Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Leadership Failure

Happy Shattering, all!

In celebration of WoW 2 dropping into Azeroth today, I am not going to write about it.  Instead, I am going to pop up a post I wrote on MMOLeader about how you can deal with leaders that are not performing up to your standards.

What happens when a leader is not up to the task? Not only does your sanity as the leadership team suffer, but the group being led will almost certainly be suffering as a whole. You will often observe this with a drop in performance of the group and socially, morale will start to plummet. Perhaps people will start griping at each other, there might be some infighting or the most disastrous one, your group will start hemorrhaging members. If it is moved to the latter stages, you might be too late. That said, it is never too late to stop, regroup and rebuild.

Failure Behaviour
So, what are some of the things a leader might be doing which could be identified as an issue?

The first, most damaging and usually most obvious one is mutiny. They openly and actively go against what the leadership team agrees to be doing. This may be publicly, or it might be in the privacy of the leadership team communication channels, or it might be subtle undermining of the leader, the level of mutiny can vary.

A loss in time available to play the game can be another way that a leader can be identified as an issue. Being a leader is taking on responsibility above and beyond just gameplay, and in order to be an effective leader, that leader needs to have the time to do what needs to be done. If circumstances change, it is quite valid to mark a leader as having to be replaced simply because the work is not getting done.

Making the wrong decision to promote someone to the leadership team is another reason to remove them. Everyone makes mistakes, and some people just don't fit what is required to be a leader. Perhaps they didn't realise what was entailed in the job and are simply not up to the mark. Perhaps you didn't realise that the person was missing a trait you consider vital to being a leader in your group. Perhaps they just don't gel with the established leadership team.

The last reason I will mention is attitude. A change in attitude from the leader in question can trigger a removal of an officer. They might be doing everything else right, but if their personal morale has dropped for any reason, this will negatively impact your team. Or simply, your group doesn't like this person's style.

Incident Management
The very first thing you should do after you have identified an issue is take reasonable steps to try to rectify the situation without making any changes. Identify the issue and take immediate steps to minimise the impact of the actions. This can be enough to buy you some time to deal with the leader in question. Talk to your other leaders and see if you can get them to cover any responsibilities that are missing, or patch up any relationship problems in the group as they see them (which, really, they should be doing anyway. Sometimes people need a little prod to get moving as they worry about stepping on other peoples' toes in situations like these).

Problem Management
Talking to the leader in question about why they are behaving the way they are is leadership 101. Communication is always key. Take the leader aside and have a chat, find out what is going on with them to cause the problem. Talk to your fellow leaders and not only inform them of the problem, but see if they can help resolve the issue or perhaps shed some light on why the leader is behaving the way they are. Do your best to figure out what can be done to help the leader in question. Support, redistribution of duties, argument mediation... all of these things and more could be used to try to keep your officer in place and functioning again.

Problem Resolution
From all this you will have 3 likely outcomes, which could be the following

Leader stays
Structure changes are best kept to a minimum, so if you can negotiate a way for the leader to stay, then this is the best outcome. Giving them a chance to rectify the issues, work on them and grow as a leader is a good chance to develop not only your own management skills, but the leadership team's skills as well. Make sure that feedback is given to the leader and support is maintained during this probationary period. Everyone should be given a chance to show they can rise to the occasion in my opinion. Make sure that the entire team is supported if there has been any strain on the team relationships and especially if there has been a redistribution of responsibilities or changes in positions to accommodate new working parameters.

Leader leaves by choice
It might be that, after all the negotiations, it becomes apparent that the leader in question doesn't think they can stay in the job or doesn't want to stay. This should be relatively easy to have a transition period in which they stay in their job until a suitable replacement can be found. The leader can then drop back to whatever they feel they can do at this stage in time and the group can move forward together and clearly with no hard feelings.

Leader needs to be removed
During negotiations it might become apparent that the leader needs to be removed, but is not willing to step down of their own volition. This is the most tricky situation to mediate and will require super-amazing communication skills in order to execute without causing too much upset to the team. Try to keep everything as transparent as possible, and be as reasonable as possible. The leader's personal relationships will become a sticking point in all this, especially if there are some strong loyalties or friendship ties within the group to this person. More especially if those ties are to you. Be careful - there is no easy way to do this. You have my sympathy if it has come to this point.

At the end of the day, don't forget that you are playing a game. If it is no longer fun you are doing something wrong.

I have had to remove leaders before, and demoting friends who decided that leadership was no longer their thing is easily the hardest thing (emotionally) I have ever had to do. Even declaring that I was done leading and thus the team stopped functioning was easier than removing friends from office (especially when those friends then drifted out of your life). This is emotional, and anyone that tells you different is not a good leader.