Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Army Professional – The Evaluator?


CW2 Barry D. Long
Human Resources, Systems Automation, Intel Officer (S1/S2)
J9 - Soldier and Family Services Directorate

The Chief of Staff of the Army calls us professionals. This profession at arms is, to us, merely what we do, but we are more than warriors, and certainly more than what we seem to be.  The average Soldier today is more educated, better trained, and more physically fit than any civilian in a similar field.  

The best way to maintain that advantage is to mentor, evaluate, train, educate, and lead our troops in a more professional manner than our civilian “professional” counterparts.  As leaders, telling our Soldiers to take advantage of our benefits and educational assistance, giving them “off-the-shelf” training, and arranging unit PT (Physical Training) programs, does not do justice to our Soldiers, nor does it exemplify our ideals.

Ask yourself a few questions as a leader:
1. Do I truly know the Army Values?  What do they mean?  Do I live by them daily?  Can my Soldiers and leaders see my true self?  Do I set a good example?
2. Do I know the Soldier’s Creed?  Does it mean anything to me?  Am I the “Soldier” mentioned in the creed?
3. Is my career most important, or is my career a product of the Soldiers and leaders around me?
4. Do my Soldiers truly profit from my leadership?  Who does?  What do they see in me?
5. Do I tell my bosses and my subordinates what I truly think?  Is my opinion valuable?
6. Am I growing in the service?  Am I worthy of all of those who have gone before?
If you wonder about your answers to these questions, or if your answers are exemplified in shades of deep grey, you can bet that your leaders (bosses) and your Soldiers (subordinates) see it, too.

Changing your direction is difficult and cannot be fully addressed here, but surely, you can change your subordinates’, and that may make all the difference. 

The Army Evaluation (whether NCOER or OER) is not designed to be a single, two-sided sheet of paper that is written at the end of a term, quickly defines a timeframe, and does very little. The evaluation is intended to be a process of formation and growth for Soldiers  As a leader only you can change, improve and grow your Soldiers.  Your job is to make them into your replacements, and make them viable citizens with a high degree of spiritual, moral, educational, and experiential value.

Here is how to accomplish this process:
1. Sit down with your supervisor and determine their objectives for you and your organization write them down and review them with your supervisor; also get a copy of your supervisor’s Support Form (DA Form 67-8-1 or DA Form 2166-8-1).

2. Review your priorities.  In Microsoft Excel make a spreadsheet. This is your 20-year career plan. A young Captain once told me to do this, reviewed it with me, and mentored me to get it going. The best ways to accomplish success is using a plan. Once you have a plan, you can help your Soldiers with a plan, and this process improves the entire organization.  It is, as the youth of today exclaim, “A no-brainer!”

3. Take ten to twenty minutes with each of your Soldiers, and get a personality worksheet started.  Get to know: names, children, parents, history, family, contact information, life dreams, etc.  This interaction makes you less of a manager or supervisor, and more of a leader.  Write some of their goals and plans on a Developmental Counseling Checklist (DA Form 4856) and have them sign it.  While you are at it, explain the twenty year plan and make an appointment (yes, make a real meeting date) to help the Soldier set-up a career plan and help them with their Support Form.

4. Based on the support form you received from your boss and the input from your career plan, design your support form, remember your mentors and the AR/DA PAM (AR 623-3/DA PAM 623-3) are available to answer your support form questions.  Use a bullet format, and a continuation page, if necessary.  Set-up a meeting to discuss your career plan, and review your support form with your boss.

5. At the meeting date for each Soldier (this does not have to be at drill, and can be done by phone if the Soldier has the technology available to perform support form and Microsoft Excel work), review your support form/career plan with the Soldier, and begin theirs.

6. Keep a binder, or digital file of these documents and update them as needed.  This is your “Leader Book.”

7. Make a monthly phone call to each and every subordinate. During the call:
a. Ask about family, review concerns from past conversations, offer help, and discuss changes.
b. Review progress on the plan.  Review their support form and take notes. Discuss last drill, and anything completed, successes, etc.
c. Write a short Counseling Statement concerning your conversation, and prepare it for next drill.
d. Ensure your Soldier understands your expectations for next drill, the drill dates and times, and the plan.
e. Make sure you have notes concerning the happenings in your Soldier’s life, and their current events.
8. At drill:
a. Get the counseling statements for each Soldier (good, bad, or otherwise) reviewed and signed.  Discuss them with your Soldier.
b. Tell your Soldier you will call them during the month, address any concerns from your notes, and take notes.
9. Set up a quarterly counseling appointment with each Soldier you supervise.  This can be done by phone, but should be in person, where possible.  During this appointment:
a. Review your notes.
b. Review all of your counselings.
c. Review the Soldier’s support form and update plans/changes.
d. Review the 20-year plan and make updates.
e. Conclude with an agreement for success, and reinforce your commitment to: The Army Values, The Soldier’s Creed, and the Soldier’s plan for their future.
10. If the Soldier is an Officer, NCO or an E-4, you now have all of the tools necessary to write an OER, NCOER or Word Picture. I suggest you do a Word Picture on E-3s and below as well, in order to prepare them for the NCOER process.

You are now becoming a leader/evaluator in earnest.  This process forges the professional in you, demonstrates the path for professional leadership evaluation to your superiors, and builds a stronger and more valuable team below you, who will one day replace you.  Your objective is, and always will be, to make your Soldiers better than you, the consummate professional and the Soldier.

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