In today’s post, I’d like to discuss Army Company Training Meetings. This advice is geared for Army Reserve and Army National Guard Company Commanders, but will also benefit Active Duty officers.
Personally, I don’t like company training meetings. No, I take that back. I hate company training meetings that accomplish nothing and wastes my time. To take it one more step, I hate ANY meeting that wastes my time and accomplishes nothing. I’m sure you feel the same way, too.
In the military, we are known for having lots of meetings. Some meetings are within our control and others aren’t.
As the Company Commander, you typically attend a monthly battalion training meeting and also have your own company training meeting. From time-to-time, you might even attend a Brigade or State level meeting. Simply put, it comes with the job.
Although you can’t control how others conduct their meeting, you have complete control over how you conduct your own meetings.
My goal in the paragraphs that follow is to help you have effective and efficient company level meetings. We will discuss different tips and strategies that worked well for me during my time in command.
Effective training is the Army’s number one priority during peacetime. Training management is the process used by Army leaders to identify training requirements and then plan, resource, execute and evaluate training. At the company level, as at all levels of command, the training meeting is an essential element of the training management process. ~ Army ROTC University of Michigan
Army Company Training Meetings: Tips for Success
If you are a Company Commander in the ARNG or USAR, one of your responsibilities is to conduct a monthly company training meeting (CTM).
The purpose of this company training meeting is to review last month’s training, discuss future training (up to 120 days out), review the company’s Mission Essential Task List (METL), and to discuss any open issues or concerns.
Most Army companies combine the company training meeting with a command and staff meeting, which reviews administration, maintenance, personnel, and supply issues. In most cases, units conduct one meeting first and immediately follow it with the other.
Your goal as the Company Commander is to have an effective and efficient company training meeting. You don’t want an unproductive meeting. You don’t want to be unorganized and waste people’s time. The secret to success is preparation.
Typically, I spent 2-4 hours (at least), before the meeting, getting prepared. This helped me keep all meetings less than one hour. You should consider doing the same thing. Here are some tips you can follow to set yourself up for success.
1. Draft an Agenda
Create an agenda ahead of time to identify all requirements. This will keep you focused. Once you have an agenda that works well, use it every meeting.
Invest a few hours of your time and prepare. You can accomplish this the day of the meeting by setting aside a few hours and reviewing your training requirements. Get a copy of this month’s OPORD, last month’s After-Action-Review (AAR) and get a copy of the YTC and training schedules.
3. Notify Personnel Ahead of Time
Since most of your key leaders have civilian jobs, contact them as soon as possible. If possible, have the meeting at the same time and location every month. For instance, your meeting could be held on the Tuesday before drill weekend. Just make sure you have your meeting AFTER you have the Battalion meeting.
4. Assign a Timer
Either use your own watch or let someone else be the designated timer. Give each part of your agenda a time limit. Have the person raise his hand, nudge you, or get your attention when you reach the time limit for each section.
5. Assign a Scribe
Assign someone as a scribe to keep notes. Have a dry erase board or butcher block paper available to address issues. At the end of the meeting, review the butcher block or dry erase board and prioritize the issues. Assign who is responsible for each issue and when the issue must be resolved by.
6. Start On Time
Always start on time, even if some attendees are late. This lets your followers know that you are serious and efficient. If you don’t start on time, people won’t take you seriously. By the way, starting on time means starting the second you are supposed to, not a second later.
7. Finish in One Hour or Less
Some people will disagree with what I’m about to say, but oh well. You should always keep your meetings to one hour or less. I’ve sat in some meeting marathons that lasted five or more hours. These meetings were always ineffective and unproductive. If for some reason your meeting must go for more than an hour, make it two separate meetings and two different times.
Keep in mind, people have short attention spans. You can only sit still so long and remember everything.
8. Keep Sidebar to a Minimum
Don’t let people rant on about things that are not important. Some people are naturally long winded. Don’t let people ramble on and take ten minutes to say something that could be said in 10 seconds. As the facilitator, it’s your responsibility to squash the sidebar. More importantly, don’t talk just to hear yourself talk.
Company training meetings are the center of gravity of unit training management. During these weekly meetings, company leaders synchronize and coordinate their training efforts in support of the commander’s ATG. Training and only training is discussed to maintain focus, direction and purpose. ~ U.S. Army
Training Meeting Agenda
To have an efficient and effective meeting, you must have an agenda. The agenda serves as a helpful resource to identify the purpose of the meeting and to determine what we be reviewed during the meeting.
Listed below is a copy of the agenda I used for my company training meetings during my time in command. I hope you find it helpful.
1. Review Last Month’s Training
You should open up the meeting by discussing last month’s training events. Cover the After-Action-Review and get input from your First Sergeant, Executive Officer, Platoon Leaders, and Platoon Sergeants. Find out what went right, what went wrong and identify lessons learned. Keep this portion of the training meeting to 10 minutes or less.
