FM 22-101: Leadership Counseling

What do you need to know about FM 22-101?  This is the Army’s Field Manual for Leadership Counseling.  If you are a leader in charge of other officers, NCOs or Soldiers, this is the field manual for you.  This FM covers the ins and outs of counseling your subordinates.  It teaches the who, what, why, when and where are Leadership Counseling.  FM 22-101 contains five chapters and several appendices.

Here is a summary of what you will find:

Chapter 1 covers counseling and leadership principles.  It talks about the importance of praise, how to develop soldiers, and responsibilities for counseling.  It also provides tips for being a good leader, such as:

  • Knowing yourself and seeking self-improvement.
  • Being technically and tactically proficient.
  • Seeking responsibility and taking responsibility for your actions.
  • Making sound and timely decisions.
  • Setting the example.
  • Knowing your soldiers and looking out for their well being.
  • Keeping your soldiers informed.
  • Developing a sense of responsibility in your subordinates.
  • Ensuring that the task is understood, supervised, and accomplished.
  • Training your soldiers as a team.
  • Employing your unit in accordance with its capabilities.

Chapter 2 covers the fundamentals of counseling.    It gives approaches to counseling and teaches you the basic skills to be a good counselor (leader).  What I got from this chapter was the importance of caring for your soldiers as people, soldiers and individuals.  It also discusses the importance of setting a strong personal example.  It also covers the approaches of counseling based upon the soldier’s personality and skill-set.  Two approaches include direct and indirect.

Chapter 3 provides the reasons for counseling, such as reception and integration, performance, personal, discipline and professional growth.

Chapter 4 teaches you how to do effective counseling.  This is the “nuts and bolts” and the chapter will teach you how to prepare for counseling, how to conduct the actual counseling session, and how to follow up with soldiers after the counseling.  It also covers some of the common pitfalls of counseling.

Chapter 5 covers training leaders to counsel.  You will learn why you need to teach your subordinates how to conduct a counseling session, how to role play with them, and tips on giving feedback.  This will help you develop future leaders who know how to develop future leaders.

As you can see, FM 22-101 is loaded with great tips about how to effectively counsel your subordinates.  When it comes to leadership counseling FM 22-101 is the best resource out there.  Do yourself a favor and get a copy of this Field Manual and add it to your leader’s library immediately.  That way you can refer to it whenever you have a leadership counseling question.

Do you have any questions? Is there anything you would like to add about FM 22-101? Just post your comments and questions below. Thanks.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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7 thoughts on “FM 22-101: Leadership Counseling”

  1. Throwing a little Psychology into the whole idea of counseling your soldiers, I would like to offer one tip that can make a difference whether your input is accepted and even welcomed or whether it is resented and dismissed as coming from a too-picky Commander.

    The little tip is to couch negative advice in between two pieces of positive affirmation. In other words, make a sandwich of positive bread with negative filling. A soldier coming in for counseling, especially disciplinary, is likely expecting to be hit with negativity right at the start. You will change his or her preliminary resentment if you start out with a compliment. Then tie in the negative counseling that necessitated the session, but finish with another point that’s positive.

    The result is that you remove the obstacle of resentment that the soldier enters with, leaving them open to your advice for improvement. Then finishing with a positive has them leaving with a smile. This prevents the resentment from returning to eclipse the suggestions and advice. It sounds silly, but it works.

      1. The sandwich method is the most common mistake a leader can make. Positive comments should not wait until a counseling session and should be given immediately. The goal behind the immediate reinforcement is to get the behavior to reoccur. Secondly, when the sandwich method is used the soldier comes away remembering the negative. A good counseling session is comprised of performance items the soldier is aware of and of a list of things the leader can use to help the soldier improve. This allows the soldier to become experts at the skills they are good at as well as improve the skills where there are deficiencies.

  2. Mark, I have not had a chance to check out ADRP 6.22 and ADP 6.22 yet. Thanks for the tip. Meanwhile, from my experience in leadership positions, praise when deserved and when shared with others in calm, non-sensationalized manner while the one praised is aware of the praise … can work wonders on all sides. Also when soldiers and just about anyone know what is expected from them and know how to do it, they will tend to be more responsible. When anyone knows that expectations are low, that the leadership has given up and such, each tends to be less responsible. These two points in the field manual seem very important to me: praise appropriately and expect responsibility.

  3. Neil ODonnell

    The Field Manual for Leadership Counseling sounds like a great resource. Actual management of a counseling session, particularly the first time doing so, is not simple. It is great to see the manual puts an emphasis on preparing for a session as well as following up with soldiers who are counseled. Failure to adequately prepare could make it difficult for the initial session with a soldier to run smoothly, which makes it difficult to gain that person’s trust for future sessions. As for Chapter 5, teaching others to be counselors and mentors is certainly an important responsibility, which will be made easier if the Commanding Officer is adept in those roles.

    1. FM 22-101 is a great resource, Neil. I always encouraged all of my subordinates to read it. As a new leader, you have to educate yourself about what right looks like. By spending a few minutes reading this leadership and counseling manual you can get the information you need to conduct a successful counseling session on your own.

  4. Thanks for sharing this article, Chuck. I believe that counseling is one of the most important jobs of a leader. In the Army, most leaders don’t do a very good job at this for whatever reasons. I wish more leaders would “cowboy up” and make the time to develop their subordinates. It’s time consuming and sometimes difficult to do, but the rewards are huge when you can help your people reach their potential.


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