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The Guild Counsel: Seven New Year's resolutions every guild leader should make

As 2013 comes to a close, it's a good opportunity to look back at your guild's year and remember the success and memorable high points you reached together. For every guild that made it through the year, there are hundreds if not thousands that didn't. There are many challenges to running a guild, and sadly, there are too many potential pitfalls that can cause even the most cohesive guilds to fracture and fall apart.

The start of a new year is a good time for guild leaders to make a few resolutions to strengthen their guild and make the coming year more enjoyable for all. Let's look back at some helpful advice from the past year's Guild Counsel as we look forward to 2014.

Don't be tone deaf

Criticism is essential if you want your guild to improve and work together well. But it's a challenge for a guild leader to deliver criticism without causing tension and resentment. Text is a hard way to offer criticism because a line of text can be interpreted in many different ways. The phrase, "Why did you do it that way?" can come off as an innocent inquiry or a scathing condemnation depending on tone and emphasis. Voice chat is a better venue for critiques, but the face-to-face part is still missing.

There are times when a stern tone is needed, but there are also times when a gentle tone fosters a more inclusive and team-oriented effort to improve as individuals and as a guild overall. Knowing when to use each is a valuable asset.

Be careful of your bench

Having an overflow of players for events can give overworked players a breather and prevent burnout. No one likes to be forced to raid, so having a bench gives guild leaders more options when piecing together a raid force. And over the long haul, every guild goes through attrition, so a bench is not only helpful but necessary.

At the same time, avoid the "A team" vs. "B team" scenario that often comes with a surplus of players. While the goal is to build a strong raid force that works well together, it doesn't mean there's only one possible combination of players to accomplish that. Sometimes, the best raids come from the most unlikely combination of guild members.

Deal with problem players judiciously

Every guild has its share of players who rock the boat from time to time. And there's a tendency among guild leader to adopt the attitude of "Kick 'em!" any time they cause trouble. But taking the extra time to consider why someone is acting out and what specific action is best-tailored to solve the issue will help reduce the number of problems you face in the long run. There are some players who are just not a good fit for your guild, and it's best to have them move on for the guild's benefit and theirs as well. But for every problem player who needs to be booted out, there are plenty who will get on board with only a little warning (or a little support) needed to get them on the same page.

Massively's Bree Royce offered some wise words on this topic when she said, "Sometimes you lay down the law to prove you're serious, sometimes you use bribery, sometimes you pull off a crazy rescue and go back for the guy who didn't deserve it. Sometimes it can't be done and the person is a loss, but some of my guild's most loyal members are or used to be its biggest agitators and the biggest pains in my butt."

Don't allow it to be a job

While guild management can require more time than simply logging in, running some dailies, and jumping in a PUG, it shouldn't feel like a second job. If it gets to the point that your time is predominantly spent on guild chores and member issues, it's time to make a change. Managerial tasks like DKP or website maintenance can take hours of time to keep up to date, but there are plenty of programs that can do the job with little required from you. Day-to-day guild responsibilities like recruitment, event-planning, and bank maintenance can be delegated to officers and responsible members. And member issues often resolve themselves without a guild leader needing to step in and mediate.

Guild leaders tend to heap things on themselves, either out of a sense of duty or out of a need to maintain power. Letting go of things not only makes it easier on the guild leader but gives the guild a chance to contribute to the direction and success of the guild.

Give members the chance to savor success

MMOs often create a scenario where each player is so busy focused on his individual goal that he neglects to recognize others' accomplishments. But when we reach a challenging goal, we want that opportunity to be noticed and appreciated. That's why well-geared players will sit AFK in a central hub, hoping passers-by will stop and look. And that's why a player who has just earned a top-notch weapon would want to immediately go out and duel any player within reach.

Guilds can provide that "Star Wars moment," when Han, Luke, and Chewie are on the dais with their medals in front of a cheering Rebel army. It could be something as simple as a "shout out" in guild chat, a quick congrats on the guild website, or a mention in a guild email, but that little acknowledgement goes a long way.

Speed up those slogging raids

Raids (and guild events in general) are most enjoyable when the raid leader has a firm grip on the pace. They shouldn't feel like a mad dash, but at the same time, raids that move at a steady, focused pace develop a rhythm that helps keep raiders sharp and focused, but also relaxed at the same time. Raid leaders can use a few pages from a sport coach's playbook in managing the pace of a raid, as well as timed breaks and good stopping points.

Do a security check

Use the New Year as an opportunity to tighten up security in your guild. Consider changing up your account password and encouraging members to do the same. Hacked accounts are a headache not only for the member but for the guild as well. Also consider freshening up the admin passwords to things like the guild website, voice chat, or livestream channel. And look over that guild bank to see whether your access levels are where you want them to be. The few minutes you spend double checking security within your guild can prevent hours if not days of stress that comes from being hacked.

To all the guilds who made it through another year, congratulations! And cheers to another fun and memorable year in 2014!

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.