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Retraining the Experienced and Ineffective

Brasidas

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I am trying to advantageously employ a highly experienced, somewhat skilled, somewhat less than intelligent soldier. Today was an especially frustrating day.

Short, simple instructions to complete one task and move on to the next. Not complicated, not said fast, and confirmation requested and received that the instructions were clearly understood. 90 seconds later, as I was about to start my 1430 lunch, he comes in and asks what he's supposed to do next.

12 year Cpl, maximum supervision required. No leadership ability, ok. Less than smart, ok. Motivated and wanting to help, great! The inability to stfu and listen, the inability to accept feedback, the inability to process the most basic of tasks...

Cpl, our intent is to test A, to confirm that we're good to go with the kit we already have. You are going to use that A, right there, like this. Understood?

Fifteen minutes later, seen bringing another A from stores back to starting location... Cpl, why are you bringing another A over here? "Oh, well I wasn't sure that that one would work, so I signed this one out to make sure."

I have many painful experiences with this guy.

He means well. He's absorbed some things by osmosis. I accept that he has limitations. But I do not accept that he can not learn the following:

If you don't understand, say so. If you think you might not understand, say so.

Listen when I say "my intent is..."

When I say why the end result is not what I wanted, it is not an invitation for you to babble about what you thought while I'm talking. It is not me saying you're wrong! It is me explaining to you what was intended and what actions to take in the future. Its a learning experience.

I have been polite. I have been forceful. I have taken a step back and tried to explain all this stuff in the bigger picture and why I do what I do.

I'm fine with a career corporal who's never going to be an effective leader. But he's not an effective follower, and I want to help him become more effective within his limitations.

I've dealt with lazy, I've dealt with mentally ill, folks with a perpetual personal crisis, and I've dealt with snakes. I'm not new to being a boss. This guy, I'd take any thoughts on how to be more effective. I want to give him useful PD.
 

AbdullahD

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Well you sure have given me hope to succeeding in the armed forces ;)

Now all joking aside, you have defined his limitations, thats well and good. But, have you taken time to find his skills?

Now im a pure civilian, so i have nada for knowledge of what corporals can and can not do. Now having said that, i studied psych for a year and grew up with a brother that has aspbergers (high functioning autism) and adhd.

Some things he just could not do, period and he still cant. But other things, he was exceptional at, such as math or computers. If you can figure out how this guy's mind work, you can help him and give him jobs he excels at.

that is if you want to invest that much.
 

Old Sweat

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In honour of national facetious week, have you thought of getting him commissioned?

p.s. Check my profile. That's what they did to me.
 

RocketRichard

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Old Sweat said:
In honour of national facetious week, have you thought of getting him commissioned?

p.s. Check my profile. That's what they did to me.

Ouch.
 

PPCLI Guy

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Old Sweat said:
In honour of national facetious week, have you thought of getting him commissioned?

p.s. Check my profile. That's what they did to me.

Me too!
 

Teager

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Maybe let him have a chance to see things your way. Put him in charge of a basic task but he is also in charge of 2 or 3 Pte's. Tell him you have a meeting and you cannot be bothered to answer any question during the next hour or 2. He will be forced to relay instructions to the Pte's and he will have to answer there questions. He will also be responsible for ensuring they help complete the task properly in the time frame you give. He may be fine with being a career Cpl but there will come a point when he has to self direct and think for himself. This may force him to do that.

If he screws it up the task at least see if he applied any sort of leadership or tried to give direction without your help. Could be it requires small stepping stones.
 

Colin Parkinson

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I had one, loyal as a dog, as long as you gave him tasks that he could do, they would be done and he would be there till midnight if you were working.
 

mariomike

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Colin P said:
I had one, loyal as a dog, as long as you gave him tasks that he could do, they would be done and he would be there till midnight if you were working.

They say, "An ounce of loyalty is worth a pound of cleverness."

