10 Tips to Develop Quality Soldiers in the Army

In today’s post, I want to teach you how to develop quality SoldiersOne of your biggest responsibilities as an Army leader is to develop your subordinates for positions of increased responsibility.  You want to mentor and teach your subordinates so they can develop their potential and become a leader one day themselves.

Your ultimate goal as a leader is to develop quality Soldiers.  After all, quality Soldiers normally become quality leaders.  In the paragraphs below, I want to share my top 10 tips on how to develop quality Soldiers.  Let’s get started.  

Tip # 1: Conduct Monthly Classes for Subordinates 

In the ARNG and USAR, it’s required that you provide NCODP Classes every 90 days.  I believe that you should conduct monthly classes for your subordinates.  Every drill weekend, you should spend at least 30 to 60 minutes teaching your subordinates a valuable skill.  It could be MOS related, a Warrior Task, a leadership skill or anything else you want to teach.  The classes can be formal or informal.

The best way to get started is to make a list of all the weaknesses of your Soldiers/Team.  Come up with minimum 10-12 ideas that would benefit most of the people on your team.  Let these ideas be the subject of your first 10-12 classes.  You can also survey your Soldiers and find out what areas they would like classes in.  Don’t be scared to ask your Soldiers for their input.

When you instruct a class, try to mix things up.  Don’t always do lectures.  When possible, get out of the classroom and armory and go off site.  Try to keep things fun and interesting.  If time is an issue, conduct the classes before or after drill weekend. 

Tip # 2: Cross-Train Soldiers on Every Job in Your Section 

One of the best things you can do for your Soldiers is cross-train them in other jobs.  If you have five to six different jobs in your section, you should train every Soldier on every job.  This increases their knowledge and makes them more valuable to the Army.  Every Soldier should know how to do their boss’s job and their peers’ job, too.

Every few months, move your Soldiers around.  Give them new assignments and challenges.  They might not officially move “on the books” but you can still switch up their responsibilities to teach them new skills and ensure they are cross-trained. 

Tip # 3: Sit Down with Your Soldiers and Help Them Set Goals 

Another great tip I can recommend is for you to sit down with your Soldiers and help them set goals.  Teach them career planning.  Teach them the importance of setting goals and developing a plan for the future.  Show them how to write long-term short-term and mid-term goals. 

Tip # 4: Set a High Level of Discipline 

Discipline is the foundation for military success.  No one wants to be part of an undisciplined unit.  Discipline starts at the top, since units are a reflection of their leader.  As an NCO or Officer, you are a role model for your Soldiers.  Make sure you look and act like a Soldier and maintain a high level of discipline yourself.

Hold everyone accountable to the Army standards.  When you see something wrong, address it immediately.  When you talk to others, show them the proper respect.  Your Soldiers will do what you do, so make sure you are disciplined yourself. 

Tip # 5: Enforce the Army Standards to Everyone Equally 

Don’t play favorites!  As a leader, your job is to enforce the Army standards fairly and consistently.  Don’t let one Soldier get away with something and then punish another Soldier for doing the same thing.  Doing that is one of the quickest ways to destroy the morale and esprit de corps in your unit.

On another note, make sure you don’t come up with your own standards.  It’s much easier to simply enforce the Army standards. 

Tip # 6: Give Your Subordinates Difficult Projects 

If you want to develop people, you must stretch them out of their comfort zone.  I’ve always believed in giving my subordinates difficult projects from time-to-time to see how they react and perform.  When I do that, I try to give them very little guidance.  The reason I do that is because I want to find out what type of initiative and resourcefulness they have.  This is a great way to evaluate each person.  When the project is complete, I give them my feedback and answer any questions they might have.  In most cases, this is a major learning event for your subordinates. 

Tip # 7: Conduct Formal Counseling on a Regular Basis 

According to Army Regulations, counseling is mandatory.  Despite this, it seldom happens.  Leaders make excuses all the time why they don’t do it.  Personally, I think this is nothing more than a cop out.  Did you counsel all of your subordinates in writing like you were supposed to throughout the entire rating period?  If you answered yes; I would like to say congratulations.  If you didn’t do it like you were supposed to, why not?

