Fundamentals of Officer Roles

 

 

Setting Up Office

Introduction

The whole of the MES thanks you for stepping up and taking on a principal office in our Club.  Whether your job is the tippy Top or at the Domain/Chapter level, you are now one of the people that make this Club work and allow the players to enjoy their LARPing experience.

Now, with the niceties out of the way, time to get to work – but where to begin?  If you have never been whatever office you have just been granted, it can be hard to get started.  This document should help you in that regard, from basic checklists of the stuff you need to know to whom to contact with questions regarding your new job.

The First Week

During the first week or so, or preferably in the lead-up to your actual start date, you should make contact with the outgoing officer.  Part of their term of office is making sure that there is a smooth transfer of assets and accesses. As this is a general course, with addenda aside with specifics, here are the general things you should talk to the outgoing officer about:

  • Email account access – make sure that you know the information for these accounts, including passwords.  It is a good idea to change the password and any password access the account may have. Ensure you are on all the lists you need to be on.
  • Office Paperwork – make sure all records, both historical and ongoing are transferred.  This could require a thumb drive, Google doc or other real medium, a electronic transfer of data or simply a pile of notebooks. This includes doodles and all.
  • Real properties – to use the stage term, a property is anything needed to execute the role of the office.  See the addenda for specific things that might fit into this category.
  • CRD/Approvals – make sure you have proper access to the CRD and Approvals. You can find out how to do that here.

This is also the time to get on any lists or other online resources we use in the MES.  Database accesses, email lists and any other online elements of your new job – check with the outgoing officer as well as those above you in the chain of command to see what will be useful or needed.

The easiest way to ensure future transfers of assets when a position changes hand is to have a separate Gmail account for the office itself. This maintains separation from a member’s personal Gmail account, and thereby makes it easier to keep all office materials organized and “attached” to the office Gmail account. Doing so will make future changeover in the position much easier and smoother; most of what needs to be handed over will be taken care of when the Email address changes hands.

Keep Email organization as simple as possible; remember, eventually someone else will be taking over the office and a highly complex organizational system that makes sense to you may be impossibly convoluted to them.

All records (character sheets, prestige documents, DA records) can be saved in google docs which is attached to the office email and transferred with it. This means you don’t need to hunt down records to make sure they are all transferred and they are easy to find by the new officer. To access google docs, make sure you are signed into the officer email as your primary gmail account and go to https://drive.google.com/. Create folders to keep everything organized. Make sure to keep only the most recent copy of files in the google docs folder.

This also makes sharing documents with your players easy, especially if you are using google docs to edit them.

The First Month

Throughout the month, it is highly suggested that you keep a running log of questions, observances and other notes regarding what you are doing in your office.  Even a simple [DATE – ACTION] note on a sticky note on your laptop is a good step in this direction. A file on a computer or an envelope on your desk are both good ways to organize these notes.  The benefits of these notes will be quite apparent at the end of the month when it comes time to report.

At the Domain/Chapter level, each officer has certain events which require their attendance beyond what they do during the downtime between them.  Both sides of the administration of the MES benefit from officers having the following items on hand:

  • pencil/pen
  • blank paper
  • notebook of officer activity

See the addenda for specifics about your office.

If you have not already, the first month is a great time to get into contact with others in the area your office takes care of.  Specialists and primary officers who exist above you in the chain as well as those who report to you are all part of the administration of the MES.  Try to contact these folks, if for nothing else than to tell them that there’s a new sheriff in town.

If the officer is still around, and not totally burnt from their time in office, take some time to check in with them.  They might have some insights, or they might have forgotten something they were supposed to give you. Former officers might be quite happy to be general members once again, so if they show resistance, you should try to find another way, or give them some time to find their feet again.

Once you’ve got the hang of things and have gone over the Membership Handbook for your duties and powers, make sure you have taken your office-required Standard Tests.  The extra prestige never broke any hearts and they are required for the position.

As the month comes to a close, you should start preparing the report for your office.  Notes you’ve been keeping will come in very handy. It is an excellent idea, during your first month if not for others, to start the report early so you have time to send drafts to those who you report to if you have any doubts.  Better a 4th draft that is correct than a 1st and only draft that is not. After you’ve written your first correct report, the rest should be easy.

Conclusion

The first month of a new office can be a harrowing experience, especially for a first-time officer.  Hopefully you’ve got some insight into how to hit the ground running after reading this document.
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Hiring and Utilizing Assistants

Introduction

Congratulations, you have just received a position within The Mind’s Eye Society..  When you step into the role, you will have many things to think about. This is when you also need to look at who can help you in getting the job done well.

Assistants

Every job comes with different duties.  An officer may have assistants help them with various venues or topics.  A storyteller may have an archivist, someone who understands the rules, or someone who is willing to play an NPC in lieu of their own character.  A coordinator could have someone who is in charge of their permanent site, in charge of concessions, or even the financial end.

Finding the right fit

This can be the toughest part of finding an assistant.  Often times people are more than willing to earn the precious prestige, however they may not be able to fulfill the duties.  As an officer you will be ultimately responsible for what they do or don’t do. If the site manager does not keep up with the site, you may be hard pressed to find what you are looking for on the site.

This can be similar to hiring for a job.  You may want to interview the candidates before giving them a job.  You may also give them easier tasks to get a feel for their performance.  It is ultimately up to the officer to find their preferred method to choosing their assistants.

Utilizing your Assistants

After you find your assistants, you need to make sure you use them to their fullest potential.  First, this can help them move up in the ranks. A good manager trains their employees to eventually take their position.  You may not be able to keep the position forever. It is good, if you have to vacate the position, that you have someone lined up to take your place

Keep in mind the workload balance. An underutilized assistant may become listless and lax in their duties.  Make sure that they know what they are responsible for. If you have tasks that need to be done look at what responsibilities people hold and the amount of work on their plate. Use both of these factors to determine how you should divide up work. Make sure to keep an eye out for overworking an Assistant. Overworking assistants can lead to burn out.

Working with your Assistants

Communication is the most important factor of office work. Make sure you keep in touch with your assistants.  One way to do this is to touch base with your assistants via phone calls, face-to-face meetings, emails or chats.  Sometimes this can be easier for the Chapter or Domain levels. When you get to the Regional or National, you may not see them on a regular basis.  If you do not keep in touch, you may not know what is really going on. Details about Officer Meetings can be found in the “Officer Meetings” document.

 

Conclusion

Sometimes just remembering to have communication with your assistants is the best thing you can do.  Remember to also praise their successes and deal with the failures. Overall, finding the right people can make your job easier.
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Officer Meetings

In the Mind’s Eye Society, every primary office tends to have assistants, and, they tend to have peers and cohorts who they need to communicate with. In fact, communication is the key to the effectiveness of every office. Regular meetings help guarantee good communication in person and help build trust and teamwork. The purpose of this brief module is to discuss planning and conducting these meetings and how to ensure that you and your team get the maximum benefit from them.

You may ask, why bother to plan the meeting?

Careful planning allows you to be effective and productive in a short amount of time, which will encourage attendance and add value instead of adding a chore. Keep it quick, effective, and enjoyable, and your staff will be more likely to attend. Get everyone there, start on time, take care of business, and then let those who want to hang out and chat do that while still letting the others who need to get going to do so.

Prepare for the meeting ahead of time. Much of the “fact” portion of the meeting (that is “What’s going on?” as opposed to “What would we like to do about it?”) can be addressed in an email before the meeting, keeping the meeting shorter. If everyone has the facts before the meeting, then the meeting can focus on discussion- but that requires that everyone has read the email before the meeting. Getting your staff into the habit of keeping up on their emails will help keep the meetings shorter and more productive, which encourages people to attend.

Meetings should have a purpose and an outcome. Simply informing one another isn’t enough. Communicate actions, tasks, and commitments, and encourage staff to ask for help when they need it. Set due dates, and be specific about who is expected to do what.

Have an agenda and stick to it, including a set time. A “standard” agenda will include updates from each officer, updates and directions given to the officers, and discussion of any changes in staff. The agenda should include a detailed timeline; this timeline also helps people prepare, because they know what will be discussed, and can have their notes on those things with them at the meeting. Below are two short examples of an agenda:

Domain Storyteller Meeting Minutes

Date: Saturday, July 5th, 2014

Start Time: 5:00 PM

Agenda Items:

  • 5:00 – 5:10: Opening remarks from DST, introduce new aDST: Web Presence
  • 5:10 – 5:20: Accord update, introduce new aVST
  • 5:20 – 5:30: Sabbat update
  • 5:30 – 5:40: Cam/Anarch update, plot contest ideas
  • 5:40 – 5:50: Garou update, introduce newly elected VST
  • 5:50 – 6:00: NW Garou Campout planning
  • 6:00 – 6:20: Topic – identifying problem player types
  • 6:20 – 6:30: Wrap Up, propose new agenda items

Domain Coordinator Meeting

Date: Friday, July 11th, 2014

Start Time: 6:00 PM @ Round Table Pizza

Agenda Items:

  • 5:00 – 5:10: Opening remarks from DC; Website updates
  • 5:10 – 5:20: ADC: Site Management  – new game site schedule
  • 5:20 – 5:30: Site Fee options and alternate funding proposal
  • 5:30 – 5:40: Charity updates
  • 5:40 – 5:50: ADC: Arbitration (Letter of Counseling review)
  • 5:50 – 6:00: Wrap Up, propose new agenda items

Try to schedule small blocks, and expect to address a few key topics or issues only. Staying focused can be difficult when there are too many things to cover – instead, if all of the topics that need discussed cannot be covered in the blocks you have created, consider scheduling a second meeting instead. It is often difficult to stay on task otherwise. It also helps for staff with limited time and keeps the meeting positive and productive.

Don’t follow tangents from the agenda. “Tabling” an issue, or “parking” an idea means writing it down and coming back to it. Focus first on clearing through the agenda. That ensures that everyone gets the basics, it encourages that all staff remain on task, and as time permits you can go into those other details that have come up in discussion.

Ask each attendee to not text, cross-talk with others, and so on during the meeting. The meeting will be over much faster, and everyone will hear what’s going on without it having to be repeated. If a conversation doesn’t involve the whole group, then write it down, and take it up with the right people after the main part of the meeting.

