I generally avoid posting about overly personal stuff here, mostly because I know you don’t care, and also because for the most part I view SynCaine the blogger as a different entity than the person behind the screen name. That said today will be a little departure from that. Hope you don’t mind.
For most of my real life career I’ve envisioned myself more as someone who works hands-on vs being a manager. In my field (Corporate IT) I like seeing a project progress and seeing the parts I’m personally involved with contribute to a larger goal, whether I’m a small cog or a key player. I didn’t believe I’d enjoying managing because I’d lose that personal connection to things getting done, to having personal ownership of something successful.
At the same time, since high school, I’ve always been a leader in online gaming. I’ve always run a guild in games that allowed it and I was into, and I’ve always been interested in the social along with the gameplay in online games. I did the whole hardcore raiding thing as an officer in an MMO, guild leadership in PvP MMOs, and now for the last 4-5 years I’ve run Supreme Cream! across multiple mobile games. The level of success has varied from title to title, but few if any attempts at the social side have been outright failures (unable to form a guild, have a guild implode shortly after formation), and I’ll take at least some credit in that success to managing those groups correctly.
It was only very recently, when I accepted a new and far more senior position in my career, that I’ve come to realize I do enjoy management in the real world. The sense of ownership and success/failure related to it is still there, only now its just at a higher level. It’s not about solving one issue, but about making sure that we successfully solve all issues that arise in similar fashion, and that we learn and improve as we go. I’m finding it more rewarding, and that has been a pleasant surprise.
Perhaps the most surprising thing however is that my experience in managing online groups in the gaming world is helping me in my career today. The biggest thing is managing expectations I have for others. Not to pat myself on the back too hard, but I’m a successful individual, one that is able to figure out solutions fairly quickly and, generally, my gut reactions to things tend to be correct (that said, one of the harder skills I’ve had to learn is to not run straight ahead with said gut reactions, but to still ensure the decision is actually the right one). But not everyone, or even 99% of people, are like that. Which doesn’t automatically mean they are wrong or ‘bad workers’, but that different approaches work for different people. And since I can’t clone myself, being successful in management means understanding how to get the most out of the people you have. That’s been true in gaming, and I now realize it’s just as true in real life.
In gaming I’ve been successful in group management because I’ve been active in managing the roster. If someone is toxic, you remove them before the toxin spreads. Being proactive in that is important, because if you wait or give them too many chances, they cause damage. At the same time, you can’t just kick anyone you feel is underperforming, as you will likely end up with a tiny or non-existent roster. Some of the best members have been slow starters, for any number of reasons. Being able to identify who has potential, having the patience to see it through, and having the skill to get them up to the level they should be at; all of that took a lot of time/learning on my end. Hell, I’m still learning, and likely always will.
Another important aspect of running a successful group is setting the right culture and expectations. If you are a bleeding-edge raid guild, you have different expectations than a more casual mobile game group. But at the same time, you want whatever group you are leading to always improve, to grow, and to keep people engaged/entertained. If you fail any of those, you risk not just losing people, but most likely losing the most important/dedicated people. When a raiding guild isn’t making progress because of leadership, the first people to go won’t be the bottom rung who are just happy to be there, it will be the most dedicated members putting in the most effort to succeed. Soon as you start losing those people, you death spiral fast.
Managing in the real world is somewhat different, but not really. Sure, you can’t just /kick someone as easily as you can online, but the same general rules about toxic individuals vs slow starters applies. It sounds like a joke, but I swear that years of dealing with derps online in mobile gaming has sharpened me in dealing with individuals in the real world, both in a higher level of patience, and in my ability to identify and deal with them.
Maybe more importantly, being able to tap into an individual in a way that makes them successful is critical, and their success is its own gratifying reward. I’ve been doing that online for more than a decade, and all of that experience is now paying off. It sounds almost insane, but it’s true.
Now I’m not saying to list your guild leadership experience on your resume, or to suggest that all good leaders online are also good leaders in the real world. What I am saying is that for me personally, the experience of managing online gaming groups has translated to a real world skillset, one that is very useful and highly desired. That was never the goal, or an expected result, but it does put a very nice cherry on top of all the enjoyment I’ve had over the years leading those groups.