In this post, I want to teach you how to enforce the Army standards. This seems to be a common problem amongst Army NCOs and Officers. While it is an important role for NCOs, many of them do not know how to enforce the Army Standards properly. My goal is to share eight different tips that will help you enforce the standards with ease.
Tip # 1: Educate Your Soldiers About What the Standards Are
Your first role as a leader is to teach your Soldiers what the standards are. That means you first need to educate yourself so you know what you are talking about. The Army has standards for just about everything. All you need to do is read the pertinent Army Regulation or Field Manual and you can have your answer in no time. Before you EVER correct a Soldier, make sure you know what right looks like so you don’t make yourself look like an idiot.
If you are giving a Soldier (or your section) an assignment, make sure you explain to them what the standard is when you give them the assignment. This will eliminate a lot of confusion and problems.
Tip # 2: Address Problems Immediately
My next tip is to address problems immediately. The longer you wait to address an issue the less effective it will be. We all know that you can punish a pet for “messing” in the house six or seven hours after the fact. The pet simply won’t know why it is being punished. Soldiers are no different. If you see something wrong, address it immediately. Even if it is something major that will require written counseling, do a verbal counseling first and then follow up with the written counseling. The quicker you can address the problem the better off you will be.
Tip # 3: Treat People with Respect When You Talk to Them
No one likes to be corrected or told they are wrong. I know I don’t and I’m sure you don’t either. When you are correcting someone, treat them with respect. Treat them the way you want to be treated. Don’t attack them as a person. Let them know that you respect them as a person, but their behavior is/was unacceptable.
Lots of people let their rank go to their head. At the end of the day, we are all human beings. You might be “higher ranking” than someone, but you definitely aren’t better than them! Never forget that. Never forget where you came from and never forget that your job as a leader is to serve your people, not beat them down.
Tip # 4: Be a Good Example
If you want to enforce the standards, you need to set a good example yourself. Don’t be a hypocrite. Don’t reprimand your Soldiers for failing the APFT when you fail it yourself. Always look yourself in the mirror and make sure you are walking the walk, not just talking the talk. Your Soldiers are always watching you, so be a professional at all times.
Tip # 5: Don’t Always Focus on the Negative
Most Soldiers do at least 50 things right before they do something wrong. Don’t be the supervisor who always focuses on the negative. Make sure you give your Soldiers feedback and praise when they do something right. Simply tell them job well done or give them an “atta boy.” If the only time your Soldiers hear from you is when they do something wrong, you are really missing the boat.
Tip # 6: Never Embarrass Your Soldiers in Front of Others
No one likes to be humiliated in front of their peers. Whenever you have to enforce a standard or punish a Soldier, do yourself a favor and do it in private. Take the Soldier to an office, behind closed doors, and address the issue. If needed, bring a witness. Otherwise, handle the issue in private and move forward. When you punish your Soldiers in front of their peers it has a negative impact in the unit. People will respect you less and the Soldier you punish will probably never respect you again.
Tip # 7: Use the Sandwich Technique When Addressing Problems
My favorite way to address problems is with the sandwich technique. Any time you have to address an issue with the Soldier, say something positive first. Next, address the issue at hand. Finally, close on a positive note. Here’s an example.
“Specialist Smith, I just wanted to tell you that you are normally the best Soldier in the Platoon. That’s why I’m wondering why you were five minutes late for formation. Do you mind telling me why you were late?”
At this point, let the Soldier respond. Take a minute to “take it in” and then issue your punishment. Close the meeting with something like this. “Specialist Smith, you are a good Soldier and I know you are capable of great things. I’m sure you can learn from this simple mistake and move forward in the right direction.”
I’ve used this technique for years and it works like hotcakes.
Tip # 8: Reward Soldiers When They Do Things Right
One of the biggest and most common mistakes that leaders make is that they forget to reward their soldiers when they do things right. Whenever your Soldiers meet or exceed the standard, they should receive feedback from you. You should tell them “good job” and let them know how you feel. You can also send thank you cards, give public praise, and put Soldiers in for awards.
If your Soldiers only get feedback from you when they do something wrong, you aren’t a very effective leader. I’ve had bosses where I could do 99 things right and never hear from them, but the moment I messed up on something they would approach me immediately. Don’t make this common mistake.
Tip # 9: Be Firm, But Fair
One the key tips to being an effective leader is to be firm, but fair. That means you need to have high standards and hold people accountable. But it also means that you have compassion and “weigh in” the circumstances and situation before you issue a punishment. Most Soldiers will work for a tough boss, if they know you are fair.
These are really my best tips on how to enforce the Army Standards. The bottom line is that you MUST enforce the Army standards with your followers. That is your job. Learn how to do it effectively and you will become a great leader.
Former Army Major (resigned)
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6 thoughts on “How to Enforce the Army Standards”
This is what it is all about, Chuck. Enforcing the standard is what sets the Army and military in general above the rest of the organizations in the world. Working in the civilian sector (especially private) and I see that these organizations spend a lot of time and money to put things on paper but never implement those actions. The Army does and they do it well. To me, that is one of the best reasons to hire a Veteran. For the most part, you have a team member who appreciates standards and knows the importance of enforcing them!
Very true. Without standards, it’s hard to do anything, especially when you have people involved.
These are fantastic tips, and what’s so great about them is they work for all sorts of situations, Military and civilian alike, for any organization where a leader must address subordinates. I especially like the tip about focusing on the positive and doling out praise with some regularity. I once had a boss that would only say good morning to me on the days when he would later call me into his office for some sort of constructive criticism, this behavior was so predictable that it became a “thing” in the office, we knew who was in the hot seat based on who received the ever-dreaded “good morning” acknowledgement. I’ll tell you one thing, it sure made the donuts taste extra-dry and the coffee awful bitter.
Sounds like a bad boss to me!
Discipline in following Army Standards is important for the well being of solders, effective functioning, and safety. Leadership setting the example by modelling disciplined demonstration of all Army Standards is even more imperative. If leadership is not doing it, their soldiers won’t either. I ran across a quote from George Washington that sums this up: “Nothing can be more hurtful to the service, than the neglect of discipline; for that discipline, more than numbers, gives one army the superiority over another.” George Washington
Discipline is very important!