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Building a NCO: Personal Battle Focus Review


J. D. Pendry


I cannot trust a man to control others who cannot control himself. – General Robert E. Lee


General Lee’s quote is the essence of good leadership and captures well what we’ve been talking about.  Before you can be a successful leader, NCO or otherwise, you must first be in control of yourself.  If you cannot lead yourself, you cannot lead others.  In this last Personal Battle Focus article in the Building a NCO series, we review what we’ve covered so far so that you can assess where you are in your personal development.


·        Setting the Foundation


·        The first step you took in building your foundation was assessing your level of personal integrity.  We defined personal integrity as being honest with yourself when making a self-assessment and being able to make and keep commitments to yourself.  Personal integrity is the cornerstone of your foundation.


·        Next, you assessed your values.  You have to understand that the personal values you hold drive all the decisions and choices you make.  With that in mind, you have to understand what your personal values are and how well they align with the Army’s core values.  Then, you must accept the Army’s core values as your personal values and internalize them.


·        The final step in setting your foundation is answering for yourself - Why do I want to be a NCO?  The difficult questions to resolve are - Is it for personal gain and privileges or is it because of a real desire to lead, train and care for soldiers?  The honest answer determines the type of leader you’ll be.


·        Self Assessment


·        The purpose of a self-assessment is to help you identify your strengths and weaknesses.  Without this knowledge, it’s not possible to improve or develop as a leader.


·        There are two potential roadblocks to conducting a good self-assessment: Personal integrity and rationalization.  Without the requisite level of personal integrity – the ability to be honest with yourself – a good self-assessment is not possible.  It’s a human tendency to rationalize away a weakness instead of recognizing it as such and developing a plan to deal with it.


·        You must honestly assess your skills, knowledge and attitudes against those required of noncommissioned officers at your skill level.


·        Personal Battle Focus – Mission and Goal


·        A personal vision statement defines your lifelong goal.  It answers the question – Where do I want to be at the end of my trip?  Not having one is equivalent to being on a trip without a roadmap.  A good approach to developing your personal vision statement is thinking about how you’d like to be remembered.


·        A personal mission statement defines your purpose.  Your purpose is to achieve your lifelong goal or personal vision and meet the needs of those who are dependent on you –soldiers, unit, and family.  Your mission defines how you are going to do that.  It also answers more immediate questions such as – Who depends on me and what do they depend on me for?


·        Your Personal Mission Essential Task List


·        For units, mission essential tasks are those tasks they must perform in order to accomplish their mission.  Personally, they are the tasks you must perform to accomplish your personal mission.


·        Tasks that units perform which are critical to the mission of the next higher element are battle tasks.  Personal battle tasks are those tasks you must perform which enable others – your soldiers and your unit – to accomplish their missions.


·        Each task has supporting tasks.  Break all tasks down to their individual supporting tasks.


·        When developing your task list ensure that it meets the criteria of being essential to meeting your mission.


·        Personal Mission Training Plan


·        The mission training plan is where you begin to test your personal integrity.  You do this by scheduling the tasks that you must undertake in order to accomplish your personal mission and work toward your personal vision.


·        Prepare a 12-month plan that schedules all the tasks necessary to achieve your short-term goals, which achieve your mission and direct you toward your vision.  Use backward planning to accomplish all tasks.  Remember unit and soldier commitments go on your plan before your personal ones do.


·        Use the assess, plan, execute, assess cycle.  Assess where you are, make the plan that gets you where you want to be, execute the plan, assess again at a planned assessment point.  Adjust your plan if necessary and execute again.


Whether it’s personal battle focus or some system of your own design that you use to gain control of your progression toward being an effective noncommissioned leader is not important.  What’s important is that you do something to gain control of you.  Because, just as the quote at the beginning of our review implied – before you are capable of leading and controlling others you must first be capable of leading and controlling yourself.  Another important point is that if your system is effective the issues that often fill the minds of aspiring NCOs will take care of themselves.  Things such as preparing for promotion boards, for example, merely become a part of your plan.


Next Defining Leadership.


This is the sixth in a series of seven articles on Self-development. CSM (ret) J. D. Pendry is Author of The Three Meter Zone: Common Sense Leadership for NCOs.


Copyright© 1999, James D. Pendry, All Rights Reserved