From this day forward make the time to counsel your subordinates.  Other than getting things done, this is the most important part of your job.  Verbal counseling is important, but nothing is more effective than written counseling.  Stop making excuses and start making it happen. 

Tip # 8: Set a Good Personal Example 

Your Soldiers are always watching you, whether you realize it or not.  They will do what you do.  Make sure you are always setting a good example for them to follow.  At a minimum, stay in shape and look like a Soldier at all times.  Maintain a high level of discipline.  Show up on time and be a person of your word.  Live by the warrior ethos and Army values.

Always act like people are watching you even if no one else is around.  Setting a strong personal example is step one to being an effective leader.  Ask yourself “would I like 10 people just like me working for me?”  If the answer is yes, you are well on your way.  If you answered no, you might need to make a few adjustments to your leadership style to get back on course.  Lead by example at all times. 

Tip # 9: Spend a Majority of Your Time with Your Best Performers 

Most Army leaders spend a majority of their time with their bad Soldiers, trying to fix the problems.  While it’s important to discipline and rehabilitate bad Soldiers, it is even more important to spend MOST of your time with your best performers.  Your job is to develop the people with the most potential, so you can develop future leaders.

One of my biggest gripes I had while I was in the military is that I didn’t get much face to face time with my leaders.  Because I did a good job, they left me alone.  On the other hand, some of the low performing Soldiers were always meeting with the senior leaders, getting counseled or reprimanded.

I always wondered why my leaders didn’t spend any one-on-one time with me.  It would have been nice to have some one-on-one counseling and guidance from my superiors.  My advice to you is “don’t make that same mistake with your Soldiers.”  Make sure you spend adequate time with your good Soldiers and super-star Soldiers. 

Tip # 10: Provide Tough, Realistic Training 

No one joined the ARNG or USAR to sit around the armory all drill weekend.  Make sure that you schedule challenging and tough training for your Soldiers.  You have to remember that your primary job is to prepare your Soldiers for their wartime mission.  It’s hard to do that sitting around the armory.

I understand that during some drill weekends you will be stuck at the armory.  That’s okay.  But you should sit down with your chain of command and see what you can do to provide tough training, especially “collective” training.  This is often one of the most neglected areas in the National Guard and Army Reserves.

Schedule some hand-to-hand combat, bayonet training, weapons training, crew served weapons training, grenade training, battle drills, warrior tasks, MOS training, and other tasks that will help prepare your Soldiers for combat.

Final Thoughts

In summary, your job as a leader is to develop your subordinates for positions of increased responsibility.  Your job is to develop quality Soldiers and future leaders.  By following the advice in this article, you will have a concrete game plan on how to do that.

What are your thoughts?  What are your best tips on how to develop quality Soldiers?  Leave a comment below to let me know what you think.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)
Publisher, Part-Time-Commander.com
Email: mrchuckholmes@gmail.com

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8 thoughts on “10 Tips to Develop Quality Soldiers in the Army”

  1. I am an absolute believer in cross training. This creates a system where when someone is sick, or absent, another individual can pick up the slack in their area. It takes the load off of you and also gives your soldiers more experience which can help them grow.

    I am also very strong about enforcing rules equally. If you allow one person to get away with something, and you punish another, it can create animosity.

    Lastly, tough training is the best. You just never know when you may be deployed, and it is your responsibility to train your soldiers to be the best.

  2. Theresa Williams

    Great tips on developing quality soldiers. A couple that stood out to me were offering monthly NCODP classes instead of just the required every 90 days and, going along with that, cross-training. The more educated and well-rounded you can be, the better soldier and person you can be.

  3. There is a reason that Army officers/leaders are subject to such a lengthy, in-depth, and grueling selection process. The Army wants to ensure that the candidates chosen to hold any rank at the Officer level are of the highest quality, because it is aware of the importance of leadership and its influence on the soldiers under that leadership. A great leader will strongly impact his or her soldiers’ careers and lives for the better. A poor leader (aka one who follows very few or none of the above tips) will be a detriment to themselves and their subordinates.

  4. I think setting a strong personal example is one of the best things for someone in a leadership position to do. Those underneath you will emulate good practices, and trash you on bad decisions. So, be the good guy. Do the right thing. The men and women under you will always try to match the good, and the more respect, the better.

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