By Josh Suthoff
Like any field grade I have spent a significant amount of time thinking about counseling. How do you effectively communicate to subordinates what you are looking for in them to be successful? I cherish my company grade years, but I have realized that the field grade and staff years really separate the best officers and non-commissioned officers from the rest of the pack. The ability to adapt and the level of agility become more easily discernible among the senior ranks. The maxim in organizations I have worked is, “Staff Dominance” (outperform your adjacent or higher headquarters). Be the best. But what does that look like or how do we get to the best?
I enjoyed my time as a battalion executive officer because I was able to influence many younger officers and NCOs and I understood that I directly affected how they saw and enjoyed their profession. Personally, I experienced very little counseling in the early years of my career and was determined to do things differently. One-on-one initial counseling is a great way to provide clear expectations and also learn a lot about subordinates. I have never believed in the massive memo-style counseling statements that explain in excruciating detail every aspect of a staff person’s job and obvious adherence to Army values. I think we can narrow down the qualities of a good officer/NCO to a few traits, my initial counseling format has little more than the bolded points below:
Answer the mail: Very simply, do what your boss tells you to do. Staff members should never have their own priorities, but constantly be working those of their boss. Leaders, especially at the pace the Army works, do not have time to run down answers to tasks after they are given. If your boss has to ask you twice about the status of priority task, you have probably failed. Once a subordinate has shown they can be given a task and come back on their own with the answer, they are well on their way to the circle of trust.