As National Guard and Army Reserve Officers, we’re busy.
- We prepare slides.
- We host meetings.
- We attend meetings.
- We plan missions.
- We conduct counseling.
- We lead training events.
And we do all this in addition to our civilian day job!
Simply put, we are crazy busy.
We’ve got the motor at the red-line going ten thousand RPMs per minute.
Unfortunately, many of us are doing this while having the transmission stuck in neutral.
And do you know what happens when you do that?
One of two things happens.
Either you get no-where fast, or you end up blowing your motor!
I’ve found that the above example applies to many officers.
They’re busy getting nowhere fast.
Simply put, they’re ineffective.
They’re not doing their job properly.
This doesn’t mean they don’t care or that they don’t have heart.
Instead, it simply means they don’t know what they’re doing.
This happens for a variety of reasons, but we’ll cover that in a different article.
For the purpose of this article, I want to teach you how to be an effective Army Officer and military leader.
So, I’m going to share some advice with you right now.
Here it goes!
A Good Army Officer is an Effective Officer! And an Effective Officer is an Officer who gets the Most Important Things Done First, by Establishing Priorities.
Anyone can be busy.
But, that’s not what is most important.
What’s most important is that you are effective.
That means that you must prioritize your tasks and put the first things first.
Spend most of your time on the most important things.
You decide what’s most important and do those tasks first.
If possible, delegate all other tasks.
If you don’t have anyone to delegate them to, you simply do those tasks AFTER you do the most important tasks.
Sometimes that means you don’t get something done.
Most officers I know spend most of their time doing the WRONG tasks.
Don’t make that mistake.
In case you don’t know this already, here’s what your major priorities as an Officer should be: (1) organizational development, (2) leader development, and (3) mission planning.
Of course, there are many other tasks too, but these are the most important ones as I see it.
I define organizational development as the process of setting the tone and vision for the organization, as well as setting goals and objectives.
It includes mission planning and strategic planning for the organization.
Simply put, it is the process of ensuring your unit is capable of performing its wartime mission.
Whether you lead a section or a division, you must focus on organizational development.
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Officers set the tone for their organization.
We are the ones looking 30 or more days out and planning what needs to be done.
This is often referred to as “future operations.”
We also have the responsibility to establish organizational goals AND to set and enforce standards within the organization.
When these things are done right, your unit is like a well lubricated engine that runs smoothly.
And when you don’t do this, your organization becomes “one of those” units that no one wants to be in.
Remember, your organization (whether a platoon or Corps) is a reflection of you as the leader.
If your unit sucks (and you are the boss), you suck as a leader.
That might be hard to swallow, but it’s the truth.
In the NFL, the owners don’t fire the players after an awful season.
Instead, they fire the coach!
You are the coach!
So do your job well!
Once you’ve streamlined the organizational development for your unit, your next major objective is leader development.
As the boss, you have the personal responsibility to develop your subordinates.
You also have the responsibility to ensure your subordinates are developing their subordinates and so forth.
Therefore, you need to first lead by example.
That means you sit down with your Officers and NCOs and counsel them.
You tell them what you expect of them (IN WRITING).
And you must provide periodic feedback, minimum once per quarter.
Once you’ve finished doing this, you tell them that you expect them to do the same with their followers, and so forth.
And you tell them (IN WRITING) what will happen if they do this and what will happen if they don’t do this.
Next, your job is to periodically check on them to make sure they are doing their job correctly and to standard.
If they aren’t, you hold them accountable and fix the situation.
If they are doing a good job, you give them praise, give them an award, and make sure they know how you feel.
You repeat this same process with ALL of your direct reports.
I’ll tell you one thing.
If you do this, your subordinates will RESPECT you.
They will follow you.
And do you want to know why?
Also, you need to invest additional time leading OPD and NCODP classes and having one-on-one time with ALL your subordinate leaders (2 levels down).
You don’t always have to be the one doing the counseling either.
You could just ask them a few questions and LISTEN to their responses.
Moreover, you can bring in the unit Sergeant Major, the higher-level commander, a retiree or anyone else qualified to help you develop your subordinates.
How you do things is much less important than the fact that YOU DO IT!
One effective way to develop your subordinates is to have a “book of the month or reading program.”
Each month, or each quarter, pick a book and have your subordinates read it.
At the end of the month or quarter, spend one hour having a group discussion about the book.
This is a simple yet effective way to develop subordinate leaders.
In summary, I’ve found that most Army Officers neglect their responsibilities when it comes to counseling and developing their subordinates.
In many cases, they don’t know their real role (the three things mentioned above).
My advice to you: DON’T BE LIKE MOST OFFICERS!
Lead from the front!
You should spend 90% of your time on the things listed above.
Everything else is part of the 10%.
By doing this, you will be a very effective leader.
What are your thoughts?
How do you think officers should spend their time?
Leave a comment below to share your thoughts.
I look forward to hearing from you.