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Company Command Series Part IV: Unit Training Management Continued


This blog post is a continuation of the multi-part Company Command Series covering key aspects of my command experience that I feel other commanders (current and future) can benefit from. This post discusses Unit Training Management focused on company-level planning and training week management.

FM 7-0 states that companies must maintain training calendars and plan five months in advance. I personally preferred to plan six to seven months out to secure training area land before other units on the installation. So how do you determine what to plan five to seven months in advance? Every unit has their means of training planning, I acknowledge that. I leveraged company-level quarterly planning conferences (QPC). Continue reading → Company Command Series Part IV: Unit Training Management Continued

Company Command Series Part III: Unit Training Management


This blog post is a continuation of the multi-part Company Command Series covering key aspects of my command experience that I feel other commanders (current and future) can benefit from. This post discusses Unit Training Management focused on battle rhythms.

Unit Training Management (UTM) is the systematic foundation of any military tactical-level unit. The quality of your UTM can make or break your command time. Maximizing your UTM systems is critical to your company’s overall effectiveness and efficiency. It also prevents wasting your leaders’ time with inefficient meetings (or too many meetings). Ultimately, it establishes predictability for your subordinates.

To build an effective UTM, start with a battle rhythm. Brainstorm with your leaders (I recommend 1SG, Operations Sergeant, XO, and PLT leadership teams) and identify what topics need to be reviewed in a meeting and how often. With those topics, put topic to calendar and assign a date-time group that works best for your company and is nested within battalion and brigade schedules. Minimize the number of meetings. Be critical in determining if certain topics actually require meeting. If so, look to group similar topics having minimal organizational impact in one meeting. I grouped my company supply meeting with our maintenance meeting; the bi-weekly supply meeting would immediately follow the company maintenance meeting on selected weeks to prevent an additional time my Platoon Leaders and XO needed to meet me in the conference room. Continue reading → Company Command Series Part III: Unit Training Management

Company Command Series Part II: Preparing for Command


This blog post is a continuation of the multi-part Company Command Series covering key aspects of my command experience that I feel other commanders (current and future) can benefit from. This post discusses a method to successfully prepare for command and how to map out your first 90 days.

Successfully preparing for command does not start with your change of command inventories. I argue it must start months before that with deliberate research, reflection, and goal development. Most military officer timelines include a season on brigade or battalion staff before command; that is the ideal time to initiate your preparation. Starting to think about and prepare for command during your change of command inventories is too late; by then, you will be quickly overwhelmed with property accountability, learning the company’s systems, meeting your troops, and the daily demands of a commander. I actually started my command preparation at the career course with specific research. Then, two months from starting my inventories, I began writing my command philosophy and policy memos. Based on my experience and on the ideas from other respected leaders prior to my command, I provide some recommendations on how to prepare for command to make your command assumption deliberate (not reactionary) and well-controlled.

Continue reading → Company Command Series Part II: Preparing for Command

Company Command Series Part I: Introduction


This blog post is the beginning of the multi-part Company Command Series covering key aspects of my command experience that I feel other commanders (current and future) can benefit from. This post introduces the blog series and what I hope to achieve through it.

Company command was the greatest professional honor of my career thus far. That season of my life was the most professionally fun and rewarding, as well as demanding and frustrating. Every ambitious Captain about to assume command is overflowing with enthusiasm, passion, and great ideas for what he or she wants to accomplish after taking the guidon. At the end though, no matter how successful your command was, most generally leave command burnt out and crawling on all fours; after 18 months, I certainly was.

Prior to taking command, I watched to a YouTube vlog by COL Ross Coffman where he challenged commanders to daily reflect on the question: “did I happen to command today, or did command happen to me?” With every conceivable responsibility in the military seemingly identified as a commander’s program, it can often feel like forcing 50 pounds of “stuff” into a 10-pound capacity bag. If you’re not deliberate in taking charge of your command, it will quickly overpower you.

Continue reading → Company Command Series Part I: Introduction

“Big Rocks” Leadership


The “Big Rocks Theory” is a popular story emphasizing the importance of prioritizing what’s in your life. The story is provided below if you are not familiar with it.

A philosophy professor stood before his class and had some items in front of him. When class began, wordlessly he picked up a large empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with rocks right to the top, rocks about 2″ diameter. He then asked the students if the jar was full? They agreed that it was. So the professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them in to the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles, of course, rolled into the open areas between the rocks. The students laughed. He asked his students again if the jar was full? They agreed that yes, it was. The professor then picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. “Now,” said the professor, “I want you to recognize that this is your life. The rocks are the important things – your family, your partner, your health, your children – anything that is so important to you that if it were lost, you would be nearly destroyed. The pebbles are the other things in life that matter, but on a smaller scale. The pebbles represent things like your job, your house, your car. The sand is everything else. The small stuff. If you put the sand or the pebbles into the jar first, there is no room for the rocks. The same goes for your life. If you spend all your energy and time on the small stuff, material things, you will never have room for the things that are truly most important. “Take care of the rocks first – the things that really matter.”

