Motivating a Raid Group

The hardest thing about being a Raid Leader, for me, is keeping the energy and motivational levels of my raid high.  This might be easy for some of the “natural leader” types, but I personally fell into Raid Leading primarily for strategy and analysis skills.  Reading a raid’s mood and reacting appropriately to keep the raid moving forward was most definitely a learned skill for me – and something that I continually feel the need to improve on.

Every raid group has up days and down days – every group has good raids and bad raids.  One of your primary goals as a raid leader is to keep the positive energy flowing on good days, and find a way to turn the bad ones around.  You have to read the mood of the raid, and react appropriately.  I find that I will almost always make bad decisions when I allow myself to get frustrated.  A good principle is to judge dispassionately – any emotion you demonstrate for the raid is only for show.  If you’re angry at your raid, or one person individually, you must still make a determination as to whether or not it’s okay to show it, or if another reaction is more appropriate. 

I find that keeping the positive energy flowing on good days is generally easy – all I have to do is maintain the pace, and not interfere much.  Really, I only have to interfere if someone starts bringing down the raid with excessive griefing or negativity.  Piece of cake.  On the other hand, there’s such a thing as a raid that’s having too much fun.  Everyone can be happy and joking and performing horribly because they’re focused on shooting the shit, rather than killing bosses.  It’s a delicate line to walk, when you want to bring the raid down a peg or two without completely destroying morale.  It’s generally sufficient for me to allow some note of annoyance to enter my voice when I disect a bad pull, but different groups may respond differently.

Reading the raid is one thing, and it’s definitely a learned skill for some of us, but determining how to correct your raid morale can be a much more difficult proposition.  Sometimes encouragement is required, other times annoyance or anger.  Sometimes you beg and plead, sometimes you curse and vilify.  In any given situation, some of those may be counterproductive – I find that my first instinct is almost always wrong, and it’s normally because I want to react in annoyance.  It’s a critical ability for a Raid Leader, though, perhaps the most critical. 

 The biggest tool I have for getting a raid off on the right foot is the pre-raid speech, and I don’t always spend enough time on them.  I have an idea, based on how the last raid ended, how to approach the next raid to try and make sure it starts right.  It’s much easier to keep a raid going on the right path than it is to turn it around in the middle of the night.  It’s worth spending some time before raid getting a sense of peoples moods – and to try and influence the mood on vent during invites in a subtle way.  The pre-raid speech should always end on a positive note – without fail.  It can, and often does, start with a discussion of how the last raid made us look like a bunch of clowns, but it always ends with a set of achievable goals, and an exhortation that we’re good enough, we’re smart enough, and gosh darnit people like us.

The post-raid speech is a valuable tool for setting up the next raid in a good way, as well, it’s it’s your opportunity to really unleash after a bad raid.  There’s nothing wrong with sending the team away with a very clear idea of how much they’ve disappointed you, and how you expect – perhaps even demand – better from them next time.  They owe it to you, and they owe it to each other.  Conversely, after an exceptionally good raid, it’s a good idea to keep the mood high – to talk about how great it was and encourage them to come back prepared to make the next raid even better.

It’s also critical to avoid becoming too predictable.  If the raid always knows what you’re going to say and how you’re going to react, they’re just going to end up tuning you out.  It has to matter when you damn them with faint praise, it has to matter when you chew them out.  When you speak, your raid needs to know that you have something worthwhile to say, and that they’d better pay attention.  Becoming too predictable is the fastest way to lose the locker room, and it’s not the easiest job in the world to get it back.

Perhaps the single most important part is to keep the officers on board with what you’re doing.  If you take nothing else away from this post, take away this: It is never a good idea to appear at odds to the raid.  When you’re trying to generate a positive atmosphere and your healing lead is chewing everyone out in the middle of every pull, you’ve lost the battle.  Conversely, it’s sometimes a good idea to have your nice-guy officer say something positive after you’ve just finished chewing them out – not to counteract the message, but to allow you to transition into starting the next pull on a high note, and so that you don’t weaken the impact of your own message.  As always, it’s a delicate balance, and you need to read the needs of your raid.

Raid Leading is hard.  When you fail, you fail alone.  But when you succeed, there’s no greater reward to be had in World of Warcraft.

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5 Responses to Motivating a Raid Group

  1. Beruthiel says:

    I love this post!

