My Biggest Mistakes During Company Command

You probably won’t find a lot of former Company Commanders out there who will admit to the mistakes they made during their time in Company Command. I’m going to do that today, in hopes of helping future and current Company Commanders from making the same mistakes that I did.

While I had a very successful Company Command, I was far from perfect.  I did a lot of things well, I messed up on some things, and I was okay in other areas.

Now that I’ve been out of Company Command for more than three years, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on my experience.

In the paragraphs below, I want to share some of my worst mistakes and give you some recommendations so you don’t make the same mistakes.

1. I Didn’t Spend Enough Time Developing my Lieutenants: I did my best to develop my LTs, but I should have done a better job. I always did their written initial and quarterly counselings, but I should have spent more time doing 1-on-1’s, OPDs, and cross-training. I should have spent more time teaching them HOW to be a Commander one day. I should have pulled them aside each drill weekend and asked them what I could do to serve them and help them.

2. I Didn’t Delegate Enough: For the first year of my Command, I did not delegate enough. I had great people working for me. I was fortunate in that regard. But being the doer that I am by nature, I tried to do a lot of things myself that I should have delegated to my AGR Staff and subordinates. Sometimes I might have been too involved in the day-to-day operations of the unit.  I don’t think of myself as a micro-manager, but I was sometimes too “involved” with what was going on because I cared so much.  I guess this could be seen as a strength or weakness, depending upon how you look at it.

3. I Didn’t Help My Peers Enough: I always tried to help my fellow Company Commanders when they needed it, but I should have done a better job with it. In many cases, I was so busy focusing on my company that I forgot to realize that our company was part of a battalion. I should have spent more time asking my peers how could I help them and do extra things to make their life easier.

4. I Spoke My Mind Too Much: I am by nature an emotional and vocal person. If I am thinking something, I will tell you. Sometimes I let my emotions get the best of me and spoke my mind to whoever was around me. Had I to do it all over again, I would have bit my lip more. I would have NEVER mentioned anything negative to my direct reports. I would have always sent my problems up to my boss, rather than let some of my subordinates know the problems that I or my command team were dealing with.  In addition, rather than trying to fight every little battle, I would have been more strategic picking which battles to fight.

5. I Neglected the Family Readiness Group/Family Support Arena: I really blew it in this area.  To be honest with you, with the other ten million things going on, it just wasn’t a high priority for me.  It wasn’t even in my top 20 priorities.  I know some of you might be thinking “how could you?” but the truth is, something had to give. Had I to do it all over again, I would definitely place more emphasis in this area.

These are probably the five biggest mistakes I made during my time in Company Command.

There is one piece of advice I would like to share with you before I close out this article.  Here it is: you can’t do it all.  Before you take the guidon you have these lofty goals.  That’s great.  But you will quickly discover that as an ARNG or USAR Company Commander, you have very LIMITED time to do everything that needs to get done.  As a result, you have to set priorities, and sometimes, something has to give.  There honestly just might not be enough time to get everything done that you want to get done.

The key to success is to focus on the big things first: training, getting the mission done, preparing your troops for combat, and leader development.  If you can get those things working right, you will be well on your way to success.

Once again, I did my best and made a positive difference. I am proud of my accomplishments. But hind sight is always 20-20. If I was going to serve as a Company Commander again starting tomorrow, these are four areas I would do a better job with.

What are your thoughts? What mistakes did you make as a Company Commander?  Leave a comment below and let us know. Also, if you have any questions that I may be able to help you with, you can post them below.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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10 thoughts on “My Biggest Mistakes During Company Command”

  1. You raise some very interesting points. As a member of the battalion staff during your tenure as company commander, I witnessed firsthand some of the points that you have raised.

    You are respected as a no-nonsense officer and leader. I distinguish the two because all officers are and never will be leaders.

    You had the rare ability to remain poised, calm, and organized. You instilled that into your Soldiers, no matter the mission.

    Your points are valid, but they also added to your strengths. I am trying to keep this brief, but hopefully, you will understand my interpretation of them.

    1. This point speaks for itself. I do believe all good (great) leaders have an obligation to continue the succession of good leadership through mentorship.

    2. Supports point number 1.

    3. That is a difficult point to argue for and against. Essentially, that leadership and guidance came from the BC. I think the majority of the line company commanders managed their respective units well. The commanders with issues always seemed to have them and they always seemed to have stemmed from the same problems. In other words, some people just didn’t want the help or could/would not accept the help.

    4. Honestly, I disagree. I feel that leaders do not speak up enough. You are absolutely correct that leaders should not vent to their subordinates, but the cross talk between peers and supervisors allows for the exchange of ideas and to vent frustrations borne from the fruits of the “good idea fairy.” Also, it allows personnel to identify institutional problems and address them for real world change in real time. I believe that once leaders attain a certain rank or position, people around them are afraid to say “no” or to deliver bad news. These leaders become insulated to the real world mission and problems associated with those missions. Then they rely on mid-level leaders and subordinates to carry out their intent without a full grasp of the operational picture. I believe you do a disservice to your leaders and those in your charge if you continually toe the party line with blind obedience.


    1. Joe,

      Thanks for your comments.

      I really have to disagree with you that all officers are and never will be leaders. I’m not sure how you came up with that statement. It would be nice to hear what you think officers are.

      But I do appreciate your input as to how I did as a Company Commander. I’m not sure which “Joe” this is, but if you could leave your last name with your next reply, that would help.

      I look forward to hearing from you. All the best.
      Chuck Holmes

  2. I appreciate your honesty here. It is a rare commander indeed who will publicly admit to the mistakes he or she has made. Though never a company commander, in my experience as an NCO I can admit to some of the same mistakes, mainly being doing too much myself. I, like you, have a hard time delegating tasks to those around me. Something I’ve worked on and have gotten better with.

    1. The best leaders can admit when they are wrong. Everyone makes mistakes. No one is perfect. I learned a lot during my time in Company Command. I did a lot of things right, but these are definitely the things I would have changed.

  3. Wow. It’s a rare Company Commander who’ll admit to his mistakes. Thanks so much for this post. I suppose that in a job like that, you’re getting pulled in all kinds of different directions, so it’s hard to do everything you’d like to have done. Speaking your mind is a good quality, but I can see how in certain situations it could cause problems.

    1. I’m not ashamed to admit the mistakes that I made during my time in Company Command. After all, no one is perfect. I did a really good job, but looking back I could have done even better. Hopefully, other people can learn from my mistakes so they don’t have to make the same mistake.

  4. One of the sad but apparently eternal truths about human beings is that we have a strong preference for learning by experience. People who’ve been there before can tell you in advance the mistakes you’ll probably make and the things they wish they had known. Kids in particular could save themselves a lot of pain if they took to heart a fraction of what their parents tell them, but I didn’t do that as a kid and I doubt you did, either. So if you find a good mentor who’s already been where you’re going, have the good sense (and the respect) to listen to what he or she has to say. No, they don’t have all the answers, either, and you don’t have to agree with everything they say, but I can guarantee they’ve got more answers than you do when it comes to something they’ve done and you haven’t yet.

    1. We should always seek input from other people who have been there and done that. Humble yourself and find someone who has accomplished what you are trying to accomplish. Pick their brain and ask them for ideas. You will learn a lot and save yourself a lot of heartache if you can apply what you learn.

    1. Thanks for sharing Don. We all make mistakes. I’ve made more in life than most. But, if I can help others learn from my mistakes, it’s worth putting myself out there. Thanks for commenting and letting me know that you made similar mistakes, too. All the best.

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