Army OER Counseling Tips for Raters & Senior Raters

In today’s post, I’d like to share my top Army OER Counseling tips. This information is designed for officers serving in the Army National Guard and Army Reserve.

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 1 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 Army 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 want you to know that leader development was always one of my top priorities (along with training and readiness).

I’ve found that people 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.

Counseling is the most important tool that leaders have at their disposal. Clearly communicating expectations and standards provides a baseline for measuring performance and ensures that both the rater and rated officer understand expectations. This is especially important when managing your rater profile and justifying the contents of evaluation reports for both officers and NCOs. ~ The Field Grade Leader

Army OER Counseling

Army OER Counseling Tips: 5 Steps to Success

Here is the five step process I used and recommend.

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

When new officers are assigned to your unit, or whenever you get a new job, sit down and conduct a written initial counseling with each of your direct reports. You must do this within their first THIRTY days in the job.

Create a standard shell counseling template for everyone, and then make the required changes in the admin and job description sections for each person. Put everything in writing. If it’s not in writing, it didn’t happen!

Spend 45 to 90-minutes with each person in a quiet room with no distractions. Turn off your cell phones. Do not monopolize the conversation. Ask questions and listen. Get to know the other person.

Finally, develop an agenda and game-plan ahead of time 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.

Raters, should be well prepared to execute an initial counseling session. This tells the rated Soldier you care about them and will provide them with every opportunity to succeed. Preparation helps establish credibility with the Soldier. A counseling that is poorly constructed can destroy credibility and trust in a relationship that has not even begun. ~ AskTOP

Step # 2: Monthly Feedback

Each month, at the end of drill weekend, have each one of your direct reports give you an update via email, text, or index card, sharing their five biggest, most important things they worked on/accomplished that drill weekend. Basically, have them do an AAR of their own performance.

Review the information with the person and give them immediate feedback. Once complete, file the information in their counseling packet. This step takes about five minutes to do, but it’s important.

One of the most important counseling tools you have is your NCOER or OER Support Form, also known as the -1A. Most individuals don’t understand the process and have difficulty filling these forms out. Properly completed these forms provide  you a current status of what type of evaluation report you will receive. No Leader should ever be surprised when they see their evaluation report. ~ Army Counseling Online

Step # 3: Review Monthly Information & Conduct Your Quarterly Counseling

At the end of each quarter, or every 90-days, take out the three monthly accomplishment lists 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, adding your insights and recommendations, and then spend 45 to 90-minutes to conduct the quarterly counseling with each of your direct reports.

Getting up to speed will likely take more than 90 days, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a plan. Your commander or supervisor will most likely give you guidance, but you should not rely on her or him to completely chart your course. You’re being put in charge – so be in charge. ~ The Center for Junior Officers

Army OER Counseling

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 final OER Support Form. Give them a week to do it and have them submit you their final copy.

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

An effective counseling session does not dwell on the past; it focuses on the future and what can be done better. It is the responsibility of leaders and Soldiers to work together to ensure goals are set and understood, observations are made, credit for successes are documented, and recommendations for improvement are acknowledged. ~ Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson

Step # 5: Repeat

Repeat these four steps with each one of your direct reports. Stay disciplined. Force yourself do it. Don’t make the excuse that you are too busy.

In most cases, it only takes about two hours per QUARTER for each person you supervise. Everyone has time to do this if they make it a priority.

Final Thoughts

By following these five simple steps, you will succeed with your Army OER Counseling. You will be well ahead of your peers, and most importantly, your subordinates will receive the counseling and mentorship they want and deserve. Even better, your subordinates contribute to the process and learn how to counsel their subordinates (by modeling you).

And when OERs are due, you will be ahead of the game. You’ve done the difficult part. Now you just need to write up the OER, review it, and collect signatures.

Please realize you might need 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 for doing a successful Army OER counseling? Leave a comment below to let us know what you think. We value your tips too!

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
  5. How to Fast Track Your Military Career

Here’s a great resource, if you want additional information on how to do your counseling the correct way.

Leadership & Counseling

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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4 thoughts on “Army OER Counseling Tips for Raters & Senior Raters”

  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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