With 12 years of service, it also reminds me of the old saying, "You can't teach an old dog new tricks."
 

daftandbarmy

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If it's any consolation, he may turn out like this:

"In the First World War, with a battalion of the
Royal Warwickshire Regiment I took part in an assault on an enemy
position. We advanced across the open, one long line behind the
other, suffering heavily as we plodded forward. As we neared the
enemy wire, salvos of shrapnel burst in our faces, blasting great
gaps in our ranks. Men bowed their heads under this iron hail; some
turned back; the leading line faltered. In one moment we should
have broken. As we wavered a private soldier beside me, a stolid
man, whom one would have thought untouched by imagination,
ran forward. In a voice of brass he roared, ‘Heads up the Warwicks!
Show the blighters your cap badges!’ Above the din, half a
dozen men each side heard him. Their heads came up… they had
remembered their regiment. That one little group plunged forward
again. The movement spread, and, in a moment the whole line
surged through the broken wire and over the enemy parapet."

Field Marshal Slim recalling his service in First World War.

http://www.army.mod.uk/documents/general/rmas_ADR002383-developingLeaders.pdf
 

Old Sweat

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daftandbarmy said:
If it's any consolation, he may turn out like this:

"In the First World War, with a battalion of the
Royal Warwickshire Regiment I took part in an assault on an enemy
position. We advanced across the open, one long line behind the
other, suffering heavily as we plodded forward. As we neared the
enemy wire, salvos of shrapnel burst in our faces, blasting great
gaps in our ranks. Men bowed their heads under this iron hail; some
turned back; the leading line faltered. In one moment we should
have broken. As we wavered a private soldier beside me, a stolid
man, whom one would have thought untouched by imagination,
ran forward. In a voice of brass he roared, ‘Heads up the Warwicks!
Show the blighters your cap badges!’ Above the din, half a
dozen men each side heard him. Their heads came up… they had
remembered their regiment. That one little group plunged forward
again. The movement spread, and, in a moment the whole line
surged through the broken wire and over the enemy parapet."

Field Marshal Slim recalling his service in First World War.

http://www.army.mod.uk/documents/general/rmas_ADR002383-developingLeaders.pdf

Indeed, and I can't remember his name, but after the war Slim wrote that he witnessed a crime being committed by the above individual and lied to the police by saying he could not identify the perpetrator. Betcha Edward will remember the name, which is on the tip of my tongue.

Add - Pte Chuck
 

Journeyman

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Old Sweat said:
In honour of national facetious week, have you thought of getting him commissioned?

p.s. Check my profile. That's what they did to me.
Some of the best ones went that route.  Clearly.  ;)
 

Haggis

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Old Sweat said:
In honour of national facetious week, have you thought of getting him commissioned?

p.s. Check my profile. That's what they did to me.

Moi aussi.  But I'm doing it bilingually. Now, where's my $800?
 

ArmyRick

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Its a tough situation to comment on. The reason for that is I am not there on the scene. I do have many, many years of training soldiers on many career courses.

So, thoughts.
1. How does he interact with his peers? Does he have communications there? Do they want to throttle him?
2. How is he/she with other supervisors? Some people have difficulty with listening and understanding direction. I kid you not, I have met brilliant people that have PhDs that could not comprehend simple things being explained to them outside their area of strengths
3. Some people are unfortunately are not ever meant to progress beyond corporal (In my mind, Corporal should be a proper a leadership rank that requires some leadership training and not a gimme after so many years)
4. What are there skills sets like in other aspects of soldiering? How did this individual do on his career courses? Was he someone maybe pushed through the system?
5. I have dealt with some corporals (I think of one example of a 30+ Cpl) that have 0 leadership ability and lack things like initiative, problem solving or decision making.

Again, without being directly involved, its hard to really comment.
 

mariomike

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Brasidas said:
maximum supervision required.

If you don't mind me asking, what is considered "maximum supervision"? ie: How much time can a supervisor invest in a single individual? Especially one with 12 years experience.

Reason I ask is, we had a ( non-military ) supervisor. His office was miles away from our station. We kept in touch via landline telephone, sometimes radio, and the station mail box that a courier would pickup and deliver.
We could go weeks without seeing him.
 

Brasidas

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My apologies for the drive-by post. It's been a fun few weeks.

