The Biggest and Most Common Army Officer Mistake

The purpose of this article is to discuss the biggest mistake that most Army Officers make.

It’s probably the biggest factor that impacts unit morale and causes the good Soldiers to leave the Army also.

I don’t want you to make this mistake yourself, so I’m going to share a secret with you that could change your life, and career.

If you implement what I am about to teach you, you will become a better, more effective military leader and officer. Are you ready?

Let’s begin.

I believe the biggest and most common mistake that Army Officers make is spending a large amount of their time dealing with the misfits, the troublemakers and poor performing Soldiers.officer mistake

Rather than investing their time and energy to focus on the people who actually add value to their organization, they focus most of their efforts and time dealing with the Soldiers who reduce the effectiveness of their organization.

So many military leaders spend every waking moment of their day dealing with the problem Soldiers that they forget to invest their time rewarding, leading, recognizing, and developing their best Soldiers.

I’m not sure why they do this, but it’s very common in the military and in the real world. And it has very negative consequences on their organizations.

There’s nothing worse than being a superstar troop and feeling like no one gives a damn about you.

Pardon me.

I’m wrong.

The only thing worse is when you see your leadership constantly spending all their time counseling Private Snuffy, or reprimanding him, or punishing him, AND never do anything to help the small group of Soldiers who actually make the organization successful.

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  3. 5 Mistakes I Made as a Young Junior Enlisted Soldier
  4. Army Officer Discipline Ideas
  5. The Top 5 Mistakes Most Army NCOs Make

What I Recommend

Now don’t get me wrong here.

I’m not saying that leaders shouldn’t handle the problem Soldiers.

They should.

They should do it effectively the first time around, so the problem doesn’t continue to happen.

But they can’t let those three or four troubled Soldiers STEAL the time that leader needs to invest in his or her superstar troops.

If you’ve ever heard of the Pareto Principle (20/80 Rule), it states that 20% of your people produce 80% of your results.

Additionally, 20% of your Soldiers cause 80% of the problems.

This applies to Army organizations, sales forces, businesses, Corporate America and just about every other profession as well.

Not to take any credit away from Mr. Pareto, but I believe it’s more like the 10/90 rule.

I believe that ten percent of the people do 90% of the work; especially in government work.

And 10% of the people cause 90% of the trouble, too.

Just look at your unit and you will know what I am talking about.

You will be able to identify the few superstars and the few misfits.

Everyone else is somewhere in between.

Which Soldiers do most of the work?

Which Soldiers cause most of the problems?

If your unit has 100 Soldiers, about 10 Soldiers would do most of the work.

And about 10 Soldiers would cause most of the problems.

Take a few minutes and assess your unit.

Who are the studs?

Who are the duds?

And what portion of your time do you spend with each group?

The answer might blow your mind.

My Personal Experience

This example definitely proved true in my case.

When I was a Company Commander of a Forward Support Company, I had approximately 127 Soldiers.

Although I had lots of good Soldiers, I only had a few SUPERSTAR Soldiers.

I’d bet that 10-12 Soldiers were directly responsible for helping our unit succeed, and their duty position had nothing to do with it either!

I’m not taking anything away from the people who weren’t part of this group.

The majority of the unit did add some value to the organization.

But, they weren’t part of the small group who went ABOVE AND BEYOND and really made a big difference.

I also had 10-12 Soldiers that caused most of my frustration.

These were the folks who just couldn’t meet the Army Standard.

They were the folks with the attitude, the repeat APFT Failures and folks who just didn’t give a damn.

These Soldiers took a lot of my time!

Each drill weekend, or each duty day, you need to be aware of how you spend your time.

For instance, when was the last time you submitted a good Soldier for an award?

When was the last time you pulled one of your superstars aside and gave her an “atta girl” or “good job?”

When was the last time you wrote a personal thank you note to one your superstars?

Chances are you haven’t done these things because you were so busy fixing problems and dealing with poor performing Soldiers.

If this lesson is making your stomach tingle, that’s good.

I want you to be aware of this common mistake that Army Officers and NCOs make, so you can improve your effectiveness as a leader.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, effective military leaders resolve issues and deal with problem Soldiers immediately, but they spend a MAJORITY of their time teaching, motivating, recognizing and rewarding the small group of Soldiers with the most leadership potential, who contribute the most to the unit.

Make sure that you do the same thing in your unit!

What do you think is the most common Army Officer Mistake?

And what do you recommend officers do to fix the problem?

Just leave a comment to share your thoughts.  I look forward to hearing from you.

5 thoughts on “The Biggest and Most Common Army Officer Mistake”

  1. I spend an inordinate amount of time each drill weekend dealing with the misfits. Some of them are just in over their heads and some are just poor performers. You can never totally eliminate the time these people take out of your day, the best you can do is manage your time so they don't cut into the time you could be spending with more deserving personnel.

    Never forget to reward excellence. It doesn't always have to be a medal or a coin; sometimes you can just pull someone aside and tell them one on one that you appreciate what they are doing.

    1. Never forget to reward excellence. I like that quote. I agree that you have to spend some time with the misfits. Just make sure you don’t spend ALL of your time working with them.

  2. Great article Chuck! I had never really considered this, but it is true. Problem soldiers can become the majority of the focus, taking away from the good soldiers. I believe this all falls back on time management. Great leaders manage their time, they don’t let their time manage them. We do need to deal with the problems, but a much larger percentage of time needs to go to those who are helping the unit. Great advice.

  3. Even the top performers enjoy recognition every now and then. Recognizing great efforts, whether it’s a written note or a quick chat is such a great boost for morale. When I was in a leadership position, I found that focusing my energy on those that performed well actually made a few of the “slackers” pick up their game a bit.

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