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 training, I will 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
The Purpose of Your Initial Counseling
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 outline what you expect of them, there’s a good chance the two of you will work well together. Even if you don’t work well together, the Platoon Sergeant will still know your expectations of them.
I believe all supervisors owe it to their subordinates to do an initial (and ongoing) counseling with them. After all, don’t you want to know what your boss expects of you? I know I do.
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 must 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 them.
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
Never wing it. Set aside a few hours to get your required documents in order. Make sure they are updated and accurate. If you are brand new to this, talk with your First Sergeant or the Company XO to get additional guidance or tips.
Schedule the Meeting
Don’t do an on-the-spot initial counseling session. Instead, you should schedule it. That way you both have time to mentally prepare. Plus, you can eliminate distractions and go somewhere quiet.
Have a Set Agenda
Come up with an agenda ahead of time so you know what you must cover and you can complete everything within one hour.
Start an End on Time
Keep the meeting to one hour or less. Start and end on time. Don’t turn it into a three hour marathon.
Put everything in writing. It helps to have the documents prepared BEFORE the meeting, but you don’t have to. You could also type up everything after the meeting and then have them sign it.
Do More Listening Than Talking
Do not monopolize the conversation. As the rater, you should talk about 20 percent of the time and let your Platoon Sergeant talk about 80 percent of the time. Get good at asking questions and listening.
Be Approachable, Yet Professional
Don’t be a jerk. Smile. Be nice and friendly. Watch your body language. Let hem know that your goal is to create a win-win relationship, with the success of the platoon being your top objective.
Do Your Best
Just do your best. It won’t be perfect. You’re a brand new Platoon Leader and you’ve never done this before. That’s okay. You learn by doing. Take it seriously, realize things won’t be perfect, and give it your best shot. Good enough is good enough!
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 Initial Counseling Packet
If you’re in the Army National Guard or Army Reserve and are looking for an example Army Platoon Sergeant Initial Counseling packet, today is your lucky day. I’ve put together a number of resources to help you, the Platoon Leader, successfully conduct your initial counseling with your Platoon Sergeant.
Here’s what is included in this pack:
- 22 minute video covering everything you need to know to have a successful initial counseling session.
- Example filled out Platoon Sergeant NCO Support Form
- Memorandum of Counseling
- Example Platoon Leader OER Support Form
- Example Counseling Form, completed.
- Platoon Sergeant NCO Support Form, completed.
- Recommended Reading list to give to your subordinate.
- Example Interview Questions.
- List of Items needed for your counseling packet.
- Example agenda for the counseling session.
Items are delivered by email, and can be downloaded immediately after payment is received. All products come with a 30 day money back guarantee. These documents are PDF and MS Word documents, along with the video. Secure payment through PayPal. Instant download available 24/7. Satisfaction guaranteed. Purchase it now.
In conclusion, counseling is an important part of your job as an Army leader. You owe it to your Platoon Sergeant to counsel them in writing and share your objectives and expectations. You are responsible for their development, even though they have more military experience and life experience than you do.
If you don’t make the time to conduct your Platoon Sergeant initial counseling, you’re not doing your job. You have no excuses. Even if your Platoon Sergeant Initial Counseling doesn’t go perfectly, that’s okay. Good enough is good enough.
If you make the time to prepare and follow the advice listed above, you will get the job done. You will hit the gates running and start out right. As you gain more experience, you will improve your counseling skills.
Here’s one final thought. Don’t be intimidated that your Platoon Sergeant is older and more experienced than you are. They understand the rank structure. They know you are the supervisor. If anything, they will be impressed that you made the time to counsel them.
What are your thoughts? What tips did I leave out? Leave a comment below to let me know what you think. I look forward to hearing from you.
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26 thoughts on “Platoon Sergeant Initial Counseling”
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.
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.
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.
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.
Unfortunately, very few people ever do an initial counseling in writing.
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.
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.
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.
That’s a great point, Arleen. Most leaders fail to do that!
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.
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.
Great information. Thanks for posting.
You’re welcome, Frankie.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Reviewer should definitely take some time before they just sign off on an evaluation report.
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.
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.