As a Platoon Sergeant, you have a responsibility to conduct your initial counseling with your Squad Leaders. This is a formal counseling session that should be done one-on-one and in writing.
In your initial counseling you will tell your Squad Leader what you expect of them. This includes their job description, implied tasks, appointed duties, additional duties, performance expectations, professional conduct.
Basically, the purpose of your initial counseling is to prepare your Squad Leader for success in their new job. You owe it to them to make sure they understand what they are responsible for, that they know what to expect from you, and what resources are available to them.
In my experience in the Army, I’ve found that this initial counseling seldom gets done FORMALLY. Yes, there might be a brief conversation between the Platoon Sergeant and the Squad Leader to cover performance expectations, but that’s about it. It’s rarely done in writing.
In my opinion, this is a shame. Once again, one of our biggest responsibilities as military leaders is to mentor and develop our subordinates for positions of increased responsibility. The best way to do that is through effective formal counseling.
What I’d like to do for the rest of this post is just share a few tips for Platoon Sergeants on how to conduct the initial counseling with their Squad Leaders.
# 1 Set a date and time – The first step is to set a date and time. Ideally, you want to block off 60 minutes where the two of you can meet in private without distractions. If possible, try to set this date and time within the first 30 days your Squad Leader is in the job. Give your Squad Leader at least a few days notice so they can also prepare.
# 2 Prepare – It’s true, failing to plan is planning to fail. What you want to do is collect your Squad Leader’s information such as NCOER’s, schools, awards and other pertinent information ahead of time, so you can review it and learn more about them. Ideally, you want to create a counseling packet for your NCO. You should also make an agenda for the counseling session so you can stay on point.
# 3 Keep the meeting to 60 minutes or less – When you do the meeting, don’t make it a marathon. 45 minutes is ideal and 60 minutes should be your max. Anything more than that will probably be ineffective. Also, make sure you start and end on time.
# 4 Spend the first 5-10 minutes getting to know each other – During your initial counseling with your Squad Leader, spend the first 5-10 minutes getting to know each other. Ask them some questions and find out what you can about them. Learn their strengths, weaknesses, goals, leadership style, etc. Once you’ve done that you can begin the counseling.
# 5 Spend the next 30 minutes going over expectations – Once you finish the small talk and get to know each other a little bit, you want to review your personal and professional expectations for your Squad Leader. Explain to them what their job is. Tell them what you expect of them both on and off duty. Talk about your own leadership style and how you like to communicate. Educate them about the unit. Let them know what their biggest responsibilities are.
# 6 Spend the last 5-15 minutes reviewing and answering questions – Once you’ve finished explaining your expectations, you want to wrap everything up. Go over the highlights and take the time to answer any questions they might have. Close the session on a positive note. tell them you look forward to working with them.
This is a basic six-step process I recommend. It’s simple and it works!
If you’ve ever done a formal initial counseling with one of your Squad Leaders, I would love to hear from you. Please share your thoughts, tips and suggestions about what worked well and what you recommend. Just leave a comment below to share your thoughts.
Sample Squad Leader Initial Counseling Packet
On a side note, if you are looking for a one stop place where you can get immediate access to a sample Squad Leader Initial Counseling packet, I can help. For just $20, you can purchase a sample initial counseling packet for Squad Leaders that I created that will serve as a 95% solution to your initial counseling needs. All you have to do is modify the duty description to your type of unit, enter your Soldier’s pertinent information, use the resources I provide, and you will be good to go.
This packet can save you 3-5 HOURS of time in preparation. I sell it for just $20. Once your payment is made via PayPal, you will be emailed the information immediately. Keep in mind this packet is for Platoon Sergeants who need to counsel their Squad Leaders. Click the button below to buy it now, or check out this page to see what is included in it.