Ensure that your staff knows the rules and that they follow them. Encourage feedback after meetings, and remind everyone that, as a team, everyone’s time is valuable and no one person should want to dominate the meeting. It can come across as curt to say “Let’s talk about that later” if those involved don’t expect that, but it can be more damaging to productivity if staff feel that they may go unheard do to an agenda that is never adhered to. Ensuring that everyone is on the same page will minimize hurt feelings.

Location can be as important as the agenda. Hanging around after a meeting and chatting is great for team building, but it is best to leave this as an unofficial time AFTER meetings are completed. Having your meetings somewhere with food and drink, such as a restaurant or someone’s home, allows those who want to stay and hang out to do that, while others who only have time for the meeting itself can attend and then leave after the meeting. If you must hold the meeting prior to another MES event (such as game night), ensure that you have left adequate time for people to change gears, and try very hard not to force your officers to spend their entire day (or just what SEEMS like their entire day) in MES activities.

Assign a note-taker: Simple, but crucial. Ensure that a summary of the meeting is sent out or given out to all those who attended the meeting or who should have attended the meeting but were absent for whatever reason.

Limit absences. One of the most disruptive situations is the simple loss of an agenda item due to absentees. If a staff member cannot attend, request a proxy or assistant to cover their agenda items and communicate to everyone in attendance as early as possible. People, especially volunteers, have a lot of other time commitments in their lives. Ask each person to commit to the actions expected of them, and provide clear milestones and a clear objective to that commitment. This not only helps ensure that each person understands what is expected of them, it also encourages people to state if they can do what’s expected – this agreement helps motivate them to do the task, and do it on time.

Limit “guests” and ensure they have a purpose. Guests to these meetings should have a specific purpose for their attendance, and should never be there ‘just to observe’. It is often very difficult not to be distracted by even the quietest and most polite guests, and they will have just as difficult a time remaining outside of the conversations. In addition, these meetings may include sensitive information (plot elements, disciplinary concerns, etc.) and it is important to maintain office professionalism and discretion.

Use solid information. Do not encourage or tolerate rumor. If an item needs investigation, assign staff to the task and table the discussion until facts are available. This prevents creating issues that do not actually exist.

Keep criticism constructive, and limit open criticism. The common saying is to “Praise in public, criticize in private”; however, constructive criticism, if delivered properly, can provide sympathy and education opportunities for staff. Keep criticism short and to the point, and such discussion should never be a surprise. Inform the staff who may be receiving this constructive criticism in advance so that they are not embarrassed or unnecessarily placed in the spotlight. If the person is uncomfortable with public discussion of the issue, it may be best to detail only that the issue was identified and addressed without going in to detail. Voice concerns respectfully. Conversely, if you receive criticism, remember that it’s a suggestion for improvement, not an attack. Take it in the spirit of advice from a friend who’s genuinely trying to help.

Don’t use group pressure to force a bad idea: It can be very easy in a social group to push for an answer, and people want to get along, so they may agree when they might not want to agree. Keeping criticism constructive (see above) is reinforced when every concern is addressed on its merits, rather than by social pressure to ignore a problem.

Conclusion: The key to successful meetings lie in planning and efficiency – the goal is communication that is on task and on point, and creating an open road for teamwork. No single plan works for every place and every group of people. These are guidelines, not rules carved in stone. Try them out – they have a history of working well across many groups – but be willing to adjust them to your group so that the meeting works as well as possible for you.
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Writing an Officer Report

Introduction

Keeping a good record of events that take place in the MES serves several purposes: it helps your memory, it gives other officers in your chain see what is going on at your level and it helps whoever ends up replacing you to see what has come before them.

When writing a report for the office you hold in the MES, the most important things you can do are be correct and concise.  Those above you in the chain of command are eager to hear about the status of your level of the organization, but extra details can be as harmful to their jobs as details which are left out.

This document is to help officers, both Storytellers and Coordinators, write clear, correct and concise reports.

Format

The first step is to make sure you have the correct and current format for a report for your office.  These can both be found on the MES Website, or through your superior officer.

It is important that the proper format be used because those above you in the chain will be looking at many such reports, and if they are looking for specific information precious time can be lost digging through a report not matching the format the reader was expecting.

This will also help ensure that you have all of the correct information in the next step, and that you do not add too many unnecessary things.

Content

Now that you have your proper format, make sure you have all the data you will need to fill out the report.  Some officers can create whole reports from memory, especially in small venues or chapters, while others feel better taking notes of everything that should be in the report.  If you don’t know which method will work for you, err on the side of taking notes until you feel more comfortable with either method, or one of your own.

Your report format is divided into several categories.  Some of the data might need to be filed in multiple areas.  It will save time if the same information is in both places instead of having to cross reference everything.

In the odd case that you have nothing to report in a given part of the report format, let that be known.  A note of, “Nothing to report in this area.” is better than a blank space.

Clarity

Much like a large blank space, a large block of text can also distract a reader from your report.  A wall of text describing an aspect of your performance as an officer should be avoided where a bulleted list could suffice.

It will come to pass that the best way to convey your idea, concern or question is to write in a more full and proper form.  When this happens, try to keep the paragraphs short for easy digestion, and avoid suppositions or hyperbole. Mostly, the officers higher in the chain need facts and figures.  Should you really want to give an opinion on a matter, set aside some space in the report for an editorial comment rather than in the middle of a statement of facts.

Details about Officer Reports

For more information about the ST Officer Reports including examples of each section, please click here.

For more information about the Coordinator Officer Reports including examples of each section, please click here.

Conclusion

Following these general guidelines, you can get into a pattern of effective reporting for your position in the club that will help your fellow officers accomplish their goals and see the entire club run more efficiently, leaving us more time to have fun!
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Time Management

The biggest need for effective time management is to make sure that you don’t reach the point of feeling overworked, tense, or burned out as an officer.  The ideas presented below may be silly at times, or seem like common sense, but sometimes it helps to have the information written out. If you have a question about time management, or anything in  the Mind’s Eye Society, ask. There’s always someone willing to help.

Determining and Creating a List of Responsibilities

Any new officer needs to figure out what things are required to be done and when and to organize them in a To-Do-List.

Some responsibilities an officer has to do are simple single one-time tasks.  Others are repeated monthly (like the monthly office report).

  • Access my Officer Email Address.
  • Be on and check email from domains/venue(s) mailing lists/required lists.
  • Check  the Restricted File section in the CRD.
  • Check Approvals in the Approval’s Database.
  • Check in with Assistants and Narrators.
  • Assemble the report as the month goes on.
  • Keeping plotlines in the Approvals DB for upper ST approval and/or distribution if needed.
  • Confirm the date, time and place of my first game (and those after that)  with the Coordinator staff if appropriate.

These are just the start of things that may be required; others may also be on the to-do list.  It is always a good idea to sit and make the list first when taking the office.

There are many tasks that are repeated each month. These can be dealt with easily through templates.  Officers never know what might happen, and in case anyone had to step into their shoes at a moment’s notice, they want that person to know what happened to that point.  It’s always a good idea to keep detailed records for the next person.

As an officer, one of the best tools is the report template.  If something changes mid-month, an officer can just change the on-going document to the update (such as a new email list was created, a new officer was hired, etc…).  Report templates help not only keep officers on task, but they also help them not forget promises that were made to players who have helped out via prestige awards. Since these reports take time, it’s easiest to not only keep them updated as things change during the month (the Changeling VST steps down, and a DST has to appoint an interim, for example), but to also set a hard deadline a few days before the report is due in order to have it prepared early.  An officer isn’t always able to succeed with timely reports; sometimes a report needs other lower-level reports to be able to be filed and those officers are late, but that can be handled via setting schedules that include clear deadlines.

Prioritizing Core Responsibilities

There are a number of responsibilities that need to be done by an officer, which means that priorities need to be assigned to the tasks. The other responsibilities are specific to each side of the chain, but in general tend to include reporting, communication, checking emails, and prestige.  Checking email allows an officer to know how the players/members feel and get issues that arise, rules that need clarified, and downtimes that need filed, or prestige reported acknowledged. Answering back helps keep people happier than being left hanging even if it’s a simple note stating “Received. Will examine in detail later.”

The best way to figure out what the most important thing is at any given time is to take the To-Do list and arrange tasks in order of priority.  This will not be the same for each officer–the VST Lost might see downtimes as more important than reading national lists while the VST Mage might prefer to read the local lists first, then national and the approach downtimes knowing how plots are moving among the various levels of the chain.  Coordinators need to sort between prestige reports and DAs. Having a different priority of items is not something to feel awkward about. Make sure that the admin is also on board with how priorities are listed to aid in keeping on track.

Something that will help set a priority of tasks is external deadlines. Report due dates, games and meetings will help you as an officer determine what needs to be done first.

Delegating Responsibilities

Not all tasks are on the officer’s shoulders alone.  Hiring assistants is one of the high priority things an officer can do. Each officer will determine what assistance are necessary, but some of the common roles include an admin, prestige, arbitrations, venue specific storytellers etc. Lower level officers like chapter coordinators or venue storytellers can merge specific officer roles and hire general assistants to help.

Some examples of a VST Requiem’s assistants and division of labor is:

  • aVST-Admin: answers all game questions and rules questions messaged/asked of him during games from the players in order to help keep the VST from being overwhelmed, or a player from feeling ignored.
  • aVST-Tech: makes game announcements, deals with any digital media (such as an online game sets up channels, wikis or Google docs; or for a larp a PowerPoint with sign in announcements), and makes sure things flow well mechanically.
  • aVST Downtimes; or an aVST plots: Helps narrate scenes or deal with downtimes

Some examples of a DC’s assistants and division of labor is:

  • aDC Admin: deals with general tasks as they arrive and is the second point of contact. This position should be aware of everything going on in the office in the event they need to step in to help.
  • aDC Web: Runs the domain’s website, wiki, Facebook, and email lists.
  • aDC Prestige: Handles prestige reviews and prestige tracking
  • aDC Charities: Handles all charity drives for the domain

Any responsibility can be assigned as an officer sees fit. Don’t add to reasons for burnout by trying to do everything alone.

The to-do list is just a beginning.  Taking that to-do list and building a timeline and a planner around it is a huge help.  Google-calendar can be used to schedule when the needed tasks have a deadline to be completed by. This helps  an officer remain on-task through the month. Google even provides invitations (for sub-officers beneath to know deadlines set for them, for example), and reminders for events.  If the same date is used each month (or 3rd Saturday of each month, or every two weeks like clockwork), it’s possible to create it as a reoccurrence, and make it easier to think beyond the month.    Spacing things out can help the officer to not be overwhelmed. Procrastination is a major cause of burnout because it leaves tasks needing to be done in a rush, under pressure.

