Thursday Thoughts: Developmental Counseling

Let’s be honest: being a disciplined writer is tough. Writer’s block is usually waiting in an L-shaped ambush somewhere, and has converged effects with Procrastination, leading to near collapse of efforts by yours truly. So, “Thursday Thoughts” is an attempt to break free, using disciplined initiative, where I place minimal words on the page in order to convey a few thoughts. Jump-starting the creative process with a frag grenade, so to speak. So. Let’s begin, shall we?

As I drove in to work today, my thoughts were on the basic function of quarterly counseling. No, definitely not the sexiest tool in the Army’s arsenal but possibly one of the most effective. Initial counseling sets the stage for the relationship – it must cover duties and responsibilities, set expectations, and be a dialogue where the counselor learns more about their soldier.

Quarterly counselings are the azimuth check: is the soldier on the right track, do they have everything they need, how’s stuff at home, etc. This is where you get to see if they see their progression the same way you do – which can sometimes be amusing. Most importantly, they’re a dialogue. You’re just talking. There’s no special trick. It’s the basis of knowing your soldiers.

Some people like to do these verbally and non-formally. I’ve found that giving the soldier time actually means almost as much as anything you say. It lets them know that you care enough about their development to carve out time in your busy day. For me, I find that doing my quarterlies in EES in their OER or NCOER support form works really well. One, it’s a system of record that we can both see. Two, I can enter comments in it right then and there. And three, the evaluation is pretty much written by the end of the year. It forces both of us to actually use EES – which is both good, and bad.

Counseling lets the soldier know you give a crap and it allows you to catch issues before they arise. It allows you to address the issue of reenlistment without having a special awkward meeting about it. In sum, it’s a powerful tool. While it won’t fix all your problems, it will definitely help alleviate a few.

Cover photo: U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Danielle Vaccaro, a career counselor for headquarters and headquarters battalion, 4th Infantry Division, explains reenlistment options to U.S. Army Sgt. Eric Glassey, a public affairs operations noncommissioned officer, Kandahar, Afghanistan, Oct. 10, 2013. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Antony S. Lee)

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