Platoon Sergeant Initial Counseling

In today’s post, I’d like to educate you about the Platoon Sergeant initial counseling.

Most new Second Lieutenants are recent college graduates with no experience on how to do an Army Counseling the right way.

They’re greener than green!

As a result, most stumble through the counseling process with their Platoon Sergeant, or even worse, they don’t do it at all!

As a Platoon Leader, you owe it to your Platoon Sergeant to do their initial counseling with them in writing.

You owe it to them to tell them what you expect of them, even if you don’t have much experience or know what you are doing yet.

I believe it’s better to do one counseling wrong than not do one at all.

For the rest of this post, I’m going to give you some tips on how to do the Platoon Sergeant Initial Counseling the right way.

The primary purpose of counseling is to improve performance and to professionally develop the rated Soldier. A quality counseling session does not dwell solely on the past; it focuses on the future and what can be done better. It is the responsibility of leaders and Soldiers to work together to ensure goals are set and understood, observations are shared, credit for successes are documented, and recommendations for improvement are acknowledged. ~ Ford Hood Sentinel

Platoon Sergeant Counseling

Why It’s Important

The Platoon Sergeant initial counseling will have a huge impact on your working relationship with your Platoon Sergeant.

If you conduct the counseling like you are supposed to, and tell them what you expect of them, there’s a good chance the two of you will work well together.

And even if you don’t work well together, the Platoon Sergeant will still know what’s expected of them.

I personally believe that all supervisors have the responsibility to tell their direct reports what they expect of them.

After all, don’t you want to know what your boss expects of you?


When you first assume the responsibilities as a Platoon Leader, you must make it a top priority to schedule time to sit down with your Platoon Sergeant and conduct your Platoon Sergeant initial counseling.

You want to do this within 30 days of taking the job and preferably within the first week.

The purpose of the Platoon Sergeant initial counseling is to tell your Platoon Sergeant what you expect of him or her.  

This includes performance expectations, professional expectations and personal expectations for both on and off duty.

The reason you must conduct the Platoon Sergeant initial counseling is to set your Platoon Sergeant, yourself and your platoon up for success right from day one.

You want them to know what right looks like and what will happen if they meet the standards or fail to meet the standards.

Even if they already know how to do their job (which they probably do) they still need to hear it from you!

Tips for Success

During the Platoon Sergeant initial counseling session, you can discuss your leadership style, performance expectations, the unit mission and anything else you deem important.

The secret to success is preparation.

You should spend at least four to six hours preparing for the Platoon Sergeant initial counseling.

This includes: completing your OER Support Form, updating your military biography, establishing platoon goals, preparing a first draft NCOER and preparing a NCOER Support Form.

You can get examples of most of these documents from your Company XO or Company Commander.

If you have a decent relationship with your First Sergeant, you could also ask them for some help.

In addition, make sure you put everything in writing.

That way, your Platoon Sergeant knows you are serious.

Moreover, you will create a paper trail to support your NCOER bullets.

And remember, your Platoon Sergeant will do what you do.

If you do the initial counseling the right way, your Platoon Sergeant will probably do the same thing with their subordinate leaders.

Prior to the initial counseling session, you should find a place where you can have privacy and no distractions.

Turn off your cell phones and put a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door.

At the set time, have your Platoon Sergeant report to the room.

Follow these simple steps:

  • Platoon Sergeant reports to designated room or training area
  • Inform Platoon Sergeant of purpose of meeting
  • Small talk for 10 minutes
  • Have Platoon Sergeant talk about themselves, their family, experiences, goals, etc.
  • Inform Platoon Sergeant about yourself, your family, experiences, goals, etc.
  • Outline performance expectations for them
  • Review the platoon goals, mission and task organization
  • Review your OER Support Form
  • Review platoon goals and brainstorm new goals
  • Update first draft of NCOER Support Form
  • Ask the Platoon Sergeant if they have questions and dismiss them

Remember to keep the meeting to one hour or less.

Once you complete the Platoon Sergeant initial counseling, continue to provide constant feedback to your Platoon Sergeant.

Make sure you conduct follow-up counseling in writing every 90-days.

That way, your Platoon Sergeant always knows where they stand with you.

Communication. Communicate about everything. The advice about sitting together is sound. As I got better, my PSG knew everything I was up to. What was my intent, what were my suspenses, where would I be if away from him, what I would want done if I had more time. The more I included my PSG (and SL’s), the better they were able to save me from myself. Fresh perspective, a re-evaluation of effective time-use, and a chance to explain my actions before the critics could deliver their versions of my actions to the platoon audience were all benefits I enjoyed. ~ CoCMD & PLT LDR via The Center of Junior Officers

Platoon Sergeant Counseling

Final Thoughts

You owe it to your Platoon Sergeant to tell them them what you expect of them.

You are responsible for their development, even though they have more military and life experience than you do.

If you don’t take time to conduct your Platoon Sergeant initial counseling, you’re not doing your job.