Streamlining activities

Any officer should see where tasks blur into each other.  It’s not necessary to treat them as separate tasks, and keeping them simple helps an officer organize their time.  Having office hours each week/month can help an officer combine tasks that need to be handled. It also lets everyone know when the proper time and place are for communication.  Emails are also a way of communicating, and knowing that the officer checks emails each morning, or after work each night can ease the minds of those that email him/her. Having set times and routines can aid both the officer and the players/members.

It is wise to break things up through the month.  Keeping things easy is the goal, and spacing out things leaves little to do at the end of the month when reports are due.  There are times any officer will be allowed quiet time at events, car rides, and other situations. To save time having to be taken later, it’s an amazing chance to do work with the hat on.  It not only keeps the mindset of the hat, but also has many of the members/players that need the officer in the same space.

Dealing with Stress

Stress can hit anyone.  It can be less harrowing if a sense of humor can be used with it.  All officer positions should include the ability to laugh at oneself; everyone makes mistakes.  It’s impossible to be an officer and not make one. The most important thing about stress is that you should take a break before it becomes overwhelming. When you feel stressed, step away from the gamed and spend time with friends, family or blasting things on the computer.  Frustration will occur, and all officers need something to vent this. Game systems or MMO’s are wonderful; officers can go attack things until the frustration is reduced. Many things can cause that frustration; have faith that all officers are exposed to the varied ways to have it add up.  No officer is unique in that feature.

Other ways to redirect stress are:

  • yoga
  • running/walking
  • biking
  • foam sword beatings
  • rattan swords (SCA)
  • Martial Arts
  • Tai Chi
  • Meditation
  • Cleaning homes or cooking
  • Knitting, sewing, or crafting
  • Reading
  • Music

All of these work for different people, but they all have something in common–helping an officer escape the stress and re-centering.  It makes it easier to return to the world of make believe when the officer is ready and less frazzled.

Remember, this is just a game.  Do NOT EVER let stress take over.  If it gets to that point, talk to someone who can help you—a fellow officer, your supervisor, even your admins. That is the first step towards avoiding burnout. Having that support is important.

You are NOT alone, and you have folks that have dealt with things before that can help you.  Just ask.
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Working with Other Officers

Synopsis

The purpose of this course is to give officers an idea of where their job duties may overlap with other offices, and how to communicate with those other offices in these events to ensure that the task is fulfilled.

Shared Responsibility

Storytellers and Coordinators share a duty of ensuring the well being and good experiences of members attending Mind’s Eye Society sponsored games and events, and when they are participating with the larger club as a whole.  Working in conjunction, the officers will have to communicate to ensure that information is provided to the members on when events are taking place, and that any concerns or issues the members have are addressed. To give you an idea of the instances when communication between officers is necessary, below are provided some specific examples.

  • When Storytellers are planning on hosting a game, and the Coordinators need to confirm the game site and make an announcement of the event.
  • When officers convey information or instructions to assistants.
  • When filing monthly reports, storytellers submit their prestige recommendations to Coordinators.
  • When Storytellers request confirmation of MC levels from Coordinators.
  • When setting up an event or combined game between more than one venue, domain, or region.
  • When handling disciplinary actions and communicating findings.

While not all inclusive, this list should provide some general idea on when you might expect to have to work with other officers.

Working Together

When a project or issues arises that requires the attention of more than one officer, it’s important that initiative be taken to contact the officers.  Generally a supervising or presiding officer for an event should take on that responsibility, or the officer who was contacted by a member with the concern.  A clear goal or issue should be stated to allay any confusion, and any information that they have on the matter. Once the goal has been stated, communication can be opened on the topic.  Most projects that arise such as meetings, charity events, games, and disciplinary actions have education documents available for you to read on the topic to give you and the other officers involved a place to start.

In most cases, officers should be able to communicate their objectives and come to a decision together quite readily. Policies on most joint duties should have procedures in place in most established domains and chapters.  If something new comes up, a quick conversation between coordinators and storytellers, or between an officer and his assistants, should take care of the issue. Holding a domain or chapter meeting with the members is a good way to obtain a lot of ideas or information on how to handle a situation outside of investigations.  The officers can then utilize what they’ve found to come to a conclusion.

However, some situations aren’t so easily handled.  Whenever a group comes together to work on a project, there will often be a difference of interpretation and experiences that lead to a conflict of opinions on how a certain task should be approached.  Both opinions are valid, but for one reason or another, the two may not see eye to eye. In the event of these situations, it’s important that some simple policies should be observed to ensure that the conflict is resolved so that progress can be made.

  1. Research – Consult the Membership handbook, read up on the wiki about what’s been done before in this situation.  Find out if the club has any standing policy.
  2. Listen – There is a reason why the other officer is expressing that opinion.  Find out the reasoning, and compare it to your own. If there’s a good reason, an idea should be considered.  Find the similarities between opinions, and work from there.
  3. Exchange – Unless there’s a precedent for a situation that sets its practice in stone, or a rule that has to be abided by from the handbook, then it’s good to have a give and take relationship.  Decide where you have to hold firm, but be ready to give some things up and make deals. Often a collaborative idea is better than one from a single person. If that doesn’t work, then maybe it’s most agreeable to try it the other officer’s way, and next time they do it yours.
  4. Take a Step Back- If all else fails, ask a supervising officer to issue a decision on the matter, or give some instructions to an assistant and have them handle the situation for you, and then abide by the decisions made. Sometimes people just can’t see eye to eye, but a third set of ears and eyes can find common ground.

There will always be a chance for conflict, but great officers uphold their duty to the club of ensuring that the members are treated fairly and having a good time.  If both officers have this primary goal in mind, then a solution to any issue can be found.

Conclusion

It’s important to work with other officers to ensure the continued function of our club, and the enjoyment of our members.  When communicating with officers, it’s important to have a clear goal in mind, and to work towards a constructive solution to projects or issues.  Several of the other education documents in the 100 series provide guidelines on the types of duties each office performs, good time management practices, how to hold meetings, how to file reports, and a particularly important document called ‘The Social Contract’.  The information conveyed in these lessons will provide a foundation for your work with other members and officers.
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Official Communication Best Practices

Introduction

There are plenty of examples of style guides, both in print and on the web, that address grammar, usage, clarity, and professionalism in all manner of written communication. This document is not intended to duplicate those efforts; members are encouraged to look up those guides on their own for advice on how to write clearly and concisely. Links to PDFs of a few of the most well known are included at the end of this guide. This particular style guide is meant to provide an outline for the construction of official or otherwise vital written communication that is specifically related to Mind’s Eye Society, its membership, and its operation.

First, it is important to remember that these are guidelines, not rules. It is essentially impossible to create a set of hard and fast rules for written and electronic communication for MES, given the huge variety of situations that communication covers. Not every letter or email will fit within the framework described below, because it is meant for anything from a local domain to the wide audience that is our global membership of more than three thousand gamers. While there are certainly points that apply to every message, it is assumed that the author will exercise best judgement and use the portions that are appropriate to what they will be sending.

General Outline

Before writing, consider the message itself.

  • What is the intended purpose of this message?
  • Will the readers see it as important and necessary to their experience in the club?
  • How should people respond to this message?

Aim for brevity and a style appropriate to the message.

  • Organize thoughts and ideas before writing.
  • Use proper grammar and punctuation, and edit out unnecessary content.
  • If the message is long, provide a brief summary before you close.
  • Ensure that important information is highlighted.
  • Format the message so that it is easy to read.
  • Close the message with ‘next steps,’ or ways to follow up if appropriate.

Reflect on the tone you want to use.

  • Consider the audience.
  • Language should be culturally sensitive, unbiased, vivid, simple and concise.
  • Remember that people who read the email cannot ‘hear’ tone.
  • Be sure the tone fits both the audience and intent.

Consider the content of your message.

  • Be aware of laws regarding the use of copyrighted or trademarked material.
  • Be considerate when posting personal information (i.e. a home address).
  • Avoid personal anecdotes whenever possible.
  • Avoid stereotypes, unfounded assumptions, and offensive language.
  • If it is necessary to address sensitive issues, use care and respect.

Before you post:

  • Re-read the email and proofread it once it’s complete.
  • Ensure important information (times, dates, names, contact info, etc.) is correct.
  • Send the draft to 1 or 2 others for feedback and suggestions.

Posting and promoting your message:

  • Consider if the message should be reposted, where, and how often.
  • Make note of the places your message has been posted.

Message Construction

To both keep the audience reading and get the message across, craft with clear intention. Reflect on the audience, as well as both primary and secondary purposes of the letter before writing. Make sure that any secondary points don’t weaken or detract from the primary point. It’s useful to start with an outline, or at least a list of the things that need to be included in the message, to organise the letter and keep it brief. Begin by stating the purpose early and concisely. If the message is going to be long, including a summary of the key points will help those readers who tend to skim through messages. Use proper grammar and punctuation, make sure that important details are correct, and be certain that the owners of personal information or protected intellectual property have given permission for their information to be used publicly.

Members are engaged in a World of Darkness when they play with the Mind’s Eye Society. The real world is also far from perfect, and there are times when officers or members may have to address particularly sensitive issues in their communication. Because the membership is wide and varied, it is particularly important that all out-of-character communication reflect respect for those differences. Strive for equity, rather than equality. Treating everyone as though they are the same is not really awareness; it is our differences – in our backgrounds, in desires, and in experience – that make us unique.

Of particular relevance in writing is the choice of language. While it may seem fairly innocuous on the surface, using words like ‘holiday event’ instead of ‘christmas event’, or ‘chair’ or ‘chairperson’ instead of ‘chairman,’ is easily more inclusive of a diverse membership. When writing, look for ways to shift word choices to ones that reflect that diversity. When writing about disabilities and persons with disabilities, always put the person first. Also be certain that terms that reference a group in the overall community are used correctly: for instance, the word “gay” should be used as an adjective, not a noun.

Also relevant in writing for MES is the use of personal anecdotes. While these are good to illustrate points in casual conversation, and can provide a context to a written message, they are often unnecessary and can make the email overly long. It’s also rare that the anecdote applies the vast majority of the membership. They often include stereotypes, negative depictions of particular groups of people, and unfounded assumptions, which are all things to avoid in official, out of character writing. In the end, anecdotes more often serve to confuse the reader than to support the point.

