Pick your battles
I was at the store not long ago and saw something that many of us have probably witnessed. An exasperated mother was yelling at her child, who was totally out of control. Her scolding was getting more and more intense every second, and yet the child was completely oblivious as if he couldn't even hear her. And in fact, there's a good chance he did tune it out. Since he's heard the same old tune so many times, it has little effect anymore.
It's not at all necessary to yell in order to run a guild, but there are times where it might be the best way to redirect focus and get members to fall in line. The key, though, is knowing how to do it. If you launch into a long tirade over every single thing, people will either ignore it, or worse, they won't put up with it and leave. It's unreasonable to get angry at every missed command or request, because MMOs are designed with all sorts of distractions that increase the chance of miscommunication and confusion.
It's hard to play the bad guy, but if you give an ultimatum and don't follow through with the consequence, you're actually paving the road for more problems later on. I've always been a believer in refraining from over-regulating your guild as well as limiting your guild charter and guild rules to cover the essentials. That way, you don't end up painting yourself into a corner when you run into a scenario that doesn't fit your rule. Plus, the more rules you put in place, the more often you'll have to run around enforcing them.
But let's say you do end up with a member who has broken a guild rule, or who repeatedly won't listen to raid instructions. If you fail to follow up with a tangible consequence, you've set the precedent that allows others to do the same later on.
I remember a guild leader who tried to get members to show up on time by attaching a fine for showing up late. The idea was that it would be distributed to the guild in order to pay everyone for their wasted time. But the first time someone broke the rule, it was because they were stuck in traffic from their commute home, so the fine was waived. The next time, the late member explained that he was having internet problems, so again, an exception was made. More and more instances of late members with "good" excuses resulted in no penalties. And the only result of this rule was that members learned they could show up late as long as they had a good story to explain it away. When that happens, it's time to either get back to enforcing the rule with no exceptions or rethinking the rule altogether. In some cases, scrapping the rule might be best, while in others, you might need to rethink the consequence.
Double check your decision
If members aren't listening to you, is it because there's a flaw in what you're saying? Guild leaders shouldn't feel like they need to second-guess every decision, but if members aren't listening to something you've said, could it be that there's a problem with the message? Sometimes rewording things to make it clearer will quickly solve the problem. In other instances, it might be that you have made a mistake and it might be time for a reversal. If you have good communication with your members and you've all established trust, it's easy to just ask about the failure to listen. You'll get to the root of the problem quickly and probably find it easier to get on the same page in the future.
Some guild leaders fall into the trap of feeling like they need to give orders for every single thing that goes on in the guild. They begin to micromanage things to the point that they've become overbearing helicopter parents. Remember that players are playing a game, and they're not playing for you. While it's true that everyone in the guild needs each other, and that your leadership is helping to enable everyone to accomplish things they can't do on their own, it doesn't give you license to boss everyone around.
The best guild leaders know when to command and when to back off to give everyone breathing room. It's a tough balance, because too much of a presence is a turn-off, but too much hands-off gives the impression of a leader who isn't leading. Members benefit from clear direction and guidance on how to get to a goal, but they need time off to do activities on their own as well.
Overall, running a guild isn't easy, and it's not surprising that some leaders begin to feel it's a "me versus them" relationship where the leader has to dictate, prod, and threaten in order to get everyone to play nice and cooperate. But members are more likely to listen when they're given enough freedom and when they feel included in the management process. Gentle guidance, rather than constant commanding, can help create a positive guild culture so that when you do talk, people take notice.
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.