Therefore, make the time to do it.

You have no excuses.

Even if your Platoon Sergeant initial counseling doesn’t go perfectly, that’s okay.

Good enough is good enough.

As long as you take the time to prepare and follow the advice listed above, you will be well above your peers.

Most of your peers will never do this in writing with their Platoon Sergeant.

Best of all, you will be well on your way to developing a lasting professional relationship with your Platoon Sergeant.

As you gain more experience, you will get much better at doing the counseling!

Here’s one final thought.

Don’t be intimidated that your Platoon Sergeant is much older and more experienced than you are.

They understand the rank structure.

They know you are the supervisor.

And, they will respect you because of your rank as an Army Officer.

It’s the individual respect you have to earn.

You will start to earn their respect immediately, if you take the time to conduct an initial counseling with them.

Chances are, they’ve never “formally” received a written initial counseling from their supervisor before, EVER.

Most supervisors don’t do it, so you will show them you are a good leader just by doing it!

UPDATE: I’ve put together a sample Platoon Sergeant Initial Counseling Packet.

It gives you a 90% solution to do your counseling the right way.

All you need to do is add their name, rank and specific job description and you will be good to go.

My packet also provides some counseling tips and questions to ask.

You can buy it for just $20 and have it emailed to you instantly.

Click on the button below to buy it now.

Or, check out this link to see what is included.

Buy Now

Other Posts You Might Enjoy:

  1. Sample Army First Sergeant Initial Counseling Packet
  2. Sample Army Platoon Sergeant Initial Counseling Packet
  3. Army Squad Leader Initial Counseling Tips
  4. Army Team Leader Initial Counseling Advice and Tips
  5. Company Commander Initial Counseling: Tips for Battalion Commanders
chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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26 thoughts on “Platoon Sergeant Initial Counseling”

  1. Putting things in writing is not just a CYA tactic. It prevents anyone from having selective memory of the things that were discussed. It gives the person being counselled an opportunity to look back and review the expectations without the stress of the moment. And you are right, it sets a good example of the type of behavior you want the platoon sergeant to follow in the future.

    1. Putting everything in writing is important. Few people take the time to do it, but it’s time well spent because it shows the person that you are counseling that you are serious.

  2. I have never been involved in these types of leadership roles, but once you have stepped into these roles of leadership you have to do the job that is required, which is counseling in this case.

    What I have done is learned how to face fears and (potentially) uncomfortable situations, and learned to treat every man and woman with respect by acknowledging that they have greater skills in some areas, even if our opinions at the time are different.

    You build a foundation of respect with open and honest communication.

  3. If only every Platoon leader, heck, every officer and NCO who has someone reporting to them read this post. So many times I've done an inspection and asked to see the initial counseling and gotten a blank stare.
    Nothing is as important as a clear line of communication and that starts with the initial counseling. If you set goals and expectations from day one you can eliminate many of the problems and poor communication that can happen when people begin working together.

  4. I like the recommendation to put everything in writing. This is essential for clarity, as well as accountability, both for you and the subordinate that you are counseling. Many people believe that putting expectations in writing is done solely for the purpose of writing up poor performers later. Really, the purpose is also for being able to legitimately recognize those who meet and exceed expectations, rather than just playing favorites when it comes time to pass out awards.

    1. You definitely want to put your Platoon Sergeant Initial Counseling in writing. It sets the tone and positions everyone for success. It’s just the right thing to do.

  5. Arleen Spieler

    At the end of the day, all that really matters is that you sit down and do the counseling in writing. Even if it isn’t perfect, it’s better than not doing it at all.

  6. Thank you for the clear steps on how to get things kicked off on the right foot between a Platoon Leader and a Platoon Sergeant. Informing them of your leadership style is keen advice, and it will let them know what to expect. The tip about putting everything in writing is also important. Honestly, unless something is in writing, I just assume it was never said.

    1. You are spot on Joey. A good Platoon Leader will put everything in writing: the good, the bad and the ugly. And when it comes to the initial counseling and follow up counseling, I believe that it’s not counseling at all unless it’s in writing. Just my thoughts. Thanks for the comment.

  7. This is some great information about the Platoon Sergeant Initial Counseling. Personally, I would find it a bid weird to counsel and supervise someone nearly twice my age. But, if I had to do it, I’m sure I could handle it.


    1. I’ll agree with you Kari. It can be difficult to counsel and supervise people a lot older than us. Fortunately, most NCOs are very professional and understand how the Army works. They know the PL is in charge and is responsible for everything that happens in the platoon. As a result, most counselings go smoothly.


    2. Candace Ginestar

      part of any good counseling session is the opportunity for feedback, especially when it comes to building a PSG and PL relationship. You should not be the only one talking in a counseling session like this – it isn’t for disciplinary reasons, so this should be a sort of two way conversation (in my opinion). You can lay your standards out, but you should take time to ensure your goals are aligned – it will go much better for you as a team, if this is the case.

