Establish loot rules in advance and make sure everyone knows them
This is one rule that's easier said than done because even the clearest loot rules have some grey areas, and Murphy's law tends to happen any time loot drops. But you need to cover the bases as well as you can and make sure that you have everyone's attention when you do it. Usually with regular raiding guilds, you don't need to go over every detail because members are used to how it's done, but if you're running a PUG raid, take a minute or two after everyone's finished making popcorn and retrieving beer to go over how you're doing things. There may be some extenuating circumstances too, and that's OK, but get them out there from the start. If you're leading a PUG raid and are doing /random on everything except that one awesome sword you've had your eye on, make sure people know that. In many cases, people will accept the fact that your hard work gives you that priority on an item, but if you don't say anything until it drops (and it will if you don't say anything, believe me!) then you open the door for drama, hurt feelings, and even a reputation hit with the community.
Start on time
The Softie in me always wanted to wait "just a few more minutes" for that really nice guildmate who had just arrived home and was scrambling to catch the raid. But I tried to remind myself that there were dozens of others who were on time and waiting, and a start time is a start time. The happy medium I reached was to try to begin on time but to help make arrangements to make it easier to travel to and catch up with the raid. (Great thanks to things like rally banners and summon player abilities!) Starting on time, though, is very important because if you extend the raid time, not only are you losing precious time that could have covered the "just one more pull" scenario, but you're also making it that much easier for people to lolly-gag and show up late. After all, you held up the raid for Susy last week, so you can't leave Bob behind tonight.
Keep it moving
It's hard to manage the pace of fights because in a tough zone, you don't want to run things so fast that you make dumb mistakes. At the same time, you have to go with the notion that every second counts. Go in with a sense of urgency because if you slog along at a relaxed pace, you're depriving yourself of time to take on an extra boss or an extra attempt when it's getting close to a raid call. This is when a good pull team can really help; those one or two tank-type players can coordinate a pace of bringing in mobs that lets the raid kill with little downtime and get you to the tough stuff much faster. It's actually fun to watch a team of pullers work together because there's a fun rhythm that develops, and for the bulk of the raid, it's actually a lot of fun.
Do a tl;dr of boss fights
I remember a cartoon once that had a picture of a man talking to his dog, and in one scene, it read, "What you say to your dog," followed by a long-winded scolding. In the second scene, it read, "What your dog hears," followed by the words, "Blah blah blah blah Fido, blah blah blah blah, Fido, blah blah blah blah blah." That sums up raid instructions to a tee. Raid leaders, you talk too much, and I've been as guilty as the rest of you. It's fine to tell the raid that at 72% the mob will spin around three times and that everyone needs to jump on the second spin, but when it's mixed with the 15 other key points in the script, that message is just going in one ear and out the other. By the time we get to telling the raid what the mob does at 18%, everyone's either watching YouTube videos, making a crockpot dinner, or diving into a game of League of Legends.
need to know all the ins and outs of a boss fight, but if it takes more than 30 seconds to explain, keep it to the nitty gritty before the pull, and wait until the key moments during the fight to call out specific instructions. In your pre-pull speech, the important stuff, like where to stand, when to attack, and when to "omg get the heck out" are about the extent of what you should explain, and if you find your raid rundowns taking more than 30 seconds, cut it down.
Troubleshoot but don't navel gaze
You tried, you failed, and you want to go again, but you need to perfect your strats. It's easy to fall into the trap of opening up discussion so much that you end up analyzing every last detail of what happened in the previous try. What you want is to pinpoint the main things that triggered the wipe, correct them, and go right back in again so you can at least eliminate those the next time if you wipe. When it comes to raiding, it's a bit like the lion chasing the gazelle -- you don't have to be the fastest, just a little faster than the slowest gazelle. Similarly, you don't have to execute perfectly to win, just slightly better than what the boss can throw at you. If you win with a full force standing or just one standing, you still win, so min/max your troubleshooting time.
These certainly aren't the only things that raid leaders need to handle, but they're some of the most important, and they help establish you as a leader who's fair, professional, organized, and a good teacher. Even if you fail on that "one last try," players will usually walk away on a high note because they felt their time was productive and their experience was satisfying, and they'll likely be willing to come back for more another time.
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.