A Way To Start Ideas Flowing Is To Army Simple Steps to Improve Your Command Climate

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Simple Steps to Improve Your Command Climate

Commander, you have a problem. You’re getting subtle or overt signals that your productivity, cohesion, and morale are either declining or non-existent. The bottom line is that your command is suffering and you need to fix your command environment fast! While changing your climate isn’t necessarily a quick fix with overnight results, there are definite steps you can take to reverse negative trends and gain momentum. Below are concrete steps you can take immediately to get you started on the road to increased organizational effectiveness.

Start with the Command Climate Survey

Your first step is to immediately conduct a command climate survey in accordance with Army Command Policy (AR 600-20). Surveys are a fantastic tool that gives you as a commander the ability to see your organization from the inside out because it gets its data directly from the source…your Soldiers! Initially, work with your Equal Opportunity Representative (EOR) to develop specific questions about what you think are the problem areas in your unit. These “free response” questions are going to give you great clues as to where your problems lie because they’re designed to get your soldiers to anonymously tell you what they’re thinking, good, bad, or indifferent. The free response content of the survey is the most important aspect of the survey for you as a commander. Spend time and effort developing good questions for that segment and you’ll gain tremendous insight into your organization’s problems.

Analyze results and develop plans

Your survey has been completed and the results have been returned. What is your next step? First, analyze the survey results with your EOR. He is specially trained to read and understand its results. (Any “red flag” issues should be very obvious, ie sexual harassment, gender/racial/religious discrimination, etc., and need to be corrected immediately!) You may have red flag issues, if not, that you should be able to unravel. A sample of your soldiers’ “free response” comments. Try to distinguish “branch problems” from “root problems”. A branch problem could be that your soldiers express dissatisfaction with their current position. The root issue could be a “toxic leader” who is making their life hell! Use your subject matter experts, and don’t hesitate to visit your XO or S3 for some experienced perspective if you’re having trouble identifying the root of the problem.

Conduct a sensing session

OK, you’ve analyzed the results and identified what you think is the root problem. Your next (and probably most productive) course of action is to conduct a sensing session with your subordinates. There are many different ways to conduct a sensing session, so I’ll save that topic for a later discussion, but BLUF recommends separating your subordinates into group groups (Junior Soldiers, NCOs, and Officers). By conducting sensing sessions with your solders, you meet regulatory requirements for reporting survey results. Most importantly, you show your subordinates that you care about them and their (valid or invalid) concerns and are at least willing to listen to them. After all, AR 600-20 states, “If leaders are aware of their Soldiers’ needs and concern for their well-being and show genuine concern, these leaders create a positive command environment.” Pretty straightforward, right? So what is your last and most important step in the process?

Action!

To recap, you sat down with your Soldiers and briefed them on the results of the survey and confirmed your assessment of the underlying problems in your unit. Now that’s the really hard part. Action! Counsel and discipline toxic leaders, offending soldiers, remove offensive material, or whatever else it takes to correct your root problem(s). Your soldiers will look to you to take action once their grievances are identified, so create a plan with your green tab leaders (and maybe your boss) and then execute it!

It works!

Ideally, with this article I’ve provided you with a starting point for improving your command climate. I can tell you from my own experience that if you follow the above steps you will see results. My company environment was suffering tremendously and I couldn’t quite put my finger on why. I implemented the steps outlined above and through the process identified a toxic leader who needed to go. I worked with my boss to develop the plan and then execute it. Let me tell you, the difference between my unit was night and day. I certainly won’t claim that my unit was perfect after that because I still have issues to fix in my organization (a few more articles to come) but the momentum of positive change after I took action was obvious!

Next steps

Changing your command environment is a multifaceted and difficult problem, so I encourage you to explore more resources on this topic (to include your own subject matter experts and chain of command) and check back often for more real-world solutions to your command problems.

This article is my own opinion and does not constitute an endorsement, opinion, or official position of the Department of Defense or the US Army.

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