Initial Counseling

MEMORANDUM FOR RECORD

SUBJECT: Initial Counseling/Philosophy

The purpose of this counseling is to provide you with a basic understanding about my philosophy of leadership, my standards, and my expectations for you as platoon sergeant. The platoon sergeant’s position may be one of the most complicated jobs in the army. You have direct, personal contact with more soldiers than anyone else in the army, so you have more fires to put out, more people to motivate, and more people train. I’ve seen taffy being pulled in a candy shop that could take a lesson or two from a platoon sergeant. But I have complete confidence in your ability to adapt and overcome, so long as we work together and keep our objectives in sight.

Leadership.

Here’s my best definition for leadership: Initiative plus planning. Initiative means you picture what needs to be done, and then decide that you are the one to make it happen. Planning involves thinking far enough ahead that issues can be addressed before they become emergencies. A good leader will get the maximum out of his team with the minimum amount of effort. Initiative without planning is poor leadership because it maximizes the results by maximizing the effort. Over time, that wears people out. Planning without initiative isn’t leadership at all. It’s procrastination. It minimizes effort and minimizes results.

Every leader mixes these two qualities in different ways, and as closely as we have to work together, those differences are going to cause tension. I trust you, and I have absolute faith in your ability to carry this platoon to success. But as platoon leader, I carry full responsibility for everything that happens in my platoon. The commander will not accept, “My platoon sergeant…” as an excuse. So I must be informed about everything that happens in my platoon. I will sometimes want you to take a different course of action than you think is best. When that happens, I expect you to argue with me, and argue hard. If there is merit in what you have to say, I will probably bend. But the final decision must rest with me.

Taking Care of Soldiers.

In the Army, the mission is always the highest priority. But in a high OPTEMPO environment, we have to keep the next mission in mind, and the mission after that. One of the things that make me proud of my platoon is our ability to push longer and harder than anybody else in order to make the mission happen. But there’s a balance between pushing as hard as possible to complete the mission at hand, and pushing hard enough to hurt our readiness for the next mission. We have to take special care to take care of soldiers. I consider this a planning issue.

  • Delegation. As the OPTEMPO goes up and the number present goes down, the need for delegation gets stronger, even though it gets harder to do. It’s the nature of the battlefield to give more responsibility to younger soldiers. The only other option is to do all the work yourself, and that is unacceptable. We must coordinate and divide the labor.
  • Recognition. I’m a firm believer that the carrot works better than the stick. Sometimes corrective action is necessary, but most people, most of the time, already want to perform well. It’s part of a platoon sergeant’s job to help Soldiers recognize what excellence looks like, and to encourage excellence by pointing it out privately and publicly.
  • Safety. Allowing an unsafe act is fundamental to what it means to not take care of soldiers. Accidents can happen, but violations of safety standards must not be tolerated. Unsafe acts usually occur when soldier’s sense of urgency extends to the point that they use it to justify lowering standards in order to achieve a goal. Our challenge is to help Soldiers see that lowering the standard is not placing the mission first.

Conclusion.

The Army has standards for everything. I have only one standard that I apply to everything: Do what’s right. “There is one thing… which a [person] can always do, if he chooses, and that is, his duty; not by maneuvering and finessing, but by vigor and resolution.” I will always put every effort I can into making sure I am doing the right thing. Or you can put it in the negative: the one thing I can’t stand is to be wrong. And if I find out that I am wrong, I will do everything in my power to fix it. I will actively seek out correction, and I will take every comment seriously. I expect you to do the same.

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