If you are a Battalion Commander, you have the responsibility to sit down with your new Company Commanders and do an initial counseling with them. A verbal counseling is not good enough either! It should be in writing.
One of the most important parts of your job is developing your direct reports! And the best way to do that is via counseling.
It’s also important to remember that your Company Commanders have a HUGE impact on whether or not you are successful as a Battalion Commander. You want to position them for success, so you can be successful.
I’m assuming that since you’ve been in the Army for 10 to 20 years, you probably know HOW to do an initial counseling. I hope so anyway.
But counseling a Company Commander is a little different than counseling a brand new Second Lieutenant or even a Staff Officer.
What I want to do in the rest of this article is share some tips with you on what you should cover during the initial counseling with your Company Commanders, so the counseling session can go smoothly and be effective.
# 1 Get to Know the Person – I suggest you ask a bunch of questions about your Company Commander and get to know them on a personal level. Find out their background, ask questions about their family, find out why they became an officer and Company Commander, and what makes them tick. And find out what they want to achieve in their military career.
# 2 Review Your Leadership Style – After you get to know a bit about your Company Commander, let them know how you conduct business. Talk about your background and experience and what type of leadership style you use and WHY. Doing this can prevent most future problems.
# 3 Explain How Their Company Fits In with the Battalion Objectives and Goals – Explain your vision for the Battalion and then break that down and let the Company Commander know how their company can help you reach those objectives. After all, most people like to know how they fit in with the big picture.
# 4 Find Out What the Company Commander’s Goals Are – Ask the Company Commander what their goals are for the unit. Don’t just go and set their goals for them. Empower them. Find out their vision. If they aren’t naturally a visionary, help them create a vision for their unit. Have them write down their goals and give you a copy.
# 5 Explain What Your Relationship Will Be Like – Let your Company Commander know what type of relationship you would like to have with them. Explain your working relationship, when they should seek you out for advice, when they should come to you with problems, and how it will work. Don’t leave this one to mystery. Your subordinates should know what to expect. Let them know if you are a hands on person, or if you are more of an observer.
# 6 Let the Company Commander Know That You Are a Team – Please, don’t come across as a dictator. The Company Commander already respects you because of your position, and wants you to succeed. Let them know that you are in THEIR corner and that your relationship is a two-way relationship. What I mean by that is that you will help them succeed and they will help you succeed!
# 7 Explain HOW and When You Would Like to Communicate – Let your Company Commander know the best way to communicate with you. Let them know how often they should communicate you, and what types of issues require additional communication.
Having a conversation with your Company Commander during your initial counseling, and covering these seven topics will really position you for success as a Battalion Commander. It will also position your Company Commanders for success.
I’ve never met a Company Commander who wanted their Battalion Commander to fail. But I’ve met lots of Company Commanders who didn’t get very good guidance, support or communication from their boss. And I think that’s sad!
Of course, these things are just my opinion. I don’t expect you to agree with my exact strategy for counseling your Company Commanders. After all, it’s your Battalion and you are the boss. And that’s perfectly fine.
What’s most important is that you sit down with your Company Commander and initiate a positive, professional working relationship with them. Get to know them, tell them your expectations and make sure the two of you are on the same sheet of paper.
Once again, don’t come across as a dictator or jerk! Remember that most of your Company Commanders will model your behavior and leadership style, so make sure you are a good example. After all, if you expect your Company Commanders to go the extra mile and make YOU look good, you also have to have their best interests in mind!
Before I close this post, I want you to know that I created a counseling packet for Battalion Commanders to do an initial counseling with their Company Commanders. The packet includes a template, instructions and resources to ensure a successful counseling session. It costs just $10 and can help make you successful. It’s designed for ARNG and USAR leaders, but could also be used by Active Duty folks.
What are your thoughts about these tips on doing an initial counseling with your Company Commanders? Leave a comment below and let us know.
Former Army Major (resigned)
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6 thoughts on “Company Commander Initial Counseling: Tips for Battalion Commanders”
One other bit of advice I want to give here is: look in the mirror. Keep in mind that your actions, and attitudes will reflect. If you are telling a subordinate to do something that you would not do yourself, is that right? We must always know that we are being watched and studied. As Battalion Commander, you need to be willing to live a life that is exemplerary.
Chuck, I think that this article is great. Future commanders and current commanders alike could all gain something from this. Taking the time to communicate, express your priorities, as well as understanding your subordinate commander's goals, will only help you in the end.
I hope this post is read by all Battalion Commanders. There is tons of great advice here. The part I like most is do not come off as a dictator. There are many people in this world when given a bit of power suddenly think they are king of the world. What ends up happening is no one likes them and some will even sabotage them to get them out of the position. It just makes good sense to work with your Company Commanders and not “Bull ride” them.
Great post Chuck.
Lots of people get power-trips when given power. I agree with you. It’s important to remember that it’s the people who work for you who get you promoted or get you fired. It’s just your boss who delivers the news. Treat your people well. Help them. Serve them. Do that and everything else should fall into place.
You are so right. Power can corrupt. I believe this post should not only be read and used by Battalion Commanders, but leaders in any situation can learn from this advice. I believe it can even be used outside Army circles and in the structure of business, and even other leadership positions.
It is a great batch of tips.
What gets me is most leaders felt this way when they were PL, CO, etc. Then they get to the BC level and forget, and make their subordinate commanders feel exactly how they felt! I don’t get this. Never forget where you came from, this is advice I always take to heart!