FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — To effectively steward our profession, we have a duty to continuously develop the next generation of leaders. Training exercises build MOS-specific skills, but success in our Army requires more than training our tasks. Success requires mental, physical and emotional support. Those in our formations deserve care and daily interaction.
Every person within our care — junior, mid-grade and senior; military and civilian — can benefit from thoughtful and engaged leadership. Face-to-face discussions, including counseling sessions, provide a unique opportunity for a leader and subordinate to work together one-on-one and allow leaders to get to know our team, to show them we care, to clarify expectations, and to improve well-being and performance.
Although frequent, recurring and informal feedback are expected, we must also set dedicated time on the calendar for counseling. Incorporate it into the battle rhythm, and protect that time from outside engagements. Counseling sessions are more than performance-based; they provide a valuable opportunity learn about individuals’ hopes, goals, families, hobbies, living situations and concerns.
The counselor and counselee are a two-person team with individual roles and responsibilities to participate. They must work together to develop and execute the session’s plan of action, or the plan will be ineffective or not followed. Both should ask open-ended questions that provoke thought and should actively listen and pay attention to the verbiage, body language and tone of the other person and ask clarifying questions as needed.
A common pitfall is performing counseling only when things go wrong. This reduces our ability to develop subordinates. Have daily conversations. And, recognize excellence, both on the spot and in the next scheduled counseling session to encourage similar actions in the future and to drive others to follow their example. Excellence is contagious.
When event-oriented counseling for periods of substandard performance is required, leaders must remain positive, ensure common understanding of expectations and the way-ahead, and treat every person with dignity and respect.
For more information, visit the Center for the Army Profession and Leadership’s website and read ATP 6-22.1, The Counseling Process.