Try to use the language of everyday speech. Showy words and long-windedness often obscures meaning and loses the reader before they’ve reached the end. Use simple sentences. Basic formatting and short, cohesive paragraphs also help. Edit unnecessary content, but if the message is still long, provide a summary to close the email or letter or use bullet points of key items to open the email if there is a concern that a reader will not reach the end.

Message Review

Once the message is written, always read it over at least once to check content and ensure that formatting is consistent. Make sure important information is correct as well as highlighted when appropriate. Consider any statements that might be inflammatory or confrontational, whether or not they are truly necessary or if they are likely to have unintended effects. Review secondary points to be certain they don’t detract from the message, and edit out content that does. It’s advisable to send the draft to at least one or two others to be certain that the intention and language of the message is clear, to double check facts and dates, and to provide feedback when necessary.

Message Posting

MES uses a large number of lists to communicate information to the membership. Before posting, consider both the desired response to the message and the potential audience. Check what lists are best to send the message to – it might be most lists, it might be only a few. Make a note of what lists are used, in case there is there is any need for follow up to the original message.  Make note of when the original message and any follow-ups were posted. For some messages repetition or reminders are completely appropriate, but there is a line between reminding and spamming. As a general rule, wait a week after posting the initial email to send a reminder. If further reminders are necessary – or if there isn’t a full week to wait – send a remember 24 hours before the applicable deadline. In cases where a headcount is necessary, remember that people do often miss e-vites; rather than sending multiple e-vites, it is better to contact the non-responders privately.

Further information on these topics can be found here:

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Game Expectations – The Social Contract

Traditional role-playing games are, by their very nature, social, involving a group of players interacting with one another by portraying characters they have created.  The MES’s primary medium for role-playing – LARP – is by far the most social way to play a role-playing game, and it is potentially the most immersive. Far more than online role-playing, even more than table-top, LARPing means constant social interaction with other people.

Humanity is messy – each of us is an individual, with individual preferences, wants, and needs.  Each of us has individual emotional and psychological triggers, things that bother and annoy us, and lines that we don’t want ourselves – or others – to cross.  People in our club become friends, some become lovers or spouses, some get divorced, some like or hate each other – and all of that is part of the social interaction.

A social contract is how we as members of the MES navigate the messiness that is humanity in the hopes of preventing problems and issues as we enjoy our shared hobby.  It’s not perfect, but the more we work on crafting a social contract that is at least acceptable to all, the closer we will get to a club that is welcoming while not permitting members to behave inappropriately for the sake of being inclusive.

 

What is a Social Contract?

A social contract is an agreement – codified or not – between members of a society or group that defines appropriate and inappropriate behavior. It also defines and place restrictions on the rights and duties of individuals belonging to that group.  In other words – it defines how members of the group are expected to behave and act when interacting with one another.

Many of a nation’s laws can be considered part of its social contract – we agree that stealing and killing is bad, we agree that we shouldn’t speed or peek in the windows of each other’s houses.  But social contracts aren’t always codified; for example, we don’t use profanity in certain places or in front of children, we don’t engage in certain acts of hygiene while in public. These are all parts of our social contract as a society, and the people who break that social contract are generally viewed unfavorably, and sometimes with disdain or disgust.

How does this relate to my game aka Why should I care about Social Contracts?

How do social contracts relate to the MES and to your game in specific?  To answer this, we must first acknowledge the elephant in the room – the big pink one that everyone continues to try and deny exists.  And that’s the fact that for the vast majority of players, there is bleed between OOC and IC. This is even truer given the medium in which the MES plays its games – we aim for an immersive, face-to-face experience (as opposed to a table-top group).  Players are going to take what happens to their characters personally, even if they never admit it, even if they flat-out deny it and make fun of other players for it.  Players’ OOC behavior absolutely will be affected by what happens to their characters IC.  It is impossible to escape that fact, even if we wish it weren’t the case. Having a Social Contract for your game can help mitigate some of the effects of this elephant.

The MES as an organization has a Social Contract with all of its members – you can find it Chapter 4 in the Handbook.

In addition to the Social Contract we all agree to when we become members, every game played in the MES has a Social Contract as well, whether it’s codified in writing or not.  This is important to understand, because how players relate to one another both IC and OOC – social interaction, in other words – is dominant over everything else about the game, including the rules and mechanics.  This is a primary reason rules and mechanics debates happen (because we as individuals often have different interpretations) and why rules or mechanics debates and clarifications cannot and will not fix a game if the players are struggling with Social Contract issues.

A gaming Social Contract is an agreement that governs how we treat each other in the context of playing a game.  It is a shared understanding about the game itself and what everyone should expect when they show up to play. As such, the gaming Social Contract affects both OOC and IC actions and behaviors.

Social interaction and communication are vital components to role-playing games, so it only makes sense to talk about and craft a Social Contract for your game to prevent confusion, drama, and hurt feelings later on.  Just remember – when you create a Social Contract for your game, it must never contradict what’s in the MES Handbook.

What is the goal behind creating a Social Contract?

The goal is to create an environment that is welcoming and safe for all players, one that makes it possible for everyone to have fun playing the game in a positive way, where one person’s fun doesn’t take precedence over another’s.  A game’s Social Contract is the agreement that allows everyone to play together in harmony; it is the foundation for whether or not the game will be enjoyable and will thrive, or whether many of the players will end up disappointed.

How do I craft a Social Contract for my game?

A Social Contract cannot be created in a vacuum – you must talk to your players – as a group, and individually.  This is one area where you’ve got to make sure everyone gets a chance to have their say in whatever way is most comfortable for them.

You have to, as an officer, find out what lines can and cannot be crossed when it comes to your players.  A survey works well for gathering up individual feedback, because it allows players who might be uncomfortable or shy the chance to provide important input without having to “out” themselves to a larger group. This can be especially important if the issue is extremely personal.  You can gather these individual responses and bring them to the larger group discussion.

Make sure you stress the need for honesty – players need to know that if there is something they really like, or really dislike, they have the ability to be heard. Without this, many times they will be unwilling to speak up for the fear of reprisal or dismissal.  Players should never assume people will just “know” something isn’t OK (no matter how logical it might seem); that’s a recipe for disaster.

Specific Considerations when Creating your Domain’s Social Contract

Prime Directive

No single person’s fun ever trumps another person’s fun.  The goal is to have fun together – and that sometimes means that one player has to curb his or her personal wishes and preferences when it comes to what happens at game.  The goal of game is always OUR fun.

What game are we playing?

As obvious as this might seem, it’s not.  It’s important to make sure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to what sort of game you’re playing. For example, if the game is focused on cooperation and teamwork between PCs, then players need to know that upfront so you don’t end up with lots of characters whose primary goals and motivations involve backstabbing and cheating one another.  If your venue is heavy into PC death and physical PvP, then players need to know that.

This isn’t just about the specific venue; rather, this deals with crafting the VSS.  The VSS is where you’ll tell players what they can expect if they come and play your game.  There’s an entire course on how to go about creating a VSS; you can find it here.

OOC Considerations

Some things that might get included in a Social Contract that deal only with OOC behavior are:

  • Is drinking alcohol or smoking allowed during the game?
    • If yes, at what point is someone considered too inebriated to continue playing?
    • What happens if someone shows up inebriated, particularly at a game that doesn’t allow drinking?
  • What should players who arrive late do?
    • Is there a point where, if a player arrives after a certain period of time, they will not receive experience for the game session?
  • In cases of scenes with mechanics, are players allowed to help one another and offer advice?
  • What is considered unacceptable behavior – behavior that means a player is either given some sort of warning, or is asked to leave the game for some period of time?  For example, if you’re playing in someone’s house where there are children nearby or in a public location where “Muggles” may be able to at times hear what you’re saying, then it may not be acceptable for a player to use profanity or to shout.
  • You might have an “OOC PvP” guide here, in terms of what is expected of players who are engaging in PvP, before, during, and after the killbox is over.

If this sounds a lot like the pre-game announcements made by the on-site Coordinator, it should, because the two are similar.  The difference is that the announcements made by a Domain Coordinator may change from game site to game site (one site may not allow smoking indoors, another may have pets that players need to keep an eye out for, and another may have rooms which are off-limits), whereas the OOC considerations in a game’s Social Contract never change.  If you as an officer do not want people drinking alcohol during your games no matter which game site you’re at, that is something that needs to be in the Social Contract.

Handling Potentially Emotionally Upsetting Storylines and Plot

Most of the games played in the MES have some aspect of horror associated with them, which lead to stories that may contain themes, events, and situations that are potentially disturbing and may trigger PTSD in some players.  Remember, we are friends first, players second.  If at any time one of our friends is no longer having fun or is made uncomfortable by something we’re doing in a game, we should stop.  Saying “it’s only a game,” is not only incorrect (see discussion above about bleed), but is also callous and unfeeling.

  • What are a player’s options in terms of having an “out” if a scene or story becomes too disturbing for them to continue to participate in?
  • What topics/situations require special handling (such as requiring a player to come out of character to ask if a subject is OK or to provide a warning so as to allow players who do not wisk to be part of the scene to leave)?
  • Possible topics and situations that may fall into this category: rape, hate speech, hate crimes, child abuse, extreme violence/torture descriptions
  • What, if any, topics/situations are off-limits for this game, both for you as an Officer, and for players?

Example: If a number of your players have issues with stories portraying or discussing rape, then it may be decided that this topic is not something which should be explored in your game, and that it is not something one PC can ever do to another.

How do I know if my game is having Social Contract problems?

It’s an unfortunate truth that some people are solely focused on social goals which, while satisfying to them, are negative for everyone else in the game – wanting to “win” at role-playing, wanting to always be in the spotlight/center of attention, wanting to be in control of others, wanting to assert dominance over other players – these sorts of social goals lead to behaviors like bullying, harassment, dominance games, emotional manipulation, and/or the marginalization of other players and their role-playing experience.

Toxic Social Contracts

Not all Social Contracts are healthy.  Some of them are actually toxic, and lead to players not showing up to game, or worse, quitting the club altogether.  A toxic Social Contract can actually encourage the sorts of behaviors listed above: like bullying, harassment, dominance games, emotional manipulation, and/or the marginalization of other players and their role-playing experience.

