Your First Year in Command

In this post, I would like to talk about your first year in command.  Most of us know that the best leaders have a game plan from day one.  They never wing it.  They have purpose and direction.  As a new Company Commander, Battalion Commander or Brigade Commander (or commander at any level) you need a clear purpose and direction. You need to have a crystal clear game-plan on what you will do during your first year in command.   You must have goals and know exactly what you want to accomplish.

The first 90 days are vital.  What you do during those 90 days will ultimately determine your success or failure as a leader.  If you start out right, it will be much easier to develop a winning team of warriors with high morale. And if you start our wrong, it will be difficult to get your unit where you want it to be.

But what are you supposed to do?  What are the most critical tasks?  Here are some things you should do during your first 90 days in command.

  • Publish Your Command Philosophy
  • Counsel Your Subordinates
  • Finish Your Inventory
  • Conduct a Unit Climate Survey
  • Review and Revise Unit SOPs
  • Create a Leader Development Program
  • Set Goals for the Unit

Once you finish your first 90 days in your unit, you should have a good battle rhythm established.  From that point you need to constantly assess your performance.

You should do the following each month during your first year in command:

  • Have a discussion with your rater with your questions and to get their input
  • Pick one major area to focus on and improve in your unit
  • Sit down with a personal mentor (not your rater) and share your problems and concerns
  • Talk with your peer commanders to see if they need help, or to share ideas
  • Read one good leadership book
  • Look at your organization from the outside in
  • Compare your current progress with the goals you set to assess where you are at
  • Set goals for the upcoming month

Additional Tips for Success

I recommend you keep a journal during your first year in command.  Write down the good, the bad and ugly.  Keep notes of everything that happens.  This will be a valuable resource for your second year in command and for future command positions.

Final Thoughts

In summary, your first year in command is fun and challenging.  If you want to be successful, you need to have a game-plan from day one.  You need to develop your vision for the organization and you need to set written goals.  Once you do that, you need to share that vision (and goals) with your subordinate leaders and Soldiers so they know where the unit is headed.  As you make mistakes, learn from them.  Always tweak what you are doing and focus on continuous improvement.

What are your thoughts? Please leave comments and questions below, and good luck.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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5 thoughts on “Your First Year in Command”

  1. I think it is wonderful that you’ve put together that audio disk. Advice from those who have “been there, done that” is invaluable, especially when you are just starting out. It’s sometimes hard to ask for input from others, but it is one of the best ways to develop yourself.

  2. I think the first 90 days are always important for any leader, whether you’re a Company Commander or in a civilian leadership role. People tend to make judgments quite quickly, and if you don’t immediately make it clear what you stand for, it can cause problems later on. I’m not saying you have to “lay down the law”, but just make it clear who you are and what you expect from people.

    1. The first 90 days in any job are vital. You need to set the tone right away and let people know what you stand for. You never get a second chance to make a first impression.

  3. There’s nothing like advice from those who’ve been there. You should always be a sponge for other people’s good ideas. That doesn’t mean you adopt their command or leadership style–that has to be yours, and trying to mimic someone you aren’t isn’t going to work anyway. But you can pick and choose specific things that suit your own philosophy and unit. Just be sure that when you’re the one with the good ideas others want to borrow, you’re generous with them.

    1. When possible we should ask our subordinates for their opinion. This is not a sign of weakness as a leader. It is a sign of strength. I used to get input from time to time from my PLs and NCOs. Sometimes they’d ask me why I am asking them, since I was the Company Commander. My response was always, “you have lots of experience and I’d love to know what you think.” Of course, I still made the ultimate decision, but I got their input and frequently incorporated their ideas into my plan.

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