Monday, 3 February 2014

Working Relationships - The Senior Levels

That Burning Question

I always hear the same concern from my cadets, that one burning question about their future in their program, especially among the intermediate to senior levels.

Where am I going to end up at the end of my career?

Many cadets have a very focused, singular goal in mind. That is that they want to be the RSM (or equivalent if in another element) of the Unit by the time they age out. And by no means is that a bad goal, it is an excellent goal in fact. I encourage all my students/trainees/cadets to shoot high. However, in this quest to become the best, we often lose sight of the value that we can contribute when we end up in a position other than what we had orginally aimed for.

The reality is that there can be only one RSM/Cox'n/SWO, and when this reality dawns on the cadet, competition becomes fierce. If I could, all my seniors would be the senior cadet of the unit. I truly believe that I work with some of the smartest, most talented, and most purpose-driven young adults in the country. However, being the senior cadet of the unit requires a very special skill set which I will explain later in more detail.

One thing that we must all remember though, is that just because when an individual is selected for the position, it does not mean that you are "worse" than they are, nor does it mean that they are any "better" . It all comes down to fit and how well the individual fits the requirements of the role.

I can not stress enough. Do not devalue yourself. In the following model I propose, I try to define the relationships between the senior positions in the unit.

The Relationships Model

The following model is, in my ideal world, how the senior positions in a medium to large cadet unit should be defined.

Each of the above positions has a defined role, and by extension, that is the critical value that they add to the organization. Note that it is the NCO positions that are in the middle, and for a reason. NCOs are the movers and shakers of the organization, they need to be empowered to make independent decisions on their own, while being given feedback, support, and guidance from officer staff.

The RSM provides the strategic road map for the unit in conjunction with the CO. They should always be answering the questions: Where do we want to be

  • In 1 year, 2 years, 3 years?
  • Beyond my term as a cadet?
  • What do I want the future of this unit to look like?
They are focused on Transformational Leadership, how will they make this unit better and stronger? How can I lead and support my people to achieve the goals that I have set? That is the purpose of this role, and it takes a very unique perspective and personality to be able to do the job well

The CSM should be handling the day-to-day activities of the unit to ensure that they are completed; are the cadets being informed on training? Are section commanders and warrant officers giving adequate guidance and feedback? Are people actually improving? These are topics and concerns that need to not only be answered on a day to day basis, but also asked. Asked to their subordinates, and asked to oneself in a reflective manner.

But what about this TSM character? I will explain the nature of this role in further detail

The TSM - Misused, Misunderstood, Misrepresented

The TSM goes by many names; Training Sergeant Major, Standards Sergeant Major, HQ Sergeant Major, Regulator, etc. But no matter the name, this position is nearly always viewed as a dead-end by cadets and officers alike. Cadets placed in this position typically feel that they are at the end of their rope as far as their career goes, and really this view of what I believe to be the most dynamic position in the cadet unit is justified when officers turn it into a "Make Work" position that adds little value.

As shown in my model above, the TSM is the NCO which is in charge of "Enablement". But what do I mean by this term, which seems quite out of place in a military environment? Enablement is the crafting and provision of the tools which will take you from Point A to Point B; which will achieve the vision of the RSM and Commanding Officer.
It is taking a step back from day to day activities and seeing where the gaps are. Taking this information, feeding it back to the CSM and RSM, and coming up with solutions to implement is where this position adds value

Therefore, it is important to note that treating the TSM position as a place to "dump" a senior NCO is not only a waste of that NCO's talent, but also a waste of the value the position can provide when filled with the right person

The TSM must be considered a Specialist in their field. They must be highly analytical, to be able to see gaps in performance or productivity where others don't. They must be highly creative, to come up with plans, strategies, training material, analytical materials, to solve the problems they find. And thirdly, they need to be excellent business communicators that can not only express the needs of the organization, but can also gain support from their peers and superiors to fulfill these needs.

"The TSM must be a considered a Specialist...They must be highly analytical, creative, and excellent business communicators"

One thing that needs to be stressed too, is that the position of TSM is, and should never be, a "dead-end" position. There should be no automatic pathway to move into the position of RSM from the CSM's position alone. Instead, the RSM's position should be filled by somebody that fits the requirements of the role, no matter their previous position. Experience must also be taken into account, among many other factors, but that is a discussion that needs to be left for another post.

What Now?

We need to shift the way we think about how these top positions interact, and the different types of value that they bring to the table. These jobs are not the same with just varying levels of supervision. They are highly specialized, as they are intended to be, and each drive a very specific value for the unit.

It is only when we realize the true strength that comes from having a defined purpose and scope of duties, that we can really create a successful and strong unit that stands out from the crowd and creates the type of cadets that we truly want.

J. Ng

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