    I’ve often told my raid team that there is no definable metric to tell me how I’m performing as a leader outside of their feedback. There’s no WoL to track how a raid leader is doing with “motivation” or “focus” (wouldn’t it be great if there was though?! Like the cheer meters you see in game shows – the higher it goes, the better job you are doing!).

    There have been times I’ve outright asked for feedback from my team on “what motivates you” – only to be met with silence. Some people love the stern “pull your head out of your asses” holler to get their blood flowing, others prefer a calm lecture/analysis of where you broke down (my preferred), and then you will get those that say “I don’t know, but lecturing me doesn’t help”. You yell, you lose. You stay calm, you lose. Ultimately, there is no pleasing everyone, because different things will tick for different people.

    The only difinitive thing that I’ve ever determined is that there is no one thing that will affect people equally. There is no magic motivation button that you can push to universally motivate everyone the same way. If there was, I suspect there wouldn’t be people making millions of dollars writing books and lecturing about how to motivate :)

    But that doesn’t mean that I’m not going to keep trying to be better at it with each raid!

    • Meloree says:

      Thanks for the compliment :)

      I’ll agree that there’s no one thing that will motivate everyone in the same way, but if your raid group is functioning as a team at all, they’ll play off each other’s energy levels to some degree. Which means, in general, that you settle for what makes the influential people tick, and let them drag everyone else into line for you.

      Motivating people one-on-one is a lot different than trying to get a raid group motivated, and that’s why reading the mood “of the raid” is a tricky skill to learn – at least it was (still is) for me.

  2. Saif says:

    I agree with the comment above that getting feed-back from the raid about their impression of a RL’s performance is critical – and difficult to get, sometimes. I’m still trying to figure out a good format for that sort of conversation to happen. You know that if you’re not there, raids don’t happen, or don’t progress as far as they would if you were there.

    But what is it about you as a RL that makes this happen? I don’t know myself, but when I took a couple of months off from the game my entire raid-team collapsed and then reformed right as I got back, and progressed as per normal. I wish I knew what I did right or wrong – I’m actually thinking of sending out an anonymous survey to help assess what I do right or wrong.

    One of the best tools that I’ve had in my raids is that there has always been 1 or 2 people in the raid who support and soothe in the background with whispers and encouragement while I continue to run things on a bad night – whether through anger (rarely) or annoyance (often). That often helps soften the blow – you make the point and get yourself herd, but you don’t leave someone seething in anger or trembling in fear for calling them out.

    The post-raid wrap-up is a fantastic place to review, but I’ve tried not to let a raid end on a down-note, no matter how frustrated I became. I’ll try to find the positives and make them obvious, but I’ll also point out that I want a better performance the next time. I haven’t honestly tried the pre-raid speech, pre-raid is usually the time I let everyone yak their little heads off while we pull trash and then get everyone focused on the task at hand – maybe it’s a good time to remind everyone of our goals and expectations.

    • Meloree says:

      Gathering honest and useful feedback can be extremely difficult, because you have to evaluate the source, and the general opinion in which you’re held by your raid. Are you highly respected? Are you feared? Liked or disliked? It all influences the feedback. In the end, the measure of your performance is your raids performance, and if it’s meeting expectations – the real expectations, not the ones you lay out for the raid to keep them pushing forward. It’s certainly worth gathering feedback as you can, but it’s also something to take with a grain of salt. Not a lot of raiders will honestly know what kind of raid leader they’d respond best to. They’ll know what they think they want, but they’ll be wrong as often as not.

      The pre-raid speech is, in my opinion, a critical tool for getting minds focussed before raid – you can yak away on trash, but take 2-3 minutes to talk about the plan for the night, that it can be achieved, and to stay at the top of your game. It’s worth considering doing from time to time.

      But it’s because of the pre-raid speech that I can get away with fairly brutal post-raid speeches when needed. I tend to consider myself a nice-guy raid leader, I don’t yell or scream, and I rarely call people out. I do set expectations, though, and I make it known when those are not met. There are times when it is appropriate to end the raid on a downer – you can bring them back up again before the next raid, but sometimes you need your raiders thinking about how to suck less and not let down the side.

      • Saif says:

        That is a fair point regarding pre-raid/post-raid tie out – I will definitely give it a shot over the coming weeks.

        Thanks!

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