Tips For Helping Your Players Improve
May 14, 2010 18 Comments
I read a comment on my site this week that made me sit back and think. After my rant about the Lich King, a poster commented on how he planned to give up on raiding completely, as his group seemed to have reached the pinnacle of its progress about halfway through ICC. While the thought of someone telling me that “I” had convinced them to give up on raiding saddened me a bit, the part of the comment that really stuck with me was this gem about why they were having so much trouble:
It’s always the same people and no one will coach them or explain why their playing or DPS just isn’t cutting it.
I think if this is accurate, he’s pretty much summed up the main issue with his raid group. Especially at this level of raiding, it’s critical for the leaders of a group to be able analyze what’s going on in the fight, good and bad, and then give appropriate feedback to the group on both. I’m not perfect, and I’ve had my fair share of trouble focusing on the good at times, but it’s equally important to know what you’re doing well as it is to diagnose problems. The whole business of solving those issues depends entirely on the initial delivery of the problem, and I’ll get into that now.
So, you’ve got a player who is consistently the major contributing factor to your wipes on Boss X. As a group leader it falls to you to take care of the issue so your group can get past Boss X. You have two options in this scenario. First, you could simply find a replacement for the player, or second, you could work with the player to fix the issue. I’ve known a lot of people who would take the first option in that scenario, replace the player and not think twice about it; I think in the end, though, the second option is better and will get you a better group in the end.
I’ve never met a player with no room for improvement, myself included, nor have I ever met a player that didn’t improve when they were willing to be worked with. Generally, most players want to be better than they currently are, whether they be skilled or not. Some people welcome advice and others can be more touchy about it, so the key to successfully getting the process of improvement started rests on your delivery of the problem that you want fixed. Your approach in discussing the issue with the player can only garner two results; the player will either agree to work with you on it, or they won’t. If they chose the latter, then you can assume that you either botched the delivery, or the person’s not a team player and needs to be replaced.
How, then, do we approach players in need of a little (or big) tune-up? Well, very methodically. There’s a technique of giving feedback where you point out what you’re trying to get across between two positive comments. I call this the sandwich method, but I certainly didn’t invent it, and it goes by other names as well. Basically you want to let the player know something you’ve recognized that they do well to show them that you do appreciate what they are doing. This generally will make them more receptive to any comments you have for them about what they aren’t doing so well. By finishing up on another positive comment, you leave the player knowing what they need to work on, but feeling good that they’re appreciated for the things they do well.
A word of caution, if you want to succeed, use baby steps. It’s generally best to work on one issue at a time. Trying to solve every perceived issue at once will generally cause a player to meltdown. The idea is to fix each issue independently, so the player can internalize the skill and make it instinctual. The less that a player is actively thinking about, the more likely they are to make the correct decisions in a given situation. Basically, players stop standing in the fire when they develop the instinct to move without thinking about it, not when they’re constatly stressed over looking out for it. While the player’s job is to master a needed skill, your job as a leader is to provide the knowledge of that skill and a way to practice it.
Ah, practice; It’s said that it makes things perfect. There are few skills needed in ICC that you can’t learn somewhere else in the game. In fact, most skills can be easily worked on in Heroic Dungeons. After you’ve made the problem known, all you have to do is find an example of whatever the player needs to work on and get to work.
In response to that last paragraph, I already see this comment coming:
“But, Sam! Mobs die to quickly in Heroics to be of any real use!”
That’s actually pretty easy to fix. Take a group of guildies, and when you get to what you need to work on, don’t kill the mobs or boss. Let them do their mechanics and practice accordingly. Don’t kill the mob or boss until you’ve worked on what you came to work on. Remember, you’re here to work on a skill, not to farm the Heroic.
Other than skills, the only thing that might need work is individual class play, be it Tanking, Healing or DPSing. It probably goes without saying, but having someone work with the player that is good at their class/role is generally the best solution. If you won’t be personally working with the player, make sure that your proxy will treat the player with respect, or you might end up with a few fires to put out.
Most importantly, working with someone isn’t about bruising egos or being superior, it’s about improving the overall quality of your team. If every member of your team has an equal share of the responsibility for group success, they should be afforded an equal respect, regardless of their skill. If you make that point clear with your team, they’ll likely play better too. A player that feels a sense of ownership of a part of the group is more likely to have vested interest in improving their skill set for the benefit of the group than one that you chide or make fun of.
So in review, if you need to tune up your raid to get past a roadblock, following these steps will make success in that goal more likely:
- Review your raid and figure out the strengths and weaknesses of your players
- Pick a skill or role issue to focus on.
- Approach the player with the weakness between two strengths.
- Work with the player to improve the weakness
- Watch your group grow and mature from the effort.
As I’ve said before, I’ve never run into a situation where those steps have not produced positive results with a willing player. If the player isn’t willing, and it has nothing to do with your approach, you’re likely better off without them, as there are some duds out there. Fortunately, they are few and far between compared to those that are ready to learn if you take the time and effort to do so. My final advice of the day:
If you treat a player as if they are what is holding your group back, they’ll probably continue to do exactly that and your group will likely fail. However, if you treat your players like they’re important to your success, they’ll act like it, and in turn, likely succeed.
Good luck to your raid group in whatever endeavor, large or small, that you wish to conquer,