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.