Friday, September 28, 2012

Personal Development Ideas for Company Commanders

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In this article, I would like to share some personal development ideas for Company Commanders. These are some tips you can use to develop your own leadership skills and become a better Company Commander. Let's get started.

# 1 Read

Without a doubt, reading is the easiest and best way to develop your skills. You can read biographies and non-fiction books about Company Command, military leadership, communication, conflict resolution, team building and tons of other topics. I suggest you read 1-3 books each month throughout your time in command.

# 2 Find a Mentor

All successful people have mentors. You should find a mentor that you can consult with. It can be a former commander, your boss, a trusted peer or even a paid coach. Ideally, you want someone who already served as a commander and someone who has the ability to help you sort through your own leadership challenges.

# 3 Talk with Your Peers

Whenever possible, form friendships with your peer commanders in your battalion. Additionally, try to network with other commanders. You can all share ideas with each other and find solutions to your challenges. You could all meet once day a month over lunch or you could do a monthly conference call via SKYPE.

# 4 Attend Seminars

Seminars are a wonderful way to learn new skills. Depending upon where you live there's a good chance there are lots of seminars in your area. You could choose a seminar about leadership, communication, team building or any other topic that you think you would benefit you. Many of these seminars cost $49 to $200, so they are very affordable.

# 5 Continuing Education

All Commanders have to take the Pre-Command Course before they take the guidon, but there are other classes you can take. The Army and ARNG offer lots of different leadership courses. You can check in ATTRS or sit down with your S3 and see if any courses are available. You can also attend leadership courses at your local community college.

Final Thoughts

I truly believe that all Company Commanders should do whatever they can to hone their skills and become a better leader. You msut make a conscious effort to do it. During your entire time in command, try to do something each month to improve your leadership skills. At a minimum, I would read 1-3 books a month, take one class a year, attend a seminar each year, and find a mentor.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Top Five Gifts to Give Your Company Commander When They Leave

I truly believe it's a good idea to give your Company Commander a gift when they leave their duty assignment. In most cases, the Company Commander has made a huge personal and family sacrifice to lead a unit for 18 to 36 months. Assuming the person did a great job, or even just a good job, their soldiers and subordinate leaders should chip in and get the Company Commander a gift. This is a nice personal touch and in my opinion, is the right thing to do.

For the purpose of this article, I would like to share some gift ideas for Company Commanders leaving command. Of course, these gifts could be used for any service member leaving a duty position, either for ETS, retirement or transfer.

1. A Unit Guidon: Traditionally, a unit commander will receive a unit guidon or replica unit colors when they leave a unit. In most cases, the guidon is framed and comes with a unit coin and a little plaque inside of it. It is a prized possession for most former commanders.

2. A Unique Plaque: You could make a unique plaque with the unit motto, a catchy phrase, a few words of the person's contributions and even a picture. Most plaques, depending upon the design, can be made for $30 to $100. You can get a real nice plaque for about $75.

3. A Picture: You can take a photo of everyone in the section and have everyone sign it. Once you do that, you can get the photo framed and give that as the going away gift.

4. A Gift Card: Money talks. You could have everyone in the office chip in what they can afford and get the person a gift card to one of their favorite places. This is a great idea and is normally very appreciated.

5. Custom Clothing: You could have a custom-made jacket or shirt with the unit motto or logo and give that to your commander as a going away gift.

All of these gift ideas are a wonderful way to recognize your Commander's efforts and contributions to a military unit. If I had to recommend the best option, I would tell you to get your CO a framed guidon. Trust me, that is what they want to get!

If you are a First Sergeant, Company XO, or Platoon Leader, make sure that your Company Commander doesn't leave their duty position without getting some type of gift from the unit. It's the right thing to do!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Top Five Ways to Improve Morale in an Army Company

If you're leading a small unit in the Army either as a Company Commander, First Sergeant or Platoon Leader, I'd like to offer you ten helpful tips to improve the morale in your unit. I truly believe that the morale of the unit is dictated by the leader of the unit. A good leader can make a bad unit good and a bad leader can make a good unit bad. That being said, here are five things you can do to improve morale.

1. Set Unit Goals and Share Them: As the leader of a unit, you should establish written goals for the unit. These goals should be incorporated into your command philosophy and the goals should be posted on the unit bulletin board and shared with soldiers. Your goals help tell your soldiers WHY they are doing what they are doing. This is a great morale booster.

2. Provide Tough, Realistic Training: Most people join the military because they want to jump out of airplanes and blow up stuff. They don't want to sit around the unit or armory during training. As the leader, your job is to schedule and provide tough and realistic training. Make sure you send your unit to the field and do fun and challenging training.

