Career

What You Can Learn From World Of Warcraft To Succeed In Business

There’s something I haven’t shared openly with anyone. A dark secret I kept locked away for years. I hid it because I believed that this secret was meant to be a side of me that no one else in my personal or god forbid professional world would forgive. That secret is… I used to be a closet World of Warcraft addict.

There, I said it.

Now, having moved on from my WoW days and heavily into the corporate sales world, I have been spending a lot of time trying to justify what I actually gained from all of this time and experience!

The answer is a lot.

I also know for a fact there are millions of other people who share the same secret. It’s time for the two worlds to converge, and I am going to give you insights into exactly what you can learn from video games like WoW and apply in real life to succeed!

If by this point you are thinking:

1. I hate MMOG’s
2. You sound like a nerd
3. I just don’t like the sound of this

Please feel free to gtfo (to another article…)

For the rest of you — here we go!


1. You Can’t Do It Alone

In my opinion, one of the biggest mistakes you can make in your working life is to try and do everything alone. In WoW, you realise very early on there are things that you literally cannot do without the help of the right people. Hogger alone will kick your butt early on – as will tasks early on in your career if you choose your own glory over rationally working as a team.

Key Lesson: You will get further in your career working with a team than trying to do impossible things alone.


2. Preparation

It amazes me if I think back to groups and raids in WoW. We would spend months preparing by getting the right gear, the right team members and the right strategy. Then, spend hours pre-briefing on a dungeon before going in.

Now think about your career — how often do you go into meetings, sales or projects with less than 10 minutes planning? If you walked straight into a dungeon or situation you had never experienced before in WoW and got everyone killed – how would you expect the team to respect and trust your leadership skills?

You aren’t going to die if you don’t strategise properly for a meeting, but just imagine how much more valued, trusted and effective you would be if people could see the foresight you have in a carefully planned strategy.

Key Lesson: Treat every meeting, sale and project like a new raid – carefully strategise what you know about the possible terrain, people you will encounter, and who will be there with you. Communicate this to your team.


3. Carefully Select Your Team

Let’s talk about the basics of a team in WoW, and how it relates to real life. I strongly believe there is a huge parallel between the two, so let me talk this through.

3.1 – Core traits
In WoW, each race starts with fundamental abilities that others cannot learn no matter how they try. In the real world, you will come across people who are fundamentally more credible, show more energy or are better at listening than others.

Carefully think about who you have on your team to begin with, and how those people can be best utilised in your sales and projects – particularly how they mesh with other internal and external parties.

Key Lesson: Recognise people’s fundamental strengths and weaknesses and use them.

3.2 – Situational Class Traits and Roles
Now, there are then key roles that people will play in specific situations. The trick is to make sure the person is suitable for the role, and that they are know they are that role. The essence of ‘Situational Leadership’ is all about how you lead, choose and develop people dynamically depending on the situation.

Let’s discuss a few of them:

3.2.1 – Raid Leader
In the case of a real life sales strategy, business strategy or project – there must be a raid leader. This person could be the ‘tank’, ‘healer’ or any other role in the execution, but this person’s overall role is to provide strategy and guidance for other’s to work within. This person must recognise that they hold ultimate responsibility for everything that happens. If you have the wrong team, the wrong strategy or wrong execution (within your control) – you must see it as your responsibility.

The raid leader listens to his team and draws guidance from those above them (eg. Managing Director, Vice President) to craft the overall strategy – and realises he is responsible, but should not make a cement strategy until consulting the team. A rookie mistake is to pretend you know everything.

Let’s think about the raid leader’s key traits:

• Strategist
• Listens to his team and superiors to craft a plan
• Big picture oriented
• Thinks about mitigating risks
• Chooses his team carefully
• Makes decisions

3.2.2 – Tank

This is the key role of the tactical leader who leads the execution and is seen to be the ‘main man’. The role of this person is to be seen as the key leader in the eyes of the customer and business, even though they will be supported by ‘healers’ and ‘DPS’ to execute on various levels.
The tank knows that it is IMPOSSIBLE to defeat entire raids (deals, projects) without the support of his team, and does not even try to engage in risky solo advances just to sooth his ego.