Signs of Trouble

The biggest sign of trouble is that one or more players are no longer having fun.  If you’re the officer in charge, you may or may not hear about this directly, so you have to learn to watch out for indirect signs such as:

  • Players who once attended your game but are now absent, without giving any reason why.
  • A drop in actual role-playing during game – so you might have folks frequently dropping character to shoot the breeze OOC.  You see your players “checking out” of the game mentally and emotionally.
  • The formation of tight cliques who don’t allow other players to participate or who are avoiding ST-run stories.
  • People arguing or getting angry about something that happened during game
  • Arguments and angry debates about rules and mechanics
  • New players have trouble getting involved, finding their place in games, or getting into the role-play. This can quickly lead to the first bullet point – players who abruptly stop attending your game
  • Retaliatory behavior in-game: one player is upset over something that happened, and engages in various IC and/or OOC  behaviors as a means of “getting back” at the person/s who upset him.

 

This is a lot of work. How does this help me and my players have more fun at game?

Everyone brings wants and expectations with them to game, and if these are not in concert with one another, sooner or later it’s going to adversely affect your game.  Having a Social Contract in place ensures that players who choose to play in a game know up front how they need to behave, and what sort of game is being played, allowing them to tailor their wants and expectations so as to have fun while not ruining the fun of others.

Conclusion

Once you’ve decided, collectively, on the Social Contract for your game, make sure that new players are aware of it before they play their first game.  If you codify your Social Contract, then you can simply provide them with a copy. If you don’t, then be sure you as an officer take new players aside and tell them what is expected of them.
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Securing Game and Event Sites

Purpose of this Document

This document is written to give Officers and Members an idea of where to start with securing a location for games, socials, or charity events to be held for a local Chapter or Domain.

The Function of an Event Site

If it’s an official club function, then the club needs a place to hold it.  Generally, members should work together to find a suitable location that fits the needs of the members for that function, whether it be an auditorium to host a World of Darkness game, or just getting together for a barbeque at a park. The following sections will cover the basic considerations that Officers and Members will need to take in obtaining a game or event site.

Determining what is Needed

The event and number of people involved will define what sort of amenities the facility will need in order to serve the club’s purposes.  The building or location will need sufficient space, protection against inclement weather, adequate restroom facilities, and accessibility to all club members who intend to participate.  However, these are only the bare minimums. The members and officers should discuss their plans and determine what would be reasonable to suit their needs.

While not every need can always be met, and sometimes it’s necessary to make do with what is available, the members should consider what they will require in order to enjoy the event.  A Live Action Role Play game will need space to move around and participate in combat, and areas where the players can have conversations in private or sit down for in character meetings.  A group of five may be able to meet at someone’s house, but a group of twenty or more would require quite a bit more space. A domain meeting will require tables and chairs enough for Officers and Members who attend to sit comfortably and take notes.  A charity event may take a huge amount of space or very little depending on the activities involved.

You may also want to consider what sort of budget you might have to work with.  While there are options available for working out funding which will be discussed later in this document, you will likely need to know what sort of funds the members have available in case you have to settle on a location that charges a fee for use.  This can limit options available, though there are several types of facilities you may be able to use at little to no cost.

In all cases, the members should consider what it is they intend to do, and then come up with ideas on what locations they might be able to use.  Once the need is determined, the members can start looking for a location that suits it.

Identifying Good Locations

In many cases there are a variety of locations that would make a great place to hold activities in every town or city.  Members should get together and make a list of the available locations in the area, and look up their contact information in phone books or online.  Locations such as Gaming Stores, Colleges, Parks, Community Centers, Homes, Warehouses, Casinos, Hotels, and Theaters (acting not movie) are all options that could be available to you.  Members might even consider inquiring with local lodges like Elks or Eagles, or perhaps a restaurant is a good place for a domain meeting. Maybe someone in the domain has an uncle with a large shop available?

When making this list, however, you should take careful consideration of what would not make a good location.  Scrap yards, construction sites, and terrain that has a lot of rocks and obstacles might seem like fun, but could result in serious injury.  Anywhere that requires hiking in the woods for more than a few minutes, and public streets are typically not a good idea either as it can cause distress for the players or the public.  There are many stories about clubs playing in public and the local authorities being called do to the unusual activities and misunderstood conversations. And in all cases, you should certainly not play on private property without having acquired permission first.

You’ll also need to take into consideration local laws and ordinances, or special rules and restrictions a facility might have.  A park is generally open to the public and can be used freely, but you’ll have to find out if it might close when the sun sets, or if there might be bad weather that could ruin your activity.  A sunny day in summer makes the park a fine place to play, but the middle of winter in a blizzard could be quite disastrous.

Contacting the Facility

Once you have a list of possible places, you should consider writing a short script explaining who you are, what the club is about, and that you’re looking for a place to host your meetings or events.  It’s important to avoid blurting out things like ‘we want to hang around your business and act like vampires’.

Here is a possible script you might consider:

*“Hi, my name is John Doe, and I’m a member of a club called the Mind’s Eye Society.  We’re currently looking for a location to host meetings and activities for our club, and we were wondering if you had any space available?”*

Often, whomever you speak to will not have heard of the MES, and you should be prepared to field questions on what the clubs activities are.  A simple description such as the one below generally suits well:

*“The Mind’s Eye Society is a nationwide non-profit organization and member of the Camarilla Fan Club, whose activities are centered on getting together to play games based on impromptu acting, and participating in charity drives for other organizations such as the Red Cross.”*

You should also have a list of your own questions.  Below is a list of a few you will want to consider asking, but note that not all may pertain to any given situation.  Some facilities may be free of charge. If you have students in your club that go to a local college, you might have them inquire with the school on how to gain access to the campus for your events.  Here are some questions you might consider when contacting a facility:

  1. How close are the restrooms to the location?
  2. Is it wheelchair accessible?
  3. How much do you generally charge for the space?
  4. Do you offer discounts for non profit organizations or clubs?
  5. Do you offer a discount for long term scheduling and use?
  6. Do you offer discounts for flexible scheduling?

Remember that this part of the process is only for  information finding . You should always end the conversation politely, advising them that you will be bringing the information that you’ve obtained up with the club for a vote, and then will get back to them with the response.

It is advised that you call facilities back, even if they are not the one the club has decided to go with.  *Something may come up in the future that results in you no longer being able to use your current facility, and maintaining good relations with other options is important.  You need only simply call back and state:

“This is John Doe from the Mind’s Eye Society.  I just wanted to thank you for answering all of my questions the other day.  Unfortunately, the club has decided to go with another option, but I wanted to let you know that we might be in contact with you for other events.”

With the initial contact over, and some clear information, we are now ready to discuss Rent and Fees.

Rent and Fees

Many options for location will charge you for use of their facilities.  For this matter it becomes important to consider your location options carefully, as in most cases local chapters or domains may not have the membership count and funding to cover an expensive location, and having to pay a monthly fee to play might chase away potential newcomers.

Before you set yourself on the path of requiring a monthly fee of the members, consider some no-cost options first such as Colleges and Gaming stores, or even community centers in some places.  You may consider asking around the mailing lists to other domains to see what is working for them. The best option is usually the no cost option.

However, if you’ve found the perfect location and you’re set on using it despite its cost, then you’ll need to find a way to cover the rent.  The first step in this process is to negotiate with the facility for the lowest

price possible.  In the previous section, a few questions were listed for inquiring on discounts that may be available.  With some locations, the offer of a guaranteed income every month is grounds to negotiate on, as the hotels and casinos usually have fiscal goals they are trying to reach, and a club such as ours that usually just needs a place to meet can be a good deal for them.  Its might be a good idea to have a budget already in place, which you would have discussed in a prior meeting. Never offer the whole amount upfront, but open with a saying ‘We’d like to see about using your space, and we’d like to see if you would be willing to take X amount for each evening?’

Hotels, Casinos, and Apartment building clubhouses may be willing to provide you a space for minimal cost as long as you’re willing to work around the scheduling of other events like weddings.  If you’re going to work a flexible schedule with them, then you need to lay ground rules for there to be at least a month or more notice if you can’t use the facility on a regularly scheduled day.  A game store may be inclined to the idea that the club will be bringing more business to their shop. It’s important that when negotiating a price that you be flexible and willing to work with the company.

Once you’ve negotiated for the lowest price possible, its time to go to the club members and discuss what may be available for funding, and how they want to pay for it.  The simplest option is to hold a meeting with the members, state what the cost of use for the facility will be, and then work out a ‘per game’ or ‘per month’ fee for play.  This by no means the best option and a lot of members may be distressed or not show up if they have to pay to play. The presiding Coordinator of the event could also give an update at every meeting and let the members know where they stand with the upcoming months rent, and ask for donations instead.  You may consider a ‘donations basket’, asking that the members try and donate a few dollars when they come in the door.

There are also several options available to the members besides a simple monthly fee.  You should work with your Chapter, Domain, and Regional Storytellers to set up Auctions for approval items on characters, chili cook-offs with entry and eating fees, or a variety of other events to accumulate funds.  Paying a monthly fee can be tedious and chase away members, but giving them something fun, delicious, or useful in return will generally result in a good turn out. A bi-monthly social focused around such a fundraiser could be an excellent way to provide activities and events for members as well.

Scheduling

Scheduling is important to consider when setting up any event.  The primary concern will be whether the facility will be available in the same time periods that are convenient for members and others who will be attending.  A schedule of available times and dates can be easily obtained from the facility, and brought to a club meeting for discussion. The members will need to find which dates will work best, and then give careful consideration for the planning, setup, and cleanup times that will be necessary for the event.

In most cases, setting up the schedule of game events and business meetings for a full year might be helpful, and keeping them to the same days or dates each month will make it easy for members to remember.  A long term schedule posted to a public site, such as the Domain wiki page, also means

that outside visitors from other domains will be better able to plan when they could come by.  The managers for the facility will even appreciate the long term schedule and offer discounts for booking so far in advance.  Events such as Socials and Auctions might be scheduled and announced a month in advance so that Members will have time to prepare food or save money. Depending on the nature of a Charity event, it may take several months of advanced planning and conversation with a location.

More on Charity planning can be found in its own education document.