3. Lead by Example at all Times: You need to be a sterling role model for your subordinates. You need to do what you say and say what you do. You must show up on time and look like a soldier. Remember that people are always watching the boss. So put your best foot forward. No one wants to work for a slacker.

4. Punish Bad Behavior and Recognize Good Behavior: Don't just punish poor behavior. Yes, you need to hold everyone to the Army standard, but you should also spend lots of time recognizing good behavior. When soldiers do a good job, tell me them about it. Put them in for awards, give them a unit coin, or even pull them aside and give them an "atta boy."

5. Send Thank You Cards: This is one of the best things you can do to improve morale in your unit. Send people thank you cards every month. Pick 3-5 soldiers per month and write them a quick note. It's a nice personal touch and has a huge impact on morale.

These are five helpful ways to improve morale in your Army unit. Obviously, there are many other great things you can do too. You are only limited to your creativity.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Five Must Read Books for Army Company Commanders

If you are a Company Commander, or will be in the future, I think you should make a conscious decision to improve your leadership skills. One of the best ways to learn new skills is to read books. In the paragraphs below, I would like to share five influential books that would benefit any Company Commander.

1. Small Unit Leadership by Dan Malone - Without a doubt this is my favorite military leadership book of all time. This book explains all the "nitty-gritty" details about how to lead your troops and prepare them for combat. Dan Malone is a retired Army Colonel. His writing style is to the point and no-nonsense. I give this book a 9 of 10.

2. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie - Let's face it; as leaders we are influencers. Of course, our job is to lead troops. But we also have to learn how to develop and cultivate relationships. This book will teach you to think from the other person's perspective and will help you improve your communication skills. This is one of the top 3 "all-time" books that shaped my life.

3. The One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard: This classic by Ken Blanchard is a must read book. In this book, you will learn the three secrets to effective leadership. They are goals, reprimands and praise. This book will teach you how to lead others. You will learn how to manage others so they can become effective on their own.

4. Situational Leadership and The One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard - This book is another gem. You will learn the art of situational leadership and you will discover how to lead different people in different situations. We all know there is no cookie cutter approach to leadership. This book offers practical solutions to your leadership challenges. I give this a 9 of 10 also.

5. First Break all the Rules by Marcus Buckingham - In this book, you will learn what effective leaders and companies have done to improve employee performance. This is a study of 80,000 managers in 400 different companies. You will learn everything you need to know about how to be an effective leader.

Of course, there are many other great books as well. But, I do believe that these are five must read books for any Active Duty or part-time Company Commanders. Once you've read these five books you can branch off and read additional books.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Five Tips to Mentor and Develop Your Subordinate Officers and NCOs

As a military leader, one of your primary responsibilities is to mentor and develop your subordinates. For the purpose of this article, I want to share a few tips on how you can do that. Let's get started.

Tip # 1: Always Lead by Example

You should make it a point to always lead by example. This means that you do what you say and say what you do. You must look and act like a leader. You must be disciplined, confident and poised. You must take pride in what you do and be good at what you do. It also means showing up on time and having a good attitude.

Tip # 2: Listen More than You Speak

We have two ears and one mouth for a reason. The best leaders listen more than they speak. If you are always doing all the talking you won't learn anything. One of the best things you can do is make a conscious decision to listen more. Try to find out what your followers are thinking and feeling.

Tip # 3: Encourage Two Way Conversation

Once again, don't do all the talking. Communication must be two ways. You must encourage your subordinates to tell you what they are thinking. Ask them questions and listen. Find out what they are thinking and feeling. Some of your best ideas will "come to you" if you can learn how to listen and get your subordinates talking.

Tip # 4: Provide Continuous Feedback

Make sure you always provide feedback to your followers. If you are only communicating with your followers when they mess up, then you are setting the wrong example. You must make it a point to provide feedback to your followers. Always put your feedback in writing and do it often. You should give your soldiers an "atta-boy" when they do something right. If you only focus on the negative, you won't get the results that you could.

Tip # 5: Schedule Time to Develop Your Followers

You must schedule time in your calendar to develop your subordinates. Schedule time for question and answer sessions, classes, counseling and professional development. Spend at least a couple hours each week on these tasks. Remember that developing leaders is one of your most important jobs as a leader.

In summary, these are just five simple tips you can follow to mentor and develop your subordinates. Your key to success is to choose to be a good leader and then schedule the time to develop your subordinates.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Seven Must See Movies for Company Commanders

You can learn a lot of helpful military leadership lessons by watching movies. As a military leader, you can study military movies to learn new leadership skills, study tactics, and study military history. It's fun, entertaining, inexpensive, and easy to do. For the purpose of this article, I want to share some of my favorite movies that will benefit aspiring and current Company Commanders. Let's get started.