  8. As a retired Command Sergeant Major and having served a significant amount of time as a platoon sergeant I think this is a valuable article for new platoon leaders to read. There are a few other items I believe important for an new platoon leader to consider.

    1. You know right from wrong- Just because your platoon sergeant has more experience than you do does not mean he is right. Within a few days of meeting your platoon sergeant you will be able to make an assessment as to his professionalism. If you get the sense that your platoon sergeant maybe not be a good leader or is making poor decisions you need to stop him and have a discussion. This discussion does not have to be confrontational but as the platoon leader you are ultimately responsible. Therefore the actions of the platoon sergeant are your responsibility. You and your platoon sergeant need to be on the same time fighting the same fight. If he wants to argue with you it is imperative you find common ground. While he should run the platoon with regard to daily operations he should provide you the ability manage the platoon and respect you by keeping you informed and including you on important decisions.

    2. Officer Business verses NCO Business. If an NCO ever tells you it NCO business ask him to show you that in a regulation or FM. He won’t be able to. NCO’s that use the term NCO business are usually out to lunch. Officers that use the term NCO business usually do not care about their Soldiers. It’s leader business. NCO’s and Officers share more responsibilities jointly than they have individual oversight of. So as leaders make the platoon stronger.

    3. Never let your subordinates see your platoon sergeant failing to follow your instructions or otherwise dismissing your directives, suggestions, or comments. This is absolutely unacceptable.

    Last but not least most NCOs what to do a good job for you. Once in a while you will run into a NCO that is a dud. In these cases give him the benefit of the doubt and work with him to professionally develop him. If those efforts fail seek guidance from the 1SG and CDR. You may need to start doing monthly performance counseling to get his attention. When you start putting paperwork on a SSG or SFC platoon sergeant you get their attention.

    30 years later I am still in touch wiht my old platoon leaders. Great Folks, Great Leaders. We did not always see eye to eye but we help each other, developed each other and led as a team

    Best Wishes

    1. I agree, the term “NCO business” is usually nothing more than a cop out. All leaders have a responsibility to ensure Soldiers’ issues are resolved promptly. If that means officers need to step into the NCO lane from time to time, so be it. I always gave my NCOs a chance to fix the situation, but I told them I could interject at any time if I thought things weren’t being dealt with promptly or fairly.


    2. Candace Ginestar

      Thanks for the insights Mark, and I agree.
      I think the only time I really use ‘NCO Business’ as a term, is if I am asking my PSG to handle something I think he should handle. If he/she is lacking in this area, I will pull them aside and ask them to handle it, before I have to, unless it is a safety issue that needs immediate attention. They should be able to count on me for certain responsibilities, and I should be able to count on them for certain things too. Soldier care is something that BOTH of us should be worrying about.

      I agree that most NCOs want to work hard and make their superiors look good. This is true of most Soldiers in general.

    3. Great extra advice on this important subject Mark!

      I honestly believe that even if you are green, just by performing that initial counseling, even if you have to “stumble” through it, you will gain more respect from both your platoon sergeant and the rest of the soldiers.

      By bypassing doing an initial counseling, you are setting yourself up for failure.

      This is a great post, and I hope many platoon leaders discover it and read it.

  9. Good preparation for the NCOER is critical. The Guard is moving to an automated board system–when I went on the list for promotion to E-8, I (or rather my packet) was evaluated by a bunch of people who probably didn’t know me. That system is gradually moving further and further down the ranks, and will eventually be the way of things for all NCO promotions. The NCOERs are one of the most important components of that packet, which means writing accurate, thoughtful ones is extremely important. That doesn’t mean you automatically give a bunch of E ratings; it just means you need to be accurate and justify your ratings. Just as you don’t want a capable NCO to be passed over for promotion because of a poorly-worded NCOER, you also don’t want someone who’s not quite so capable promoted over more deserving NCOs because you gave your PSG an inflated evaluation.

    1. Great points Daniel. Doing NCOERs can be a pain, but it’s one of the most important things you do as a leader. Spend your time wisely and put some thought into it. Make sure that everyone who works for you gets an ACCURATE NCOER, not necessarily a good NCOER. The payoff will be huge.

      Chuck Holmes

    2. Candace Ginestar

      I completely agree with the importance of an accurate and well-worded rating. If someone is not a strong writer, they should have someone else review their rating, and take notes on how to improve. Whoever the reviewer is should do a good job of actually reviewing the NCOER instead of just signing it. I think some people forget that part.

  10. This is great information about the Platoon Sergeant Initial Counseling Chuck. I’m sure it’s intimidating for lots of new Platoon Leaders to sit down and counsel someone who is twice their age! I know it would be difficult for me to do.


    1. Crystal,

      Some Platoon Leaders get overwhelmed or intimidated with the thought of counseling and supervising someone much older than them. But most new Platoon Leaders handle the task fine. After all, the Platoon Sergeant understands how things work. They want to work with their Platoon Leader and have a harmonious relationship.


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