As a officer, it is helpful to keep a list of past locations that have been used and the details about them (contact information, cost, problems etc). This will help you and future officers with locations in the future.
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Game and Event Sign-in

Purpose of this Document

In this document we will cover the important of the Sign-In Sheet to the Mind’s Eye Society, as well as the creation and implementation of a sign in sheet procedure for your event.

Importance of Membership Tracking

The primary purpose of the Sign In sheet is to track member participation in MES games and events.  The Coordinator and Storyteller offices depend heavily upon tracking attendance for keeping record of Experience and Prestige earned at games and events.  Failure to track membership participation can have very negative effects on the individual members. For example: If a member fails to sign in to a game, then their experience records will show differently for their character than the Storyteller’s record, and a later audit could result in disciplinary actions.  If the member fails to sign in for a charity event, then their prestige log will reflect differently than their Coordinators, and a prestige audit may result in loss of Membership Class.

There are also levels of statistics that the club maintains from our Sign In Sheets.  Overall member activity, charity participation, and donation tracking are just a few. When a Coordinator and Storyteller send up their reports, a portion of the sign in sheet is reflected in those documents, and those reports are put on permanent record for the clubs officers to review.

Creation of a Sign In Sheet

Sign in sheets should be in simple, easy to understand spreadsheet form.  Below is an example that may be used. It ensures that the basic information for each member is obtained, as well as a tracker for donations that can be awarded with prestige.

Name Membership Number Character Played Event Donation
John Smith US55555555 Agent Smith Changeling Drove 2 members 30 min
Jane Doe US44444444 Ninja Girl Changeling Nothing
Billy Bob US12312312 Hillbilly Jim Changeling Nothing
Sam Wise US34534534 Shortstack Changeling Blank character sheets
Julie Jacob US10010010 Paisley Pants Changeling Nothing
Joe Schmoe US35555555 No Name Changeling Nothing
Eric the Red US10020030 Viking Bill Changeling Props
Vladimir Dracula US00000002 The Butler Changeling Capes for costume supplies
Fenris US00000001 Dogface Changeling I didn’t bite anyone

You can download a sign in sheet to use at your game here.

Implementing A Sign In Policy

Whether a paper ledger is placed near the entrance, a role call taken by an officer at the beginning of game, or an easy to access laptop or computer with a spreadsheet pulled up; the local chapter should have a set policy on how the member participation is tracked for games and events.  This ensures convenience and helps members to remember to sign in, which will make reporting much easier for officers and staff. The presiding officer for an event should announce at the beginning of the event the location of the sign in sheet, and also remind them at the end of an event so that those who show up late have an opportunity to sign in as well.

For large events, it is often convenient to set up a staffed location near the entrance where they will be easily seen by participants.  Signs or banners should be placed in visible locations to ensure those arriving are aware of the sign in ledger’s location. If this is an annual event, or a location that’s often used for similar events, using the same location every time will ensure that returning participants will know where to go.
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PostGame Tasks

So now, game is over.

Everyone is talking about afters, or where they will be meeting, or what they are looking forward to purchasing with XP. It is time to go through and assure that the game site has been returned to its former state.

Keep in mind as an organization we want to leave a great impression. We should strive not only to leave things as they were, but to leave them cleaner whenever possible.

The following checklist provides a guideline you can use when closing up your event area or game space. This list is not all-encompassing and if you have other tasks that you normally need to perform due to a specialized game space, feel free to add them to the checklist below for your own domain.

  • Make sure everyone has signed in. Sometimes someone works late, you are in a scene and they show up and check in, but the sign in sheet was put under a podium by accident and your sign in person does not realize they missed someone. Check that everyone has signed in on your sign in sheet, this step is important to an ST to keep track of who was there and who participated so that XP can be correctly distributed.
  • Pick up all trash and dispose of it. Yes that means all trash. If you came into a game space and your crew threw away 2 napkins all night, but the trash is full? Take it out. Even if it is not your mess, you look like that awesome group of folks who always clean up even better than the over 70 euchre tournament ladies. Never leave trash for another group, be the group you want other groups to be like.
  • Check all game spaces for trash or leftover items. Maybe someone left a book in the room used for the primogen meeting. Maybe someone dropped a piece of candy wrapper walking down the hall. Check it and clean it up, the whole thing.
  • Make sure the rooms are in the condition in which you received them. Did you have a big killbox and you had to push back the furniture? Did the Anarchs grab chairs and plop them in the middle of elysium? Did you have a big reveal that the Church of Truth had its claws into one of your council and you heatedly knocked over a chair? Please be sure to replace all furniture in the same place it was when you arrived. Make sure it has been dusted off and there are no footprints (from that Gauru form), make sure that all the furniture is clean and well taken care of. Wipe off tables, move chairs to the old position, put things away.
  • Make sure you have removed your gear from the space. If Bob forgets his coat, please take it with you and see that Bob gets it back. Give it to the coordinator who can make sure that Bob has his stuff. Do not leave Bob’s coat in the space for Bob to return and try to get. Those euchre tournament ladies may have already claimed it.
  • Always turn off the lights and lock any doors you are expected to lock. Remember as part of being good tenants of our space, we need to assure that the lights are not left on overnight and adding to an electric bill during our time in that space. If we have keys and are expected to lock up, make sure we do so every time. Even one time of not doing so could cost the use of the space. Make sure that this duty is performed every time routinely.
  • Always make sure the space is empty of people. Perhaps Jill just ran to the restroom and you all turn off lights and lockup. Poor Jill will have to survive on the 3 skittles in her purse for a very lonely afters.  Always check to make sure that your building is empty prior to locking up for the evening.
  • Checkout or return keys to the space. If possible do a walk-through with them. It may be embarrassing to find something left behind, but that staff will remember that you helped assure the return of the space and made sure to follow through. It will be very much appreciated.
  • Finally make sure everyone is able to get home safely. Make sure everyone has a ride and is able to leave for afters or for home. If Joey has a dead battery, help him out. He is part of our game and part of our after game should be seeing that our domain members are not stuck in, or out, of the building.
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    Professionalism

     

    Think about the last time you read an email and thought to yourself “This guy’s a jerk.” Were you inclined to give credibility to their ideas? Did you fully consider their points with an open mind, or did the perception that this was not a good person affect your perception of their email? Did you want to support the opinions of the sender, or try out a similar idea in your game- or did you feel less like doing what the sender suggested because you saw him or her as a jerk?

    It’s human to take into account what a person is like when we communicate with him or her. It’s easier to “hear” what an email sounds like if you know the sender well. An email or forum post that might sound callous, mean, or sarcastic to a stranger may sound funny to a close friend. We often write or speak with the “funny” in mind, but the reader or listener instead gets the “sarcastic” or “mean” impression. That hurts both the people involved, and the message. The message gets discarded, the receiver loses out on a potential friend by thinking someone is a jerk who may not be, and the sender loses credibility, and a new potential friend in the reader.

    It would be great if we could all know each other well enough to read an email or hear a comment and understand the sender’s intent. Non-game activities, like socials and cooperation on a charity, are great for developing that understanding. But for members on opposite sides of the country, chances to become that close are few and far between. Since that’s the case, it’s smart to write your emails or phrase your communication in a way that accurately conveys your ideas- and doesn’t make you look like a jerk. While this is still true in person or over the phone, it’s especially true over electronic communication, where there are no vocal cues or body language to help convey what you really mean. So, any member—but especially an officer—can benefit from communicating in a professional, friendly way.

    But how can we do that? Try a new approach, abbreviated with the acronym “NOT TRITE.”

    1. No enemies here. Assume that we, as members and especially as officers, are friends working together to create the best possible story for everyone. The idea that we’re not enemies, but friends, should be firmly in mind before reading or responding. This helps give the sender the benefit of the doubt, so that something that could read as mean or funny is taken as funny (or at least a try at being funny instead of deliberately mean). We all have bad days, and a positive attitude in your response can change a dispute into a conversation.
    2. Options and common ground. It’s rare that there’s only one “right” way to do something, so offering options helps us find agreement. Think about positive parts of an email you’re preparing, either to start or respond to a conversation. If you include positive comments about related ideas, that helps generate a positive feeling for the conversation, and helps it to be more productive. Don’t ignore problems, but focus on the positive when practical, giving others as much chance to find common ground with you as possible.
    3. Team attitude. Focus on cooperative action to fix the problem, not the blame. It’s not very useful, professional, or friendly to focus on who screwed up. One technique is to work towards something like “Okay, this happened. We need to try to fix this problem, cooperating with each other, and then work out a way to keep it from happening again.” The team attitude also helps take criticism constructively, by treating the sender as a teammate who’s trying to help us improve rather than a jerk who’s trying to embarrass, insult, or humiliate us. Finally, the team attitude helps us focus on behavior rather than personality. If you disagreed with something, focus on that thing, rather than on the sender. It’s more effective, as well as more tactful, to say “I disagreed with this decision.” than “You suck as an officer.” The first keeps the focus on the problem, while the second focuses on the person- and makes them feel defensive, which hurts other communication.
    4.  Trolls. Don’t feed them. If the apparent goal of a post or email or comment is to make you angry or upset, don’t let the troll win. Stay calm, and ignore the things that don’t merit a response. Answer the substance of the email if necessary, but do it calmly.
    5. Read (or listen) carefully. Before you respond, be sure what you’re responding to- avoid reacting to a misunderstanding. Try restating the sender’s points, such as “I read your email to say…. Did I understand that right?” The phrase “Bob is out to get Sue” could mean that Bob is angry with Sue… or that he’s gone to pick her up at the airport. Asking which before responding helps prevent miscommunication that could create a problem.
    6. The “I” Test. Consider what the message meant to you. What are the facts of the message? How did it make you feel? Keeping those separate can help you respond more constructively. You can use phrases that begin with “I” rather than “You.” For example, it’s smart to avoid phrases that come across as attacks, such as “You always…” or “You never…” Phrasing things like “I feel….” changes the effect, framing what you’re saying as something you perceive, not the truth, and not an accusation. If someone feels attacked and becomes defensive, it hurts communication and often makes the receiver feel that the sender is a jerk. You can also employ the mirror of this technique, asking yourself what you want the receiver to know, what you want them to feel, and what you want them to do. Then ensure that your message cover those three things clearly, kindly, and calmly.
    7. Time. Take the time to read what you’re about to send. If you’re angry enough to be “typing with your middle fingers,” then save the draft, but don’t send it. Come back to it when you’re calm and revise to keep the key points, but present them in a calm way. Take the time to communicate calmly and effectively. This will get easier with practice. Remember when you first started driving, when it was an effort to check your mirrors, keep your speed, know what was around you, and so on? After practice, you learned to do those things automatically. Communicating effectively is much the same- it gets easier with practice.
    8. Emulate. Look for posts or comments that are smart and professional, and think about what makes them that way. You can even create a file or label for such emails or posts and review them for ideas before you post. This isn’t limited to just club members, or even to email. A variation on this principle is “What would (someone you respect) do?” Write as if you were drafting a letter for that person you respect to send, and use that as your first draft.

