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The Guild Counsel: Managing the peaks of success

Karen Bryan

I'm a Red Sox fan, and if there's ever a team that can exemplify the ups and downs of running a guild, it's the Red Sox. This was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the team, and yet they're near the top of the standings, only a game and a half behind the Team that Shall Not be Named. Managing a guild is also very often about handling the peaks and valleys of day to day life. It's as if the whole guild were manic depressive: You need to downplay the peaks and minimize the valleys.

We've looked at the valleys quite a bit in this column because valleys represent a more urgent problem, but in this week's Guild Counsel, let's look at how to handle the peaks.

Look like a winner

When I was coaching, we once faced a team that we had little chance of beating, but as the innings wore on, we were not only holding our own but hanging on to a lead. The other team, as I expected, made a big rally against us in the last inning, but we held on by the skin of our teeth. This was a fierce rival, a team that had not only beaten us in the past but had done a little trash talking about us to the local press after the fact, so we savored the victory. But I emphasized to the team that we would not hold a big celebration and do a "touchdown dance" on their field.

The best winners, the consummate professionals, are the ones who win and don't go nuts over it. If you act like you expect a win, even if you don't, you create an air of professionalism and earn respect from rival guilds. Obviously, there's nothing wrong with a little celebration, but if you build up victories too much, it can make the losses sting even more.

Remember the big picture

It's exciting to finally accomplish a guild goal, but once you reach it, what's next? Perhaps you downed a tough boss, but now it's time to shift to farm mode. Maybe you took over a rival guild's stronghold, but the focus is now all about how to keep it. Often, there's a transition once you reach a major goal, and it's not always as enjoyable as the initial victory. It's no surprise that guilds actually lose members right after a big moment, but if everyone stays mindful of the big picture, it helps the members keep things in perspective and stick it out.

The Guild Counsel Managing the peaks of success
Growth spurts

I look at the Red Sox right now, and even though I'm giddy at their success, I can't help but pinch myself to remind me that it's supposed to be a rebuilding year. After all, last year they unloaded some of their big names and promoted some young and unproven players early on. If they end up sinking in the standings, it will be disappointing for fans, but then again, that was the original expectation at the start of the season. Guilds can also be streaky. One week, you might be able to take on content with ease, and the next, struggle horribly with it. Just because you downed a boss one time doesn't mean you'll automatically do it every time after that, but it's hard for the guild to accept that without being disappointed. There are so many factors that make the difference between success and failure, including a little bit of luck, so sometimes guilds can do better than expected. If the guild has a good understanding of its strengths and weaknesses, you can all better manage expectations when a peak turns into a valley. Also, knowing your shortcomings helps a guild shore them up so that everyone's more consistent in succeeding.

Watch out for Heartbreak Hill

Reaching a tough goal is a memorable moment and really is at the heart of what makes MMOs so great. But the tougher the goal, the longer the path, and that means there's a real endurance test for the guild. You often hear guild use the phrase "banging their heads against" something because it can often feel as if you're repeatedly struggling without making any signs of progress. But in reality, there are baby steps of progress that guild leaders can, and should, highlight for the guild. Maybe you lost a PvP battle, but your improved communication and coordination allowed you to hold key objectives for a longer period of time than before. Maybe you failed to a tough encounter, but you improved your damage output and knocked his health lower than ever before. Those successes might not bring the cheers and high fives, but they'll keep everyone motivated to continue trying, and they'll help keep morale up along the way.

Overall, guilds need to celebrate victories, especially tough ones. But it's important to find a balance and not build them up too much. There are so many challenges when in a guild, not only from the game itself but from the many internal struggles that tend to occur within the guild itself. Longtime guilds find the ability to smooth out those peaks and valleys a bit and hit a groove as a result. You don't want to level things out so much that it's a flatline, but you want the highs and lows to look more like ripples and less like mountains. Managing the peaks, and highlighting the ones that might seem small and get overlooked, helps get everyone through the tough times when things aren't going well.

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.

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