Army OER Counseling: Five Tips for Success

When it comes to Army OER Counseling in the Army National Guard or Army Reserve, it is almost non-existent.

In most cases, the rater never conducted a formal initial counseling and formal quarterly counseling with their direct reports.

And when I mean formal, I mean counseling that is in writing.

I’d bet that less than 3 in 100 officers get counseled the right way.

It’s sad, but true.

This happens for a variety of reasons, but it normally traces back to the fact that the rater (boss) isn’t doing their job properly.

They might give you 100 other excuses why the “counseling” never happened, but that’s the real reason (they didn’t do their job properly).

They’ll tell you they were busy, didn’t have the time, or maybe that they didn’t know how to do it the right way (which might be true).

Personally, I never understood that.

I spent six years as an M-Day Officer in the National Guard and I ALWAYS “made the time” to conduct formal counseling with my followers.

I’m not saying that to brag or to tell you that I’m better than you (I’m not).

Instead, I simply want you to know that leader development was always one of my top priorities (along with training and readiness).

I’ve found that people always find a way to “make the time” for things that are important to them.

If you are a part-time or full-time Army Officer, and you rate other officers and Warrant Officers, you need to come to grips with yourself and do your formal Army OER Counseling with them.

This is what I recommend you do.

Step # 1: Conduct an Initial Counseling with Your Soldiers During Their First 30 Days on the Job

When new officers are assigned to your section/unit, or whenever you get a new job, sit down and conduct a written initial counseling with your direct reports.

Create a standard shell template for everyone, and then make the required changes in admin/job description.

Make sure you put everything in writing.

Try to spend 45-90 minutes with each person in a quiet room with no distractions.

Develop an agenda and game-plan so the counseling session goes smoothly.

If you’re busy and can’t get it done during drill weekend, schedule it after/before drill weekend.

Step # 2: Give/Get Feedback

Each month, at the end of drill weekend, have each one of your direct reports give you a one-sheet (hand written) of the five most important things they worked on/accomplished that drill weekend.

Review the sheet with the person and give them immediate feedback.

After you do that, file the one-sheet in their counseling packet.

This step takes about five minutes to do, but it’s very important.

Step # 3: Summarize Your Spreadsheets/Conduct Counseling

At the end of each quarter, or every 90 days, take out the three one-sheets your direct report gave you and summarize them on their quarterly counseling statement.

Let them review the summary ahead of time to add in any extra accomplishments they might not have documented beforehand.

Once they give it back to you, update your quarterly counseling one last time, and spend 45-90 minutes to conduct the quarterly counseling with each of your direct reports.

Step # 4: Conduct Your Final Army OER Counseling

At the end of the rating period, sit down with each of your direct reports and review their quarterly counseling statements together.

Highlight the accomplishments and shortcomings of the rating period.

Talk about what went right, what went wrong, and what they need to focus on during the next rating period.

Have them submit their OER Support Form by copying the information from their counseling statements onto their OER Support Form.

Give them a week to do it and have them submit you a final copy.

At this point, you can review it, make any changes and then write up their final OER.

Step # 5: Repeat

Repeat these four steps with each one of your direct reports.

Stay disciplined.

Make yourself do it.

Don’t make the excuse that you are too busy.

In most cases, it only takes about 2 hours per QUARTER for each person that you supervise.

Everyone has time to do this if they make it a priority.

Other Posts You Might Enjoy:

  1. Army Squad Leader Initial Counseling Tips
  2. Army Team Leader Initial Counseling Advice and Tips
  3. Company Commander Initial Counseling: Tips for Battalion Commanders
  4. Army Quarterly Counseling Tips

Final Thoughts

By following these five simple steps, you will be well on your way with your Army OER Counseling.

You will be well ahead of your peers and most importantly, your followers will always know where they stand with you at all times.

Even better, they will share their input with you in preparation of the counseling sessions.

That way, there are no surprises during the counseling.

And come OER time, they will have a good idea of what to expect.

Please realize you might have to do some of this work and preparation outside of drill weekend.

Just accept that that is part of your job of being a good military leader.

What are your thoughts?

What are your best tips to doing a successful Army OER counseling?

Leave a comment below to let us know what you think.

We value your tips too!

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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4 thoughts on “Army OER Counseling: Five Tips for Success”

  1. Initial counseling is one of the most overlooked parts of the evaluation process. If your not doing the initial counseling you are getting off on the wrong foot. You now have people who aren't aware exactly what you expect from them in their position.

    It's kind of the same deal with quarterly counseling. How can you expect to do a formal evaluation if you haven't been giving your ratee feedback along the way. It's not proper for you and it's unfair to them. Not to mention that you will now be basically writing an evaluation from the ground up. You will be doing a year worth of work at once. Do it right and save yourself the hassle.

  2. These are all wonderful tips. It is important when taking over any new leadership position, to start out on top of things. If you wait until later, even just a couple of months down the road, then things may have already slipped through the cracks. Counseling up front lets your subordinates know that you care, or at least will be on top of things. It will give you a chance to make a good first impression, and get those important first impressions of those reporting to you. Hopefully these initial counseling sessions will set the tone for positive, professional work relationships.

  3. It seems like in any job, certain things will slip through the cracks because they are deemed not to be important. I appreciate your advice to an Army Officer about doing their formal Army OER Counseling. Getting and giving feedback is important for those who report to you. Opportunities to talk, like these sessions, are good for maintaining and growing professional relationships.

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