    Taken together, these tips can help you communicate effectively, tactfully, and professionally with not only other officers and club members, but in your workplace and your home. While the examples focused on email, then same concepts can be readily applied to conversations in person, in chat or over the phone. To demonstrate, let’s consider two examples.

    Situation: Paul Player has just sent an email to a list accusing Sam Officer of unethical behavior, particularly giving approvals and plot benefits to friends. How can Sam respond, with the above ideas in mind?

    No enemies: Paul must be pretty frustrated to write an email like that and to send it to a list. Paul must think that direct email wouldn’t fix things. Sam resists the temptation to defend his actions and counterattack. Instead, he considers options and common ground. Are there standards that Sam is using to evaluate apps that Paul isn’t aware of? Are some players putting in lots of efforts get plot benefits or prestige, while others aren’t? Sam chooses to take the Team attitude, and read Paul’s email as an attempt to get greater transparency for how prestige or plot benefits are handed out, and maybe improve that process. Sam describes the process he’s using, and offers some possible other ways to do things that the players might prefer, as well as asking for other ideas on how to handle approvals and plot benefits better.

    This assumes that Paul is not a Troll who’s just trying to get under Sam’s skin. If Paul has a history of trying to create drama unnecessarily, then Paul’s response may need to be more concise- every extra word is ammunition to a troll. Assuming that Paul is not a troll, Sam starts by asking some questions for clarification, restating Paul’s comments, such as “Paul, what I’m getting from this is that you believe the way I’m choosing to award benefits is based on being my friend, rather than on an objective effort or story-based criteria. Is that right?”

    While Sam waits for Paul to confirm or clarify, Sam drafts a more complete response. He considers the “I” test. Sam’s reply then includes that he was hurt by Paul’s comments, and asks Paul to rephrase in the future- perhaps even suggesting the NOT TRITE method. He continues to say “We clearly have a problem here that some players see favoritism. How can we fix that perception?” Sam might even say “Y’know, I do talk with some people more than others. Maybe that has made their submissions or approvals make more sense to me, so I asked them fewer questions in the DB or on their prestige reviews, or better understood why their submissions made sense. How can I get to know the other characters/members better so that I can see the benefit of approvals for them as clearly?”

    Even after putting that together, Sam gives it some Time between drafting and sending, since he has felt hurt by Paul’s comments, and wants to be sure that his reply is positive, and calm rather than angry, hurt, or upset. When Sam comes back to his draft after cooling off, he re-reads it with an eye towards Emulating someone he respects- a mentor, a teacher, a spiritual guide, a parent- anyone that Sam looks up to as a model of positive, tactful communication can fit the bill. Would the Sam’s model say things this way? Once Sam is satisfied that his model would approve of his message, he’s ready to send. This may take a couple of days at first, but soon, with practice, it can happen in under an hour.

    With a little practice, you can be a more effective communicator, improving your life is the club and outside it.
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    Conflict of Interest

    An important part of being an ethical officer is understanding Conflicts of Interest, what a Conflict of Interest is and how it impacts you both as a player and an officer.

    What is a Conflict of Interest?

    In general terms, a Conflict of Interest can be described one of two ways:

    • a situation which has the possibility or potential to undermine the objectivity and impartiality of a person because one of their interests (either personal self-interest, or a business/professional interest) is in possible opposition with another of their interests.  It means that there is a chance one interest will unduly affect a person’s ability to make objective decisions that are in the best interest of everyone involved in the situation.
    • a situation in which a person’s responsibility to one party or interest limits or impairs the person’s ability to discharge his/her responsibility to another party or interest.

    Here are a couple of real-world examples that come up quite frequently in the nonprofit sector, due to nonprofit Boards of Directors/Trustees being made up of volunteers from the community – volunteers who have businesses and personal interests that may affect their judgment.

    Example 1: A Trustee for Nonprofit Funder A also sits on the Board for Nonprofit Agency Z.  Nonprofit Z has applied to Nonprofit A for a grant, and all grant decisions must be ratified by the Board.  Because of this Trustee’s association with Nonprofit Z, he is in a Conflict of Interest. It would be unethical and inappropriate for him to participate in the discussion of Nonprofit Z’s grant and the vote on whether to approve the grant for funding.

    Example 2: A Trustee for Nonprofit Agency Z is a small business owner.  Nonprofit Agency Z is in need of the service that can potentially be provided by the Trustee’s business.  It would be inappropriate and unethical for her business to be in the running for providing the service, unless there are very good reasons otherwise (such as it being one of the few that provides the service and the nonprofit wants to look at several quotes/bids).  If her business is in the running, then it would be inappropriate and unethical of her to participate in the discussion of what business to use to provide that service, as well as the vote on which business Nonprofit Z will ultimately use to provide that service.

    Note that in these situations, it is not that the Trustee has done anything wrong – far from it.  What they have done, by declaring and accepting their Conflict of Interest, is prevent any possibility of wrongdoing, as well as prevent the possibility of someone else perceiving wrongdoing (whether any existed or not).  The latter is just as important, if not more so, than the former. In general, most Trustees/Directors are ethical, upstanding people who have no desire to engage in unfair business practices or make biased decisions. Many of them are probably very capable of making objective decisions even when in a Conflict of Interest.  Even so, it is important that they not be involved, so that they can preserve their integrity, and the trust of the other Trustees/Directors sitting on the Board, as well as the general public that might look at the situation and believe their judgment was not impartial because they had a Conflict of Interest.

    When situations like these arise, it is the responsibility of the person with the Conflict of Interest to speak up and recuse themselves from being involved in the situation or in any decision that must be made as a result of the situation.  In addition, most nonprofits have a Conflict of Interest Statement that all Trustees/Directors and Employees must read, complete and sign when they begin their tenure or employment. Here is a real-world example of a Conflict of Interest Statement.

    Conflict of Interest Statement

    Board of Trustees and [Organization] Staff Members

    Certain activities sponsored by [Organization] may pose an actual or potential “conflict of interest” with a member of the [Organization] Board of Trustees or a [Organization] staff member.  The following will serve as a guide to the possible types of activities that might cause conflicts of interest and that should be fully reported on this statement and to the President/CEO or to the Chairman of the Board of Trustees.

    • To hold, directly or indirectly, a position or financial interest in any outside concern from which [Organization] secures goods or services.
    • To hold, directly or indirectly, a position or financial interest in any outside concerns that competes, directly or indirectly, with [Organization].
    • To render managerial or consultative services to any outside concern that does business with, or directly competes with, [Organization].
    • To accept excessive gifts, entertainment, or other excessive favors from any outside concern that does, or is seeking to do, business with, or is a competitor of [Organization].
    • To participate, directly or indirectly, in any matter involving [Organization] where the Trustee, employee, or a member of his/her family has a direct or indirect financial interest.

    Full disclosure of any situation in doubt should be made so as to permit an impartial and objective determination.

    Potential conflicts of interest (if none, please write “None”)

     

     

     

     

    Signature                                                                                                         Date

    Printed Name:

    How does the concept of Conflict of Interest translate into the MES environment, specifically as an officer?

    In most cases, the situations an officer needs to rescue themselves from because of a Conflict of Interest will involve situations that have the involvement of the Officer’s spouse/significant other, family, or close friends.  In the case of Storytelers, it also includes situations where the Storyteller’s PC has some sort of involvement, influence or interest, or where the PCs involved have ties to the Storyteller’s PC. In the case of Coordinators, it also includes situations where decisions made will affect the officer’s personal prestige.

    How do you determine whether you need to declare a Conflict of Interest and recuse yourself?

    Knowing when to recuse yourself from storytelling or playing so as to avoid placing oneself in a Conflict of Interest is key.  The following are all situations where, if you find yourself in them as an Officer, you should state that you have a Conflict of Interest and ask that another Officer be called in. This is not an exhaustive list – if at any time you are uncertain as to whether or not you may be in a situation where you have a Conflict of Interest, you should assume the answer is “Yes” and act accordingly.

    Storytellers:

    • Approving character applications for special items for your own PCs, or for PCs of your spouse/significant other, family members, room/housemates, and close friends.
    • Approving character applications for any PC which has the potential to be of benefit to your own PC (such as approving applications for your PC’s Sire or childer).
    • Adjudicating mechanics and rules in a contested, PvP (be that physical, social or political) scene in which your spouse/significant other, family members, room/housemates, or close friends are participating.  This is particularly true if the scene is a combat or killbox, where PC torpor/death is a possibility.
    • Handling investigations or appeals in which your spouse/significant other, family members, room/housemates, or close friends are involved in any way.
    • Using your authority and/or influence as an ST to place your own PC in an advantageous situation, or taking advantage of NPCs or in-game items that you created as an ST.
    • Playing your PC in a plotkit of which you have ST knowledge.

    Coordinators:

    • Overseeing Prestige reviews for a spouse/significant other, family members, room/housemates, or close friends.
    • Awarding Prestige for a spouse/significant other, family members, room/housemates, or close friends.
    • Handling investigations or appeals in which your spouse/significant other, family members, room/housemates, or close friends are involved in any way.

    Note: reading the above list may make you feel as though you cannot be an Officer for anyone other than strangers.  That is not the case. While many of us think of all Cam members as “friends,” the term “close friends” would specifically refer to those friends with whom you spend a great deal of time outside of club activities or with whom you have a special relationship.

    Some situations are very clear-cut; others less so.  In the latter cases, it is best to speak up, state that you might have a Conflict of Interest, and then speak to your supervising Officer before proceeding. Your supervising Officer may decide that there is not a Conflict of Interest and that you are free to continue whatever action it was that concerned you.  If concerns are raised regarding Conflict of Interest by another person, remember that you may have a Conflict of Interest when making a decisions about whether you have such. If this occurs, speak with your supervising officer to determine if a Conflict of Interest exists. However, note that talking to your supervising ST for one situation does not mean you should not talk to them if a similar situation comes up – each situation should be looked at and appraised independent of prior situations.