Further to this – to an extent your role is fairly bland. You need key attributes of strength, ability to listen, and ability to act – but you are not proclaiming to know and be able to do everything.

I see so many account managers and leaders who try to learn and know everything. Your job isn’t to know every detail – your job is to find the people who do know them and use them effectively to solve problems.

Let’s think about the key traits of the tank:

• Brave
• Has the trust of his people
• Humble at the right time
• Understands the power of a team
• Trusts those behind him
• Listens
• Ability to make key decisions quickly and effectively
• Can handle pressure and ‘a beating’ sometimes
• Carries the morale of the team and gives them confidence

3.2.3 – Healer
In real life, the healer will be the team that will support you and keep you going both literally and emotionally. The healer is someone the team can trust, is attentive and responsive. They could be your support manager, your coach, even your partner outside of work.

You must choose these roles carefully. Let’s think about the type of people you want to have behind you as the healer.

• They need to be people you can trust – you don’t have time in the heat of battle to micromanage them
• They need to be able to ‘read’ you – you don’t have a walking health bar on you. They will learn to perceive what you need and when
• At the same time, again you don’t have a walking health bar. So communication about what you need is important – don’t blame a healer for letting you down if they didn’t know what was wrong
• Reliable – the healer should be trusted to always be around at key times

3.2.4 – DPS
The final role I will touch on is DPS – these people are your artillery on the ground that do the main damage to get you over the line. This role should constitute the most people in your team. These could be your consultants, your pre-sales team, associates, that really get in there and engage.

This is an interesting point – how many of you managers and leaders see yourself as the tank and the DPS – instead of using, trusting and developing your DPS team – and still think you can always win? How many of you try to be everything?

You must expand your team and be comfortable giving away some control, to help you win. During raid preparation you will paint the strategy and the vision – you don’t need to micromanage every second of how they get there.

DPS must be adaptable to the situation. Imagine a situation in a raid where you are against something with magic resistance. You aren’t going to send someone who won’t be able to penetrate. Similarly in real life, if you are dealing with someone with a strong supply chain background, the person you choose to engage directly with them isn’t going to be someone with a sales background. Most normal people have ‘sales resistance’!

Your job is to choose the best DPS for the situation.

Let’s think about the key traits of the DPS:
• Action oriented
• Trustworthy and reliable
• Understand and work within the strategy set
• Detail oriented
• Have detailed domain knowledge
• Can ‘talk the talk’


4. Your Strategy Is Always Developing

The strategy you develop at the start of a project is great, but it cannot be dormant. Things are going to happen in real life to make your pretty little strategy redundant.

Keep your ears open, listen to your team and trust your gut. If things are not going to plan, work with your team and make a decision to pull out, or change strategy.

There is no glory in getting 100% of a lost deal, when you could be a part of the 100% success.

Key Lesson: Your plans should always be evolving

5. The Definition of Insanity

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and expecting different results.

If you wipe on a raid, you sit back and think about why, and you adjust to do things better. Similarly, in real life if you lose a deal, fail a project or generally have no success – take the time to debrief with your team to understand the root issues and gain trust that you can do better next time.

Key Lesson: Make sure you are learning from your mistakes – not repeating them

6. Failure Breeds Success

Treat your real world like a game. Pretend that even if you fail a project or deal, that all you do is press respawn and you get another shot. As long as you are debriefing, learning from your actions and experience, you should see failure as a great learning tool.

Learn from it, shrug it off but make damn sure those around you know how you are going to kick butt next time!

Key Lesson: Don’t be afraid to fail – it will help you succeed.


Have you subscribed to Lifehacker Australia's email newsletter? You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.