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Ready Check: How to coach your raid members


Ready Check is a column focusing on successful raiding for the serious raider. Hardcore or casual, Vault of Archavon or Ulduar, everyone can get in on the action and down some bosses.

One of the most difficult issues in any raid is "that guy." You know who I mean. The one who stands in fire, isn't pulling his weight, doesn't bring potions or food, is mean on Vent, is quiet on Vent, is a drama bomb, argues about loot, or otherwise does something that makes you think "this guy isn't getting it done." The only way you're going to resolve these problems is to coach them through it.

Of course, there are many reasons someone in a raid might need coaching as there are raids. Not every reason for coaching is necessarily a performance flaw. Most coaching sessions will probably be performance related in some way, but you could end up coaching a raid member because you think their sense of humor is just a little off.

Ultimately, it's up to you and your guild officers who is responsible for the actual coaching. But whoever does the job, you want to make sure they're doing it well. Take a look behind the jump for some coaching tips.

1. Set expectations that coaching will happen -- for the entire raid.

Setting and meeting expectations is a huge issue for most organizations. In this case, though, you want to set your raid's expectation that coaching sessions are going to happen. A raid member who doesn't know that coaching could happen will get understandably nervous and resistant if you spontaneously drop them a whisper saying, "Hey, let's talk about your raid performance."

It's up to you whether you want to coach every single raid member on a regular schedule. Like I mentioned last week, though, a good raid leader makes individual one-on-one time with every raid member. Already having that time established and expected provides you a natural environment to provide that coaching.

The other significant benefit to setting everyone's expectations that coaching sessions will happen is that it keeps anyone from feeling singled out. It always sucks to be the one who's getting "picked on." If the coaching subject knows that other people are getting similar sessions, they won't take the whole process as personally.

2. Be prepared to talk about your subject.

You need to know what you're talking about when you're getting ready to coach a raid member. Now, this doesn't necessarily mean you need to be an expert about all things raid related. Rather, I encourage you to be specific and direct about the subject itself. You need to know why your coaching the raid member.

For example, it's easy to simply say, off the cuff, "Bob, you're not doing enough damage." But that's a pretty vague way to describe the problem. Is Bob not pulling his weight because his gear is bad for a Warrior? Is there a skill issue involved with Bob? Heck, for that matter, maybe Bob is taking moments to sneak out for pizza, and is being an afk-ninja.

Having a specific subject about which you're coaching will allow you to not only keep your coaching session managable, but it will help you with the next step.

3. Provide a solution.

If you want someone to change -- and that's the point of coaching -- then you need to outline the change you want. You can't simply tell Bob, "You suck. Stop sucking." (Okay, you could, but you're probably not going to have a lot of success.)

Maybe Bob does basically all right with his Death Knight, but sometimes, he seems clumsy and ungainly when he activates his powers. Take a few moments yourself, and look up some choice Death Knight macros for him. You certainly could argue that it's not your job to tell someone else how to play. But you are the one asking Bob to change. Presumably, you have better access to resources than Bob. And, heck, if Bob knew better, wouldn't Bob already be living the change you want?

4. Ask your coaching subject to be part of the solution.

Do your best to enlist your raid member's help with the problem. If you approach Bob and simply say "Your DPS is inadequate, and you must fix it," the Bob will probably be within his rights to be defensive.

Instead, start off your coaching session by outlining the problem. "Bob, I need to talk to you about your raid DPS. I feel like it's lagging behind, and I'd really like your help in getting you caught up to the curve."

The operative words in that phrase is "I need your help." Again, you're asking your raid member to make a change to the benefit of the raid. Phrasing your questions in a way that encourages your coachee to be the hero will empower him, instead of denigrating him.

And, Mom always says -- you get more flies with honey than vinegar.

5. Encourage your subject.

Coaching doesn't end simply because you talked to Bob once, especially if you're asking Bob to make significant, long-term changes.

Each and every raid, either you or one of your lieutenants must monitor the problem area. Is Bob's DPS actually increasing? Has Bob mastered the art of standing not-in-fire?

Take the time and energy to send a message to Bob. Let him know that not only do you recognize his effort and the change he has accomplished, but also that you appreciate it. "Thanks, man, you've really been doing a great job with it."

This continues to enhance the idea that Bob is a valued member of your raid, and the effort Bob has shown is worthwhile. Bob isn't going an extra mile simply on your say-so. (If you disagree with that notion, then at least consider the idea that Bob probably wouldn't need coaching if he perceived his previous performance as acceptable.)

6. Follow-up if necessary, end the process if not.

If you're not seeing the results that you were hoping for, you need to continue to coach your subject. Schedule another one-on-one, or maybe send them an email. You need to make sure Bob knows you're still on his team, and that you're trying to help him succeed.

Eventually, of course, this needs to end. (At least, the coaching about a single, specific subject needs to stop eventually. You'll always have more to coach.) If Bob is not performing, you need to let him know that he's not meeting your expectations. If Bob's getting the job done, though, let him know you're satisfied with the results.

I'll talk more about how to fire a raid member next week. It's a pretty delicate subject, and deserves a post of its own. Ultimately, though, if you can go successfully through this coaching cycle, the situation will rarely come to that.

Good hunting out there!

Ready Check is here to provide you all the information and discussion you need to bring your raiding to the next level. Check us out weekly to learn the strategies, bosses, and encounters that make end-game raiding so much fun.

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