How to Solve Challenges as a Combined Leadership Team

Guest Post by CSM(R) Mark Gerecht

Scenario: Bravo Company is preparing for a Brigade Level inspection.  The unit forms for its end of day formation. The tension within the unit is high as the unit has been torn between several missions and taskings.  The intensity and pace of operations have taken a toll on the unit’s morale.  The unit is behind in its inspection preparation and the commander announces the unit will work late nights, weekends, and over a holiday to ensure they are prepared for the inspection.  The 1SG interrupts the commander and objects in front of the formation,  stating the unit has been being pushed way too hard and there are other options available. …..

All of us have probably seen such an inappropriate display between leaders.  We all know it is not right, but sometimes we feel compelled to provide our input on the situation because somehow we feel someone in a position of leadership is not doing something right or has wronged us or our subordinates. In my other article I spoke about followership.  This is a good example of how a follower can work with a senior leader to obtain a better solution.

combined leadership team

Solve challenges of the Combined Leadership Team!

The best possible solution would have been for the Commander and 1SG to have a discussion about the inspection preparation plan prior to the unit’s formation.  The two leaders could have openly discussed possible courses of actions and worked to achieve the best possible action plan.  Both of our leaders share in this leadership debacle.  The commander for not discussing an issue that impacts the health and welfare of the Soldiers with the 1SG, likewise the 1SG was out of line by objecting to an order given by the commander in front of the organization that directly impacted the unit’s ability to accomplish the mission.

This is an intolerable position for both leaders and there was no respect by either leader for each other.  Furthermore, the unit is now divided between the actions of the leaders.  Some support the 1SG, while others support the Commander.  All of this could have been avoided if the two leaders would have taken a moment to openly communicate.

Clear communication is frequently the largest single factor in achieving success and by extension failing to communicate is often the focal point of failure. So, let’s look at how this situation could have been resolved in a professional manner with both leaders supporting the decision.

Option 1:  Both leaders communicate and the commander holds his ground on what he expects.  The 1SG objects, but supports the commander’s decision and begins to execute and oversee the plan to ensure completion with the best possible outcome and use of resources.

Option 2:  The 1SG understands the commander’s position, the potential impact on the unit for substandard performance during the Brigade inspection.  Instead of arguing with the commander he offers an alternative solution.  Laying out a schedule that details when tasks for the inspection will be completed, how tasks will be inspected internally to ensure the areas are up to standard, and he includes a detailed work plan.  This could mean that Soldiers work in shifts, come in early, alter PT schedules, rotate to chow, etc.  He further sets the standard by showing if certain tasks are completed each day the unit will be fully prepared by the inspection date minimizing and/or not requiring any late night, weekend, or holiday work.  The key is that all of this is tied to a plan that that is achievable and realistic.

Imagine if both leaders came out and the Commander stated something like:  As you are aware we have a Brigade inspection coming up and it is a significant event.  We must be well prepared for this event.  The 1SG and I have discussed several options.  The first of which is to work late nights, weekends, and the upcoming holiday to ensure we are prepared.  The second and preferred method is to work an inspection preparation plan that we have developed.  This course of action will most likely minimize the requirement for late nights, weekends, and holidays.  However, this plan only works if we do this together as a team and ensure the tasks are completed to standard.

Imagine yourself standing in formation.  What course of action would you prefer?  How would you feel about your leaders at this point in time?  Do you feel they are looking out for your morale and welfare while at the same time providing you the opportunity to accomplish the mission in a reasonable manner?  How would have handled this issue if it happened to you?

Please feel free to share your comments with us!

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About the Author 

Mark is a Retired Command Sergeant Major with 26 years of military leadership experience. He held 3 military occupational specialties (Field Artillery, Nuclear Weapons Tech, and Ammunition Ordnance). Mark is one of the leading military authors in the fields of leadership, counseling, and training.  He owns three successful websites to include GIPubs.com, AskTop.net, and ArmyCounselingOnline.com.  Feel free to check out his websites to learn more about him.

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Chuck Holmes

SKYPE: mrchuckholmes
(352) 503-4816 home office
Email: chuck@part-time-commander.com

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8 thoughts on “How to Solve Challenges as a Combined Leadership Team

  1. Pingback: Good Army Career Idea: Take the Tough Army Jobs No One Else Wants | Citizen Soldier Resource Center

  2. Chad Davidson

    The scenario you laid out in the beginning made me cringe. The thought of an NCO directly challenging an officer in front of their soldiers is something that I have never seen and never want to see. I was graced with having leaders who were very good at communication so these breakdowns never occured.

    As the article pointed out, it’s always best to plan ahead and communicate ahead of time. Planning and communication are key to ANY operation.

    Reply
    1. chuckholmes Post author

      This type of insubordination is very uncommon in the Army, but it does happen from time to time. Smart “leadership teams” work out the kinks behind the scenes and communicate with each other to solve these problems. That way, when they are in front of their Soldiers they can be cohesive and work with each other, not against each other.

      Reply
  3. Daniel Slone

    As a first sergeant, I was horrified by the situation described at the beginning of this post. I cannot imagine contradicting my commander in front of the unit, any more than my wife and I would disagree on a matter of discipline in front of one of our children. My response would have been to suggest to the commander AFTER the formation that he give me his desired end state, and then let me sit down with the unit’s NCOs to figure out the most sensible way to achieve them and come back to him with a plan, much as Mark describes. In the end, though, it’s the commander’s unit and responsibility, and he or she gets to make those decisions. However, all leaders have an important responsibility to communicate, and no member of the command team should ever be surprised by something that’s announced to the unit as a whole.

    Reply
  4. Elinore

    I couldn’t imaging being in a situation like this! All leaders, and their direct reports, need to be on the same sheet of music when they are talking to their teams! This problem could have easily been fixed if the two of them would have sat down together and agreed on a course of action before talking to the troops.

    Reply
    1. chuckholmes Post author

      I agree with you Elinore. To put things in perspective, most NCOs would never do something like this, but it could happen. Communication is always key!

      Reply
  5. chuckholmes Post author

    Thanks for the guest post, Mark.

    This is a wonderful example of a combined leadership team failure. Had the 1SG and Commander sat down and talked ahead of time, things would have went much better for everyone involved.

    Communication is quite perhaps the greatest struggle in marriages, in relationships and in the military. Learning to communicate effectively with the people you love, or work with, can have a huge impact in your effectiveness and happiness.

    Thanks again.

    Chuck

    Reply

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