But at what point do you start to reach critical mass -- when you have too many people involved in the guild's management? There's no magic number, but there are a few things to consider when sharing the duties. Let's look at some key factors in this week's Guild Counsel.
Divide and conquer
There are many responsibilities that a guild leader can assign to others on the roster, but what might work in one guild won't necessarily work in another. Common sense tasks like keeping the bank tidy or recruiting new members are fairly straightforward, but there are others that are more subtle. Some guilds might assign someone to manage the guild website and DKP system. Others might have a more formal structure of class leaders who oversee members playing that class and facilitate discussion about gear and play tips. And there are some guilds who have someone in charge of planning events, which could include raiding but could also include social activities.
Whatever tasks you delegate to others, the key is that there's still communication among all of you. You might have one person in charge of recruiting, but that doesn't necessarily mean that no one else can be on the lookout for new members. You also want to make sure that you have safety checks on important tasks, like bank management and DKP, to prevent someone from sneaking off with valuables or cooking the books. It's good to have regular discussions about how everyone's doing with his or her role, and that can be done in-game or on a forum.
Clear voice on raids
While the day-to-day issues can be handled by more than one person, raiding is a different story. Voice chat can't have tons of cross-talk, so you have to limit the number of people who are giving instruction. If you do have raiders assigned to particular call-outs, they have to be specific and limited to only that call-out. And only one person (probably the guild leader) should be giving out strategy. There's plenty of time for strat discussion before and after a raid, but during the raid, there has to be a clear voice explaining the plan.
Officer of what?
The one tricky situation is when you have someone who's a good leader but doesn't necessarily do well with a specific task. He might be a great mediator, or he might excel at reminding players of the rules and keeping things calm. These types of members are a great reason that guilds might be better off not even having ranks. It's hard to explain exactly what that officer's role is, and he'll work his magic regardless of whether he's officially got an officer badge. Even though it's hard to describe his role, what he does to help the guild is sometimes much more important than a concrete task. In the end, whether to promote or not depends on the structure of the guild, but it does put into perspective the value of ranks in general.
It's important not to put someone in a leadership role as a reward or a badge of honor. Being a nice person or a longtime, loyal member doesn't make someone a leader, and it'll become obvious to the members very quickly that the emperor has no clothes.
At the same time, let those who are overseeing a certain responsibility talk directly to the guild about things. Guild leaders sometimes feel that they need to be the ones to speak about various issues, but why not let the recruitment officer make a post or give a quick briefing on the state of things? Why not let the bank officer address the guild about specific needs (or beg them not to load the bank with junk)? If you give officers a chance to be visible and show the effort they've put into their role, members will have an easier time seeing them as leaders.
Overall, there's one task that the guild leader can handle best, and that's managing the people in the guild. By that I don't mean manipulating them or bossing them around; I mean knowing people well enough to be able to tailor guild endeavors and the overall guild atmosphere to match up. The longer a leader heads up the guild, the better she is at reading the mood of the members. She knows when to ramp things up a bit but also knows when to ease up and give people some breathing room, both from the guild in general and also on an individual basis.
I've been lucky to have met a couple of leaders who knew the members so well that they pretty much knew problems were beginning to flare up before the members even came to them about it. It takes time to be able to learn the ups and downs of the guild temperature, and it's easy to misread things and make mistakes. Over time, though, this ends up being the most important task, and eventually, if you can read the guild well enough, you can take more chances with pacing the guild goals because you've earned your members' trust.
Traditionally, guilds tend to organize with a hierarchical system and a concrete chain of command. But our games have changed, and many of the conditions that led guilds to adopt a more militaristic ladder are obsolete. Heck, even some of the tasks that l listed above aren't even ones that are crucial to the survival of the guild because they're built right into many games now. In a sense, it might not be a question of whether a guild has too many cooks as much as it's a question of when those cooks should and should not pipe up. Instead of the guild leader acting as micro-manager, maybe the guild leader should let things manage themselves and be that last resort and guiding hand when things need a nudge. It might make the guild experience more attractive to those who generally shy away, and it might lead to less drama and less stress that the current caste system creates.
Do you have a guild problem that you just can't seem to resolve? Have a guild issue that you'd like to discuss? Every week, Karen Bryan takes on reader questions about guild management right here in The Guild Counsel column. She'll offer advice, give practical tips, and even provide a shoulder to lean on for those who are taking up the challenging task of running a guild.