench isn’t being taken over new recruits, so that they can back-up the RL’s decision should the rogue come forward with complaints of favoritism/snubbing/etc.  Similarly, the RL should make reasonable effort to give the GM whatever information he needs to substantiate the roster moves.  Simply “he’s not good” won’t suffice, but “he missed 18 interrupts each of the last three raids” does.

Unfortunately, unlike pro sports, I’ve seen the GM fail the Coach more often than the other way around.  Sometimes this is just simple burn-out, sometimes it’s close-mindedness, sometimes it’s a loss of faith by one of the two people. 

The best advice I can give for longevity is for neither person to say “I can’t….”.  Whether it’s “I can’t recruit another healer” or “I can’t down progression bosses with what you’ve given me” or even “I can’t stand your face”, the only way to maintain success in an efficient raid environment is to always be looking for the next opportunity.  Once you’ve entered into an “I can’t” paradigm, you’re actually realizing that you should have taken action weeks ago, and are now suffering from that inaction/indecision (or worse yet, refusing to realize your responsibility in the matter).  It’s up to you two to always look beyond the current week and stick to your plan you started with.

You do have a plan right?

…please tell me you have a plan.

As always, please feel free to leave any questions or suggestions for future topics in the comments below.  Heck, feel free to leave your favorite bean dip recipes, too.  I need something to do after I’ve cleared the raid and logged off to go watch HIMYM.

16 thoughts on “Tough Call: Roles – RL vs GM”

  1. Great references on to the overall discussion of coaching.

    Recently I was having issues on Cho’Gall, and the coaching I got was “why are you going OOM.” Nothing about gear, gemming casting or anything else. When I discussed what I was doing to try and keep the tanks up, I just got the response “I don’t know shamans.”

    The interesting part of the whole fight was our guild was leaving people MC’d for extended periods due to slow interrupts, forcing heavy dmg to the tanks. This was forcing me to cast GHW, instead of HW, thus the mana issues.

    First rule of coaching, have some knowledge about the subject matter before saying it is not being done right.

    • Good first rule

      Well, it should be clear that interrupts are the most vital part of that encounter. If your RL isn’t holding the people assigned to that up-to-snuff, it’s not exactly proper for him to come down on the healers mana use.

      For myself, if I have to take action with a player of a different class, I almost always consult with an outside party who plays that class first. For shaman in particular, I’ve been known to keep an alt stashed on Lodur’s server.

  2. How can a GM who has always been the RL too divide the power up appropriately? Do I need to recruit a new RL or promote one from in-guild? When I try to sit back and let others lead raids, it rarely works as well as when I lead them, but passing GM to someone else is a huge change that I am not sure I can bring myself to do…

    • Unless you are doing a wholesale merger, I always hesitate to recruit any management position. Instead, I rely on one of the lessons that my favorite boss taught me years ago “always plant a seed for next time”, meaning always be looking out for and grooming the people who will be leaders in the future. Trusting someone with either role is a big leap, especially when they are starting out, as everyone will encounter bumps along the way.

      One idea that I’ve seen success with is having someone be RL for off-night or alt/back-up raids. Let them get their sea legs in an environment that still requires performance but doesn’t have the pressure of driving guild progression right away. Then, once you feel entirely confident in both their ability to lead and the interaction between you two, they can have a go at the Main Event.

    • We don’t have a traditional GL, but we have a council of capos and a raidleader. We handle it like a lot of the American Indian tribes — the raid leader is the war chief. When we are in the raid, he’s the final word, and we don’t publicly contradict him. (We might be blowing up /o, though.)

      After the raid, we’ve got time to go over what happened, and make policies about how the next raid is going to go. It’s been a good system for us so far, and it’s transparent to our guildies that we do that because we tell them that’s what we do. We explain why the RL made the on-the-spot calls he did, and why in hindsight, we are going to handle it differently in the future. (And our RL isn’t afraid to say, “I made X decision because I didn’t understand the situation.” Don’t apologize for fog-of-war, but don’t hide it either.)

  3. I’ve been doing the RL/GM thing for almost 2 years now, and our guild has always had the roles be one in the same (going on 6.5 years now). We’re defined by our raid team, and have probably the best reputation of any guild on our server. There’s no one right way to run a raiding guild.

    • While I don’t doubt the truth to that statement, I’m certain that your hierarchy/management scheme is less simplistic than that. If you get hit by a bus tomorrow, who will lead? What were you doing when the previous GM/RL stepped-down?

      I’m sure you will find that there are all sorts of organizational structures within the game, just as there are all sorts of people and personalities who may or may not be a good fit for the role they’re in. That said, for efficiency and longevity, no man should act alone.

  4. Great post, but it is absolutely possible to be both a GM and a RL, and to do both well. Guild masters aren’t spin doctors; they are leaders — especially in smaller guilds. This being said, my guild is nearing 500 members, and I still feel that it is my job and responsibility to manage and lead raids as often as possible.

