Top 10 Questions to Ask your Army Subordinates and Direct Reports

As a part time or full time commander or for that matter, any leadership position in the United States Army, you will have subordinates and direct reports under you.

When you first step into that leadership position, it is important that you set the pace of the team immediately.

To gain respect, you must give respect.

When you first step in, you will want to meet with each and every one of your direct reports.

By doing so, you will learn more about their outlook and their attitude, and you will gain respect as a leader who is willing to lead from the front.

One of the best ways to gain an understanding of your subordinates and direct reports is to simply ask questions.

The answers the individual provides can give you a look into their Army attitude, their career goals and how much you can count on them.

Always remember that as the leader, we do not know everything.

We need these direct reports and that is why they are in the position they are in; they have special talents, and if we treat them properly, they will teach us some of those skills they are experts in.

I have decided to post the 10 top questions you should ask your subordinates and direct reports when meeting with them.

As time moves forward, you will begin to ask other questions to learn more, but these are questions for the new leader.

Always remember that asking questions is a prime leadership ability to discover where subordinates are at in their job and attitude.

Start with these questions after introducing yourself and putting your direct report at ease (business leaders should also consider using these too):

You will naturally ask about their family; spouse and children, but I am not putting those questions here.

Just use that small talk to warm the conversation.

Some leaders take notes, but I suggest just recording it as the note taking can create an atmosphere in which the direct report will wonder if you are really listening.

Question #1: What did you do before you joined the Army?

This question is somewhat wide-open; you will get a wide variety of answers with their education probably being the prime answer.

You can discover a lot about the soldier with this question.

Do keep in mind that as you receive answers to this, it is okay to ask simple questions to dig in further.

Question #2: Are you planning on staying with the Army for 20+ years?

The answer to this question will give you a good idea how long you will have this individual around.

It also will give you a glimpse into their views of Army life.

If they are planning on staying, there is a good chance they love the Army.

Question #3: What are your career goals?

This follows right along with question #2.

By asking what their career goals are, you will have an understanding as to what education and training the person needs, and you can help them attain that education.

And it just follows that you helping that person means they will help you succeed.

Other posts you should read:

  1. GI Bill FAQ: Top 33 Questions And Answers
  2. 17 Good Questions To Ask Your Boss
  3. Top 10 Questions to Ask Your Army Recruiter Before You Enlist
  4. Top 22 Sample Military Interview Questions
  5. How to Create a Successful Army Unit: 10 Questions Leaders Can Ask Themselves

Question #4: What is your greatest success in life?

Let your direct report that this question does not have to be about just Army successes.

Just let them tell you and you can get a great idea what truly motivates the individual.

Question #5: What is your biggest failure in life?

Following up behind their success, you can tell if the person is willing to be open and honest with you.

It is no fun telling our failures, but true leaders are willing to own their failures and move on.

You will probably know if you have a leader or a follower from the answer to this question.

Question #6: What do you like about your Army job?

This is an absolute question that you should ask your Army subordinates.

It is a great way to discover why they took the job and how you can make it even better.

Question #7: What do you dislike about your Army job?

This goes hand-in-hand with question #6.

You can get a good idea of any changes that could be made to make their job more manageable.

Question #8: How are you helping the United States Army?

While this question seems hard, it will throw your direct report into deep-thinking.

The answer he/she gives you will give you a deep look into the individual and how they feel about the Army and their position in the Army.

Question #9: What can I do to make your job easier?

This is the nearly perfect question to ask immediately after #8.

It lightens the atmosphere and gives your subordinate the knowledge that you are there to serve them and to help them.

While they may not be able to give you a good answer right then, let the person know your door is always open to answer that question.

Question #10: What question did I not ask that you wish I would have asked?

I just love this question!

You may get a variety of answers and you will be letting your direct report know that you do care both about them and about your unit and the U.S. Army as a whole.

Final Thoughts

I know these questions will help you get to know and understand each of your subordinates, and they will also get to know you.

After the person leaves your office, take notes in your leader’s book so that you can always refer back to each person’s answers and you can add more notes as you learn more about the person.

What are your thoughts?

Are there other questions you would add to this list?

The best leaders learn to not just order people around, they ask questions.

Questions are the best method to discover what is really going on in your unit and with the person.

Please leave your questions and comments below.

Thank you.


chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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