Today, I want to share some leadership tips and advice for Army First Sergeants. Although I was never a 1SG myself, the information in this post comes directly from former and current Army First Sergeants. I simply interviewed a few senior NCOs whom I trust and respect, and took notes about what they said. I hope you found the information helpful. The tips are listed in no particular order.
# 1 Delegate More
One of the most common trends I heard from First Sergeants is that they wish they would have delegated more. You have to realize we only have so much time to train, especially in the ARNG and USAR. Just because something needs to get done doesn’t mean you need to do it yourself. You have Platoon Sergeants and an AGR Staff to assist you when needed. You can’t delegate your responsibility, but you can delegate a lot of the “non critical” work that has to get done.
# 2 Know the Strengths and Weaknesses of Your Direct Reports
Spend some time getting to know your Platoon Sergeants, as well as the AGR Staff. Find out what motivates them and what makes them tick. Learn their goals, desires, talents, strengths and abilities. Find ways to mentor and develop them and prepare them for positions of increased responsibility. Know which person/people you can rely on when you need something specific done.
# 3 Identify Boundaries and Lanes with Your Company Commander
One of the most important things you need to do is to identify your “lane” with your Company Commander. Even though you know what your job is, you and your commander need to be on the same page. By identifying lanes, each one of you can stay in your lane and know who is responsible for what. This can limit micro-managing and frustration.
# 4 Empower Your Subordinates
This lesson goes hand in hand with delegating. Your subordinates want to be empowered and pushed out of their comfort zone. Your subordinates are capable of accomplishing great things if you give them the chance. Give your subordinates a chance to shine. When you get a mission or need something done, give the task to one of them to see how they perform. You will be surprised at how well they can do IF you have some faith in them and empower them.
# 5 Don’t be a Micro-Manager
Whatever you do, don’t micro-manage your subordinates. Give them a task but don’t tell them how to do it. If they need help or have questions, help them answer their own questions, or point them to where they can find the answer. You want to be involved, but not so overly involved that you keep your subordinate NCOs from doing their job and figuring things out on their own. You don’t like to be micro-managed by the commander or CSM, so don’t do it to your subordinates.
# 6 Don’t Let the Details Blur the Big Picture
During drill weekend, you will have to put ten pounds of crap in a five pound bag. Don’t let the minutia keep you from focusing on the big picture. Before you ever complete a task ask yourself if this is the best use of your time or if you are the one who has to be doing it. If you can delegate the work, then delegate it. Remember that your job as the 1SG is to guide your NCOs and keep them focused. You get things done through other people.
# 7 Pick Your Big Three
As the First Sergeant, you should have your big three. Your big three are the three top priorities that you have that should consume 90% of your time. Some examples might include individual training, leader development, Soldier discipline and Soldier morale. Sit down with your Company Commander and find out their three top priorities. Tell them what yours are and have a friendly conversation to make sure the two of you are on the same sheet of paper. Once you do that, make sure that you spend most of your time on the most important things.
# 8 Create a Rock Solid Mentoring Program for Your NCOs
One of your biggest responsibilities is to mentor and train your subordinate NCOs. To do this you need a good NCODP program and a rock solid counseling program. You also want to invest a lot of one-on-one time with your direct reports and some time with the people that you senior rate. Try to lead and develop people two levels down and then encourage your subordinates to do the same thing. That means that most of your mentoring is with the Platoon Sergeants and Squad Leaders. When you want to train your other NCOs try to do it in a group setting.
There you have it folks. These are my top 8 leadership tips and advice for First Sergeants serving in the Army Reserve and Army National Guard. Which tip did you find most helpful? If you’ve spent any time as a 1SG I would love to hear from you. What leadership tips and advice can you offer for current and future Army First Sergeants? Just leave a comment below to share your thoughts.