    It’s important to make it clear that being in a situation in which you are in a Conflict of Interest and having to rescue yourself is not “bad” nor does it make you a bad or irresponsible, unethical person.  It is not accusing you of any wrongdoing whatsoever. Quite the opposite.   In truth, it is a means of protecting you from such accusations – by voluntarily removing yourself from these sorts of situations, you are able to maintain the trust given to you by your players and fellow Storytellers and you prevent anyone from being able to raise suspicion or accusations against you.

    When issues of Conflict of Interest happens, speak with your supervisor and determine if the Supervising officer or one of your assistants will handle the situation.
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    Recognizing and Correcting Problems

    Anytime you put two or more people together you run a chance of having a problem form.  Even the best of friends can have arguments and problems from time to time. We are all in this to have a good time and when there is an undercurrent of frustration, it affects everyone involved.

    Ignoring a problem because it seems small is an easy mistake to make.  No one likes conflict, but as officers, we volunteer for a job knowing that dealing with these situations comes with the office.  If you do not address the situations early, it will often grow to be a bigger issue. The result of this can be disciplinary actions and loss of participation and members.  To have a strong organization we have to figure out how to treat each other with respect and courtesy.

    As officers, members come to us with their issues and problems.  They are often angry when they do so. Stay calm and remember that the member is angry at the situation and not at you personally.  Keeping your temper in check throughout the conflict resolution process is extremely important.

    Potential Problems

    When you have players who are causing issues or not getting along with each other, it is sometimes hard to know when to step in.  Players who constantly disrupt gamethrough outbursts during scenes, arguing with staff, or trying to metagame are fairly easy to spot, but can be hard to deal with.  You may be tempted to placate a player and see if things improve. More often than not this leads to more frustration for everyone involved.

    Sometimes the problem is simply personality conflicts.  People with opposing viewpoints or personalities may not get along.  At first they may try to avoid each other and not deal with the issues , but may grumble to other members. This does not help the situation and causes the stress level to build.

    As issues between two or more players builds, a rift can form within a domain.  People take sides and some will stop coming to game all together. As an officer, you need to be able to see both sides of the issue.  If you are unable to do this impartially, then involve a higher level officer from the regional or national staff to help resolve the situation.

    There are many situations that can arise and cause potential problems.  Listen to your players, don’t ignore minor issues and hope they get better on their own; they won’t.  If you feel that tension is building between members, don’t be afraid to approach them and discuss the issue.  Until a problem is brought to light, it can’t be fixed.

    Dealing with the Issues

    For outbursts or arguing, cool down periods are an excellent tool that allows those involved to take a step back and take time to get their emotions under control.  Any member can request a cool down for himself and walk away. Officers can also call for a cool down for a situation and any members that the officer finds necessary.  A cool down period can last up to 24 hours.

    Open discussion is another tool that can be used to address potential problems before they escalate.  Open discussion can be face-to-face, by phone, or electronic medium. This is a way of addressing an issue in the early stages before it becomes a problem.   It gets the issues out in the open and makes everyone aware of the potential problems and different perspectives.

    If open discussion does not work, the next step is Mediation.  This requires an agreed upon third party to become involved to help with conflict resolution.  Mediation is also a way of addressing the issue and can help facilitate both sides feel they are being heard.  Having a mediator to help direct the conversation and give constructive points to the meeting can result in both sides understanding the other’s perspective.

    Mediators in MES are rarely professional counselors and this step in the conflict resolution process does not always help the situation. If someone isn’t comfortable in the role of mediator, they should ask that someone else mediate.  The mediator must be someone with no conflict of interest in the situation and who both parties can agree on. The most important part of mediation is getting both sides to see each other’s points of view and trying to find some common ground.  Encourage your members to keep an open mind when it comes to mediation. You may want to contact the regional coordinator for tips on mediation or ask if a member of the regional staff, such as the ARC Arbitration, can act as mediator.

    When Conflict Resolution Doesn’t Help

    Not every situation has a happy ending.  There are times when, no matter what you do, the two members are just not going to get along.   This is when the two members have to agree that they are not going to see eye to eye and agree to treat each other respectfully and professional within the club.

    If the problem persists after this point, it is time to involve the Regional staff to address the issue.  Regional officers have a wealth of knowledge and experience in dealing with problems between members, so don’t feel as though you are alone in dealing with the situation.

    There are also times, during the conflict resolution process, that someone crosses a line and you have to switch from Conflict Resolution to Investigation.  No one likes issuing Disciplinary Actions, however they are designed to correct inappropriate behavior that is against MES rules. Be as fair and impartial as possible and if you find yourself unable to do that, contact the Regional Coordinator or Storyteller to take over the investigation.

    When issues between players arises, it is key to address them early and with impartiality.  Get advice from your supervising officer if you begin to feel overwhelmed or if you feel that you have a conflict of interest in the situation. Never ignore a problem and hope that it sorts itself out.  Addressing the problems early can help to prevent a bigger issue that could potentially do damage to your domain or venue.

    Don’t Beat a Dead Horse

    Not all problems can be solved within the organization. There are times when two people simply cannot get along.  That is why there is a code of conduct that all members are required to adhere to. The code of conduct is not a stick with which to beat people over the head, but rather a guide in how to treat each other even when two people cannot get along.
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    Wielding Authority

    Purpose of this Document

    The purpose of this document is to educate MES Officers on the meaning of authority, the basis on which it is granted to the Officers, and to what ends they should use that authority.

    What is Authority

    Authority refers to a claim of legitimacy in representing an idea or position of power.  This legitimacy is granted by a group or governing body supporting that individual’s right to communicate an idea or an ideal, or fulfill a specific role on their behalf.  This can be seen in how a University supports the claims of its Graduates, or a Church supports its Priests, and particularly in how a country supports its governors.

    Officers of the Mind’s Eye Society are granted their Authority by the members of our club for the purpose of fulfilling specific obligations and enforcing certain rules as defined in our charter and membership handbook.

    Officers and Authority

    Authority is granted to the officers to fulfill certain roles within our club.  We divide that authority between three groups: The Coordinator Chain, the Storyteller Chain, and the Board of Directors.  Each office is assigned a set of duties or jobs to handle on behalf of the club, and the Authority to carry those obligations out.

    When we discuss the obligations of our Authority it covers several facets: Fulfill duties as assigned, deal with members and all others in a professional manner, take responsibility for issues that arise, enforce the club’s rules, and above all else do our best to make sure everyone is treated fairly and having fun.  There are several resources that give us an idea on how to take care of these obligations, including the Membership Handbook and many of the other education documents.

    The primary source for information on the aspects and duties of an officer’s position is Chapter 6 of the Mind’s Eye Society Membership Handbook, which defines certain roles for each of the officer positions including the Board of Directors.  Of course, with the size and diversity of the club not every specific office is listed, but generalizations are given to provide scope to the types of duties each office will cover. In all cases, the officers are given the Authority to make determinations as to the best way to approach those obligations within set policy, and to request aid from lower officers and other club members as needed to help make sure those job functions are fulfilled.

    It is important to know that in many cases the job duties will expand beyond those listed in the handbook.   For example, a Coordinator might take on the task at the behest of the club of keeping and caring for props and supplies that a venue uses on a regular basis.  While not technically within the Coordinator’s official job description, this may be a duty that has been given as a part of that office by the members of the club, and the coordinator granted the Authority to manage the keeping and well-being of those supplies.  It falls to the officer to fulfill these roles given to them, whether through their own time or delegation to an assistant.

    When considering the authority that officers are given to perform their roles, it is important to know that they are also given a responsibility to handle them in a manner that the club has deemed to be reasonable. In prior Ethics lessons we discussed Professionalism, Conflicts of Interest, and Recognizing and Correcting problems.  These lessons should have provided an idea of how an officer should act while in a position of authority, and some information on the restrictions and responsibilities of that authority. When dealing with the members of the club, it’s important to keep these lessons in mind as they provide guidance on when and where it is appropriate to use your authority.  This becomes especially important when handling issues such as disciplinary actions and appeals.

    Chapter 8 of the Membership Handbook specifically covers the nature of disciplinary actions and investigations.  It becomes particularly important that we observe the ideals of professionalism and fairness when handling these aspects of our office.  Officers must be careful to observe certain boundaries, not just in these instances, but in all aspects of the office.

    Wielding Authority and Setting Personal Policy

    As officers within the Mind’s Eye Society we are given the authority to govern and make decisions for the club that will affect our friends and fellow players.  In many cases it will be hard to be fair when it comes to making judgment calls that may engender negative feelings from our peers. The solution to this issue is to put in place boundaries, or policies, on ourselves and the members in regards to the authority we wield.  If we do this, then we will find that it is easier to treat everyone fairly and equally, and that our peers will come to respect us more for it. Every education document in the 100 series will help to give you an idea of what these policies are.

    Without these policies it is easy for members to fall into one of two extremes: Wielding the authority of their position to put on accolades and abuse their station, or becoming a yes man who tries to make everyone happy and has no control over the office.  Officers must be careful that they follow the rules and policies set forth by the club to avoid doing either of these things.

    When making decisions or acting within the realm of their authority, officers will want to consider the policies and standards that have been set in place by other officers and the Membership handbook.  It is also good to set some personal policies that will help ensure that everyone is treated fairly. Every officer will have to determine for themselves what personal policies they will keep, but here are a few that might considered and use as an example to make new ones:

    1. Keep meeting and game time focused.  Personal conversations can wait until afterwards or at socials.  Be all business when it is time to do business.
    2. Field every complaint the same.  Set a personal policy such as ‘complaints are to be delivered in written form.’
    3. Give everyone a chance to be heard before making a decision, whether in game or at a meeting.
    4. Give equal time and consideration to every member.  Set time limits on your interactions if need be to make sure one person isn’t taking up all of your time.
    5. Approve good applications, and deny those with poor, no matter who it is or how much you like them or their character.
    6. When you’ve set a new policy, stick to it.

    Once an officer has determined their own policies, they will want to share them with the members they oversee. It is important to explain why the policy has been made.  Saying something along the lines of, “I won’t be discussing topics unrelated to game during our game time because I’ve been too distracted by it.” If the members are aware of the policies, then they will be more likely to observe them and abide by them.