1. Band of Brothers: This HBO Series is a timeless classic of the men of the 101st Airborne Division during WW2. You will follow Easy Company, led by Dick Winters and other leaders. This series covers tactics, the art of war, military leadership and so much more. This is without a doubt my favorite military movie of all time.

2. Saving Private Ryan: This is another great WW2 movie, starring Tom Hanks, a Company Commander in the Army Rangers. You will learn about leading men, suffering casualties, overcoming obstacles and so much more.

3. Once an Eagle: This is a great book and movie. The movies stars Sam Damon and covers one man's journey through several wars as an enlisted man and officer.

4. The Lost Battalion: This is a documentary of the 308th Infantry Battalion of the 77th Division during WW1. In this movie, the Germans offer the Americans the opportunity to surrender or die. Instead, the Americans choose to attack. This is a great leadership movie.

5. Starship Troopers: This is one of my all time favorite books and movies. Starship Troopers is much more than a science fiction movie. This movie covers "principles" regarding men and soldiers.

6. We Were Soldiers: This is a great movie about the first major battle of the Vietnam War. This movie stars Mel Gibson and shows how a greatly outnumbered battalion wins a battle. There are great tactics and leadership lessons in this movie.

7. The Hurt Locker: While many critics don't enjoy this movie, I do. I think there are many helpful lessons about stress, the emotional effects of war, and the craziness of war. Whether you like the movie yourself or not, there are some very valuable lessons to be learned from it.

In summary, these are my seven favorite military movies for Company Commanders. Whether you have already taken Company Command, or will so in the future, I recommend you sit down and watch these movies. Take notes. Study what you learn and share the lessons with some of your peers and subordinates. The lessons you learn will develop your leadership skills and make you a better Commander.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

CV Writing Tips for Ex Military Personnel

When ex military personnel start to look for civilian work or training, the first thing that's required is an up-to-date CV. In order to help heroes find employment, organisations need to know what each applicant's skills are, as well as where they're based and what their ideal role would entail.

Some employers appear unwilling or resistant to employing ex forces personnel. As wrong as this seems, sometimes the blame can rest on the prospective employee too. Stereotypes and prejudices are wrong, but it is hard to prove an employer's beliefs wrong with a CV that lacks depth and appropriate information.

It is hard for employers to choose an employee based on a CV that is incomplete and does not show the applicant off in their best light.

A good CV is a headline. It tells prospective employers who you are, what you want, what you can do and how you can improve further. It shows them your potential and it also reveals just how much of an asset you could be to their company.

Think about your CV. What is included? It is almost certain to be lacking in some vital information regarding skills or experience that could land you with your dream civilian job.

It's not that the skills aren't there - often it's just that you haven't laid out what you can do in black and white. In CVs there is no boasting. Show yourself off. Here are five tips for army heroes to create the perfect ex military CV.

1. Fill in all the correct contact information so employers can get in touch.
Add in your email address (if you have more than one, use both), home and mobile phone numbers, address and if you have one, put in the address for your personal website or blog. Double check all this information to ensure it is correct.

2. Include a full career history.
If your career has been within the military for the most part, look at your roles from a civilian point of view. Write in the dates you changed within a certain regiment or service and tour dates. Also include a concise paragraph for each change of role detailing what the new position entailed.

3. Include skills you learned.
It may not seem instantly obvious, but skills learned in the military - for example team work, engineering, first aid, weapon safety and maintenance training, organisation and drill - all count as excellent transferable skills. Weapons training may not be inherently useful in a security or administration role, however the discipline learned in order to safely use and maintain such a weapon responsibly is. Similarly, drill might not be a key requirement of civilian employment, but team work, punctuality, organisation, self-confidence, the ability to follow orders and presentability are all skills every employer looks for in new team members.

4. Talk about your goals.
If civilian experience is a bit thin on the ground in your CV, explain your goals and hopes for the future. If you want a full-time role with the security that brings, talk about your dedication and hard-work ethics. If you are looking for a position that offers training, expand on your willingness to adapt and grow as a team member; put yourself forward as a candidate who is not afraid to work hard to achieve his/her goals, is eager to learn and can pick up new skills quickly.

5. Who are you?
One section of CVs that is invariably done badly is the self-statement. There should always be a part of your CV dedicated to you and what your 'extra-curricular' activities are. Remember, employers are looking for a candidate who fits the correct skill sets, but they are also looking for a colleague. Don't go overboard - a couple of sentences should suffice - but try to tie in your hobbies and passions with your employability and skills. For instance, if you love hiking and climbing, this shows you are an active and adventurous person; reading and photography show adaptability and an interest in learning and discovering new things. If you don't have many interests outside of work, you could cite spending time in the garden or with family as your main loves in life which will show dedication and placidity.

All of these tips have been designed by professionals to help soldiers make the most of the skills they already have to make them work for them in the civilian world.