2. Review Future Training
Briefly discuss upcoming training events that are 120, 90, 60, and 30 days out respectively. Identify resourcing requirements, training areas, food, ammunition, transportation requests, etc. Briefly cover 120 and 90 days out, but go into extensive detail about 30 and 60 days out.
Finally, review the short-term training (this month’s drill). Cover the OPORD and get back briefs from each Platoon. Keep this part of the meeting at 30-40 minutes.
3. Mission Essential Task Listing (METL) Review
Once you’ve covered the upcoming training events, share your METL assessment with your platoons. Cover each METL tasks and let your leaders know your commander’s assessment. Also, get updates from each Platoon Leader about where they stand with their Platoon METL assessment. Keep this portion of the meeting to 10 minutes or less.
4. Questions & Comments
Once you’ve covered last month’s training, upcoming training and reviewed the METL assessment, spend the last 5-10 minutes answering questions and seeking input from your key leaders. If you follow this agenda, you will keep your company training meetings at one hour or less.
During my two years in command, I only had one company training meeting longer than 60 minutes. That meeting went 62 minutes. What I’m trying to tell you is that this agenda works well, when you use it.
In the military, meetings are a routine matter. However, efficient and effective meetings are few and far between.
As a Company Commander, you should run effective company training meetings that have a specific purpose and are held on time and to standard. Your secret to success is preparation and discipline. Never have a meeting just to have a meeting. When you do have a meeting, be efficient and effective and do not waste people’s time.
If you have any questions, or possibly some added tips about Army company training meetings, please leave a comment below. Thank you.
Other posts you may enjoy:
- TC 25-30: A Leader’s Guide to Company Training Meetings
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8 thoughts on “Army Company Training Meetings”
The two things I've seen kill meetings: Lack of preparation and sidebars.
1. Preparation: This goes for the company commander of course, but also for the others at the meeting. No one has time for each person to collect their thought and look for their notes. You should know what you want to say and be prepared to say it. If a member doesn't do that you should politely remind them after the meeting what is expected from them or better yet, have a colleague of theirs remind them.
2. Sidebars: Let's be honest, these are arguments. They might be polite and respectful, but these are arguments. Give each person time to give a point or two and then table it for later. If these discussions continue they will drag the meeting on forever. You are the boss, you control the meetings; so make sure you do it.
No matter what field you’re in, sometimes a meeting is just a meeting. Company training meetings seem to be regarded the same as my monthly staff meetings as a member of the HR department. We spend three hours discussing what went wrong that month and the last ten minutes discussing what we can do better the next month. I like the steps you have. I think they could be applied not only in a command setting but in any boardroom around the world.
Three hours seems like a long time for a meeting, especially if you spend 2 hrs and 50 mins focusing on the negative and only 10 minutes focusing on the positive.
I agree, Chuck, but I have been in similar meetings, where the facilitator either joined in the venting session, or was simply unprepared and ineffective in directing the meeting. I have even attended meetings that were to talk about scheduling meetings! I think your point about preparation is critical to utilizing the scheduled time to its fullest potential, and to being productive. Adhering to the meeting’s intended purpose is also important, so I would have to agree that combining the training meeting with the command and staff meeting short-changes the purpose of each, wastes time, particularly of those for whom much of the agenda is irrelevant, and accomplishes much less than a focused, well-managed meeting would. One option for attendees being able to participate and not use meeting time would be to solicit feedback, suggestions, specific information, questions or agenda items via email before the meeting. Setting a time frame for input allows the facilitator to review the emails and add relevant issues to the agenda, time permitting, or to address them. Some issues could be handled via as short emailed reply, and those submitted outside the set time frame get discarded.
What Amy stated here about questions and comments is great advice also. The post was spot on, but I know that many meeting facilitators do have problems controlling the question and comments part. One great way to shut down someone who is rambling is to first tell them what they are saying is important, but we just don’t have the time to delve into it in this meeting. Have them write it out and eMail it and as a Commander, it is a great idea to respond to that eMail after reading it.
Meeting can be super useful and also a time killer. I am thrilled to see you are including information on how to use meeting effectively, including a watch on the time. As a Company Commander, there can be a lot of meetings, but with use of the efficient tips you have provided here, they can be a little less painful.
My commander has implemented these very tips and practices as a new CO. Leaders and Soldiers alike were very reluctant to conform because they were so used to not doing any work. But, they are quickly realizing the importance of these meetings at the conclusion of IDT and are actually taking part in the meetings. Follow these tips if you want to be successful!
That’s good, Justin. Most people are reluctant to change at first.
Personally, I’ve never had a meeting at the end of drill weekend before, other than an AAR. We used to hold our Company Training Meetings about 7-10 days before drill weekend, right after we did the Battalion Training Meeting. This worked well for me.
However, at the end of the day what’s most important is that the leader HAS the meeting and he/she keeps it organized and on time.
Thanks for sharing your comment.