This philosophy is significant for your life and family, but it is also highly applicable as a military leader. Military leaders are constantly overwhelmed with daily “emergencies” and distractions. Your time as a leader is finite, represented by the jar. How do you determine what to put in it and when? Continue reading → “Big Rocks” Leadership

Counseling the 33%: An Approach to One-on-One Development


By Jeffrey Meinders

All of our subordinates fall into one of three categories: top-third, middle-third, and bottom-third; few people will dispute that simple math.  The problem exists when the middle-third think they are in the top group, and the bottom thinks they are in the middle, creating 66% of your subordinates who believe they are among the best.  This confusion is understandable; we encode our current evaluations with very specific language which is hard for junior officers to decipher. This confusion leads to almost half of your best receiving OERs they think are unfair and unwarranted.  Today’s digital age compounds the problem; where less and less face-to-face interaction occurs.  This may complicate closed door conversations for leaders and their subordinates.

I received my first real counseling after nine years of military service.  The counseling was thorough and straightforward; I since modeled all my future counseling and this article after it.  It is disappointing our profession struggles with this basic of leader development.  My battalion commander once told me “I don’t need to counsel you, we talk every day.” They do this because it is peaceful, they don’t want to upset you. Most leaders prefer the easier development, like group book reviews with junior officers, or brown bag lunches with the commander. Not only do we fail at individual counseling, we also fib on the front of our evaluations with made up counseling dates.

To give junior officers a recipe for success, I discuss the four types of counseling every Soldier deserves: initial, quarterly, performance, and evaluation.  This method will save you time and help you separate the ‘wheat from the chaff.’  I also acknowledge while this is method simple, it is not easy.  There are ten other things every day that will take time away from your plan, but I argue there are none more important than one-on-one time with your rated subordinates. Continue reading → Counseling the 33%: An Approach to One-on-One Development

Military Leadership Is Really About Trust


By Joseph Callejas

Many are familiar with the saying, “if you want something done right, do it yourself.” To be honest, this idea is what I leaned on as a Lieutenant and platoon leader. Continuing with my honesty, I now realize I was a rather immature Lieutenant and platoon leader. In reflecting on why I leveraged this ineffective leadership method, I learned that I wanted to guarantee mission success…I wanted to get results. I was obsessed with becoming the “go-to guy” in my unit; I was a hard-working officer who was committed to achieving the mission. After some necessary maturing and through a caring boss who took the time to coach and mentor me through some of my decisions, I’ve come to understand the problem: I was trying to do everything myself. It is a common trap that many leaders at every level experience. When leaders neglect to trust our subordinates and prevent them from doing their jobs, the organization suffers. Continue reading → Military Leadership Is Really About Trust

Leader Development Part III: Tactical Decision Exercises


In the last post, I expanded on how I materialized my leader development program as a company commander. Now, I am outlining one of those program methods, the Tactical Decision Exercise (TDE). These exercises became a favorite among the officers and NCOs in my company.

Tactical-level units today face overwhelming demands, many of which distract them from their primary mission and training focus. It is not always feasible to achieve every organizational goal during robust field training exercises that require extensive resources and time. The TDE is a low-resource, low-threat event aimed to challenge your subordinate leaders in tactical scenarios; despite the exercise’s simple design, they can achieve significant results for your organization. You can conduct these exercises over a map or a terrain model and they take little effort to prepare. TDE success is based on a well-defined purpose and an effective implementation method, or exercise structure. Continue reading → Leader Development Part III: Tactical Decision Exercises

Leader Development Part II: Materialize Your Educational Program


The last post introduced the leader development concept and why it is important to be deliberate in it with your subordinates. Knowing its importance is the first step, but now what? How do you materialize your leader development program in your organization?

No Army manual or official publication, to include ADRP 6-22, tells you how to structure your specific program. Common program methods include a professional reading curriculum, studying history, and celebrating unit tradition. A specific plan that works for Commander A may not work for Commander B. Develop a program that fits your experience and personality. Leverage methods that work for your personal leadership style, organization’s structure, and training calendar.

There are numerous quality resources written by leaders that share their leader development experiences. Some examples include the Maneuver Self Study website that provides numerous options, and From the Green Notebook outlining several approaches and ideas in a leader development blog series. Below are the leader development program components from my company command that I utilized. All components may not work for you, but I share them to add options to select from for your own program. Continue reading → Leader Development Part II: Materialize Your Educational Program

Leader Development Part I: Where to Start


During my company command, my brigade commander routinely emphasized that a leader’s legacy is the time they invest in their subordinates’ development and future. There is a considerable amount of professional content beyond my simple blog that focus on leader development. Is leader development that important? ADRP 6-22 states that, “Army leader development creates competent and confident leaders capable of leading trained and ready units. The concept acknowledges an important interaction that trains Soldiers now and develops leaders for the future.” Developing your subordinate leaders increases their professional maturity, capacity, and understanding. That ultimately improves your entire organization’s capabilities, but more importantly, prepares your leaders to be successful in future positions of increased responsibility.  By investing time and effort in developing your subordinates and team, you directly help in making the Army better.

If not familiar with the Army’s leader development concept, they structure it into three domains: institutional, operational, and self-development. Institutional domain development occurs at key military courses such as Basic Officer Leadership Course (BOLC) and Captains Career Course (CCC) for officers, and Advanced or Senior Leaders Course (ALC, SLC) for NCOs. Self-development includes the methods leaders personally pursue to learn and mature; they are not part of any formal program imposed on them. This often includes a personal reading program; reading this blog can even contribute to your self-development program. Leaders don’t direct self-development for their subordinates, but have a responsibility to emphasize to their subordinates why it is important, and encourage them to structure their own self-development program (addressed in a future post). Finally, the operational domain encompasses the learning that leaders achieve in their assigned operational units; it is what I address in this blog series. Continue reading → Leader Development Part I: Where to Start