Army Initial Counseling Tips

As a Company Commander, you typically “rate” the First Sergeant, Company XO and Platoon Leaders.

As a “rater” you have a responsibility to conduct an initial counseling with your direct reports within the first 60 days, and to conduct quarterly counseling thereafter.

When you first assume command you must make it a high priority to schedule the time to sit down with each one of these leaders and conduct an initial counseling.

The purpose of an initial counseling is to tell your direct reports what you expect of them.

During the initial counseling session, you can discuss your leadership style, performance expectations, the unit mission and anything else.

Your secret to success is preparation.

You should spend several hours getting organized, while formulating a game-plan on what you will review and what you will say.

In addition, put everything in writing.

That way, your Officers know you are serious.

More importantly, your direct reports will do what you do.

If you do the initial counseling the right way, they will probably do the same thing with their subordinate leaders.

At a minimum, you should complete your Army OER Support Form, your Lieutenant’s Junior Officer Developmental Support Form and your Lieutenant’s OER Support Form Shell, prior to the meeting.

Prior to the initial counseling session, you should find a room where you can have privacy and no distractions.

Ideally, you want a designated space, free of interruptions.

At the set time, have the person report to your office.

Follow these simple steps; they worked for me:

  • Soldier reports to Commander’s office
  • Inform soldier of purpose of meeting
  • Small talk for 5-10 minutes
  • Have Soldier talk about himself, his family, experiences, goals, etc.
  • Inform Soldier about yourself, your family, experiences, goals, etc.
  • Outlined performance expectations for them
  • Review the unit goals
  • Review the Commander’s OER Support Form
  • Establish goals for service member
  • Ask the Soldier if they have questions
  • Dismiss Soldier

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  4. Army Quarterly Counseling Tips

Remember to keep the meeting to one hour or less.

Once you complete the initial counseling, continue to provide feedback to your direct reports.

Make sure you conduct follow-up counseling every 90-days.

In addition, you should provide verbal feedback whenever possible.

That way, they know how they are doing.

This process helped me properly counsel my Lieutenants and First Sergeant.

Initially I wasn’t going to add this part, but I think it’s important.

In the Active Duty Army, leaders are seldom “formally counseled” by their raters.

Most Army Officers never receive a “written” or “face-to-face” initial counseling with their rater.

I only did once in nine years of Active Duty.

In my opinion, this is pathetic.

Leaders deserve to know what is expected of them by their supervisors.

If you are a supervisor, and you don’t sit down with your followers, you are failing as a leader.

Let me say that again.

If you don’t take the time to develop your people with effective counseling, you are failing as a leader.

And, don’t give me the excuse that you’re too busy.

You’re never too busy to do the important things.

Unfortunately, the National Guard is even worse than the Active Duty.

Since the Guard and Reserves only meet one weekend per month, “counseling” seldom, or never happens.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

One of your primary responsibilities as a Company Commander is to develop your Lieutenants and First Sergeant.

Even if your rater never sits you down and counsels you, that doesn’t let you off the hook.

You owe it to your Officers to tell them what you expect of them.

You are responsible for their development.

If you don’t take time to do this, you’re not doing your job.

Therefore, make the time to do it.

You have no excuses.

Remember Company Commander, “the buck stops with you.”

Do you have any comments or questions?

Please post them below.

Thank you.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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7 thoughts on “Army Initial Counseling Tips”

  1. Been an active duty platoon leader for 8 months and still have yet to sit down and discuss leadership, expectations, or anything professional with my commander.. Glad to hear that this isn’t the case army wide.

    1. I’d bet that 9 in 10 officers don’t formally get counseled by their boss. It might even be higher than that. One thing you could do Alex is pull your boss aside and ask him/her if they could do your counseling. And whether you boss does it with you or not, make sure you do it with your PSG. Good luck.

  2. If you are too busy to have a sit down with your ratee's to do initial counseling then you are not using your time wisely. It's in your best interest not only because your subordinates will know what is expected of them, but also to create a paper trail in case of discipline down the line or, hopefully, for use in promotions and awards.

  3. When you first step into the position of a Company Commander, this should be one of your first priorities. Your soldiers and NCOs will gain more respect and will understand your out line for the unit as a whole. Without these initial counselings, no one will truly understand your objectives and goals for the unit. I also agree with putting it all in writing. That way, you have evidence if there are discrepancies.

  4. Great initial counseling tips for Company Commanders, Chuck. The most important tip is just to make sure that it gets done!

  5. Getting off on the right foot with any professional relationship is important. You have provided a helpful guideline for the Company Commander to conduct their initial counseling with their direct reports. Being able to communicate and connect in a compassionate manner is important for leadership. I also like your suggestion of putting things in writing.

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