It has now been four years since the highlight of my career in the Army ended. The passing of time leaves me with a feeling of irrelevance, but also a feeling of clarity of what is important for a leader in a Sub-Unit to think about. The following is what advice I would give to my younger self as I took over as the Squadron Sergeant Major if I had the chance.
1. Time is short – Your pet hates are not as important as you think they are. Look for opportunities to shape and refine, not wipe clean and reinstall a version of yourself. Going back to basics is still for amateurs.
2. Be clear about your training outcomes in the field – There should not be a minute in the field that is being spent without a purpose. ‘Shake out’ is not a purpose, it's lazy. One of the big differences between amateur and pro golfers is how we practice.
I see amateurs out on the driving range hitting golf balls one after another without thinking. All they're doing is ingraining bad habits....Every shot you hit should matter. Every shot you hit should have a purpose. Ask yourself: 'Why am I here?'. Tom Watson
3. Don’t focus on teaching your junior leaders what to think, focus on developing how they think – Synthesising the right information and turning it into clear orders and action is something that takes time to develop. Set the conditions for this by designing training evolutions that can have multiple outcomes and are not templated.
4. Train the gaps – Friction comes in many forms, but it is always in the space between teams. As discussed in Going Back to Basics is for Amateurs, we really only started to hit our straps once the Troop Leaders were conducting cross talk. Set conditions for cross talk within, and outside of the sub-unit. Read Team of Teams, General Stanley McChrystal.