“You will always be what you have always been, if you always do what you have always done.” This is a quote that has stuck with me over my years in the military and come to think of it, it does not only apply to personal growth. As leaders our job is to take our Soldiers where are now to where they have the potential to be. We are always seeking growth and improvement at all levels of our organization. That all being said, everyone has their own approach and strategy for improving their Soldiers and their units. However, the basics principles should be followed. Here is my list of 5 Things You Can Do to Improve Your Army Unit.
1. Have a Vision and Articulate that Vision: “There is no more powerful engine driving an organization toward excellence and long-range success than an attractive, worthwhile, and achievable vision of the future, widely shared.” Remember this simple formula: VISION = PURPOSE + ENVISIONED FUTURE + CORE VALUES and you have the building blocks for developing a vision for your organization. Ask yourself, “What kind of unit would I be excited to be a part of?” The answer to that question is your envisioned future. Couple that with supporting core values and your unit’s doctrinal purpose and you have a vision. Now, integrate that vision into every aspect of what you do. Use words and images that are meaningful to your Soldiers to reinforce your vision. Refer back to it during AARs, training meetings, during challenging times, etc. Eat, breath and live your vision.
2. Conduct Organization Surveys/Assessments: Before you can improve a unit, you have to understand it. Conducting a unit survey establishes two-way communication and will begin to lay the foundation for trust simply because you care enough to listen. Ask provoking questions such as:
- What do you think our purpose is as a unit?
- What do you like about our unit?
- What are the things that are keeping us from being the best?
- What words would you use to describe the unit?
- What would give you more satisfaction as a Soldier?
Asking questions and having that two-way communication helps us to assess what problems exist and hinder our growth as an organization. Additionally, make sure to take the time to discover the real, underlying causes to problems identified by your Soldiers. Same “problems” may just be “symptoms” or purposely misleading.
3. Be Passionate as a Leader…Motivate and Inspire Others: The best organizations emerge when the people and leadership of that organization are passionately committed and motivated to what they are doing. On the one hand, there is the leader—you—and on the other hand, there are the followers—your Soldiers. We have all heard that, “A smile is contagious”. Well, so is passion and motivation. Always root your passion in setting and demanding adherence to high standards, concentrating on fundamentals, and creating a unit climate where every Soldier is comfortable providing feedback focused on improving everything, including their leaders!
4. Recruit, Develop and Demand Strong Leaders: The success of any organization, whether it be a squad, platoon, Company or even a Division hinges on leadership. In my opinion, the strength of any organization is a direct reflection of the strength of its leaders. Weak and toxic leaders equal weak organizations. Strong and mature leaders mean strong organizations. Remember, though, that leadership is a process that continues to develop everyday…provided that you invest in your leaders and commit to leadership development.
5. Know Your Limits: Before you can lead others, you first be able to lead yourself. That starts with a real assessment of you, as a person and a leader. What are your strengths and weaknesses? Who are those whom you can surround yourself with you fill the gaps created by your weaknesses? Surround yourself with others who have been in your shoes. Why go into a situation on your experiences alone when you can utilize the collective experiences of others? Never take a moment to seek out help as a moment of weakness.
In summary, these are five things that YOU can do to improve your Army unit. Whether you are a Team Leader or Division Commander, you can make a difference. Everything rises and falls on leadership. Your unit will always be a reflection of you so focus on improving you.
What are your thoughts about how to improve your Army unit? Leave a comment and let us know.
Former Army Major (resigned)
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