    Recruiting an outsider to lead raids can either be a masterstroke or a disaster, but seldom anything in between. Part of this is simple human nature — we want to play with the people we trust and enjoy playing with, not with some hired gun who may not have our best interests in mind. There is also the matter of too many cooks spoiling the soup, especially if the GL is perceived as being a mere figurehead while the RL has more influence among the core raid group. This can lead to nasty disagreements and eventually fracture the guild. I have found that so long as there is fairness and trust, one person will always lead better than a committee that gets bogged down in debate. Finally, many good guild leaders began as good raid leaders, so they know what they’re doing.

    At the end of the day, there is no pefect solution for every guild. There is only what works best for your particular guild, and the goals and play styles of your guild mates. Success is a moving target, so everyone needs to be flexible, willing to accept constructive criticism, and always strive to improve. Good guilds run on friendship and loyalty, not on epics. At the end of the day, it’s not about the loot or the progression. It’s about the people.

  5. I have a Raid Organizer (my Co-GM actually) and a Raid Leader. The RO is responsible for the personnel – he seats people, checks to see the progress of those looking to gear up for raids and coordinates with the RL and Recruitment. The RL is responsible for determining our evening itinerary and what we need to do to succeed.

    My role is to be the voice of raid leadership to the guild – explaining decisions and making raid policies clear – including clear instructions on the requirements for being on the main raid team and the progression team. I am also the advocate for the guild, so if people feel they are being unfairly benched, they come to me and either I confirm what was told to the individual, or I will advocate for their place on the team.

    My Co-GM also backs me up if I am OOG (he is the ONLY other guild member who as near-identical access to the guild bank as I do) and both my Co-GM and I can step in to lead a raid if my RL must be OOG (though much hilarity ensues when this happens, as both the Co-GM and I are healers and tend to forget to pay attention to things not associated with green bars… >.>)

    The RO/Co-GM, as stated, coordinates with Recruitment on who we need for raiding. I back up our recruiters and make sure our recruitment thread is being updated and “bumped” and that no applicant lingers.

    Our “organization chart” is designed more like a web, and should provide some redundancies. It’s not flawless, but my guildies trust that we have everything under control and are managing raiding fairly. It leads to a drama-free-ish raiding environment in a guild that chose a raiding path that lends itself to drama (going semi-hardcore is like trying to mix oil and water and get the mixture emulsified before someone lights a match).

  6. I 100% agree with this topic. While it is possible to be successful as a GM and RL, sharing responsibility helps both fill their roles to a greater potential.

    As the raid leader I get to wear the “black hat” while my GM gets to keep the overall day to day stuff off my table so I can focus on managing our raiding program to the best of my abilities. I don’t envy him his job at all, and while I think I could perform both if needed i wouldn’t want to.

    It always amuses me when I hear my heal lead or GM say something like, “He’s scared to come to you.” I’m a big teddy bear (don’t yell at people in vent, am generally supportive and positive, etc.), but the position of raid leader puts me in a place that I have to say, “No, this person just can’t get the job done.” while it’s the GM’s responsibility to be open and listen to all.

    With raid leading sometimes it has to be, “It’s my way or the highway.” That’s not as easy to do as the GM.

    I like to equate it to running a college sports program, the GM is the Athletic Director who get’s the alumni to donate, keeps everyone happy, and keeps the university President/Board off the coach’s back so they can manage the football program (raid team).

  7. The danger in splitting up guild leader and raid leader in to 2 roles, is that often the raiders will equate raid leader with the guy in charge. If the raid leader decides he wants things his way instead of the guild leader’s way, the guild leader soon finds himself in charge of two things, Jack and shit, and Jack just left town.

    It would be great to live in a candy coated world where this isn’t the case, but having seen it and even experienced it first hand, its the nature of the beast. Split that power at your peril.

    • Meugly: That is indeed a risk that comes with splitting powers. I’d equate that to just a poor selection by the GM overall. The GM and RL need to have a constant and open line of communication. More importantly, they both need to be on the same page and share the same philosophy and want the same things. A guild leader left holding the back needs to figure out why thats the case. Maybe they just didn’t do enough.

      For me as a GM, most of my efforts and work is done outside of the raid. I tackle the site, I assist in personnel, figure out what our needs are overall as a guild. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. I make sure all the tech stuff is functional. I do a lot of networking with other guilds, players, and companies but I’m in a rather unique position and it’s not a common duty that most guild GMs handle.

      Evan, my raid leader, analyzes all the strategy involved on bosses. He has an uncanny ability to troubleshoot and make raid adjustments as needed. That’s his role: Figure out how to kill bosses and what’s needed to do it.

      Its dangerous, but it can work. A lot of this discussion and subject matter depends entirely on the people there.

    • The easy solution to that is to have two raid leaders. Even if you don’t have enough people to run simultaneous raids, you can still split up the instances between them. It also deepens your bench for absences.

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