Teager said:
Maybe let him have a chance to see things your way. Put him in charge of a basic task but he is also in charge of 2 or 3 Pte's. Tell him you have a meeting and you cannot be bothered to answer any question during the next hour or 2. He will be forced to relay instructions to the Pte's and he will have to answer there questions. He will also be responsible for ensuring they help complete the task properly in the time frame you give. He may be fine with being a career Cpl but there will come a point when he has to self direct and think for himself. This may force him to do that.

If he screws it up the task at least see if he applied any sort of leadership or tried to give direction without your help. Could be it requires small stepping stones.

I will see if I can find tasks where I can afford to let him run amok. I've got some tight schedules, and right now its tough for me to risk much in the way of manhours of productive work.

ArmyRick said:
Its a tough situation to comment on. The reason for that is I am not there on the scene. I do have many, many years of training soldiers on many career courses.

So, thoughts.
1. How does he interact with his peers? Does he have communications there? Do they want to throttle him?
2. How is he/she with other supervisors? Some people have difficulty with listening and understanding direction. I kid you not, I have met brilliant people that have PhDs that could not comprehend simple things being explained to them outside their area of strengths
3. Some people are unfortunately are not ever meant to progress beyond corporal (In my mind, Corporal should be a proper a leadership rank that requires some leadership training and not a gimme after so many years)
4. What are there skills sets like in other aspects of soldiering? How did this individual do on his career courses? Was he someone maybe pushed through the system?
5. I have dealt with some corporals (I think of one example of a 30+ Cpl) that have 0 leadership ability and lack things like initiative, problem solving or decision making.

Again, without being directly involved, its hard to really comment.

1. He is a beloved mascot, particularly amongst the Ptes. He's friendly, and he "shows up".

Do they want to throttle him? Some of peers who end up supervising him do, which includes many QL3 corporals. There's never been much furor against him when he's not doing something actively stupid in the moment, he's just accepted as a part of the environment.

He doesn't have actual friends. He comes out to drink with the Ptes after work, some of whom are half his age, and is greeted warmly by some, but that appears to be the extent of his social life.

I should mention this is a class A reservist who is consistently available to come in, and whom I have a hard time not putting under the direction of effective, self-directed QL2 privates. He's eternally putting his hand up to volunteer for stuff, such as coming in to work for me during the day/evening.

2. Others vary. Typically, everyone who can do so puts him under someone else (ie. QL3 corporal) for low-level supervision. If someone has less experience with him (eg a MCpl recently CT'd from RegForce), they treat him with respect, offer clear and concise direction and let him carry on. They tear their hair out in frustration, then follow the example of others.

3. Agreed. I've seen the effectively automatic promotion to Cpl denied, but only to significant behavior cases. I'd rather have him as a Pte, which would make it less problematic to assign a more junior supervisor.

4. He was pushed through the system. He can safely handle a weapon and maintains marginal marksmanship. His fieldcraft is marginally competent; eg. he can put up a hooch and probably survive in the field without dying of exposure. Permanent kit explosion.

He demonstrates the skills necessary to perform at a minimum QL3 level. Not QL5.

5. He demonstrates minimal leadership capability. He does put others before self, and would put the mission before self if he could identify what the mission was. That's about the minimum that I want him to get.

When I say "you will X, in order to achieve Y", and X and Y are simple concepts, I expect him to listen, understand, and ask for clarification if he doesn't get it. I don't think that's that big of an ask.

He's been shuffled around forever, and I'd like to do what I can with him. I'm keeping my expectations low, but will do what I can.
 

kratz

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I've met and worked with these individuals with both the Army and Navy PRes.

It's admirable you are striving to find the niche the person can work in.

Both of the individuals who I am thinking of retired with full respect for
their dedication and commitment to the unit and to service.

 

medicineman

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If you don't have kids, consider this training for parenthood ;D

In all seriousness, maybe this dude has got some issues with memory or focus?  Have him write out his tasks in the order you want them done and then send him on his way...or give him a simple checklist for a few things and when they're done, have them come back with same with boxes checked off.  Have some new ones ready for when they get back and you've checked the previous ones.

Mr Myagi from "The Karate Kid" had it right - "No such thing as bad student, only bad teacher.  Teacher say, student do."  Same with leaders - there will always be those outliers that, while willing and able to do the work, just need that extra push to get it done.

$0.02 (Cdn)

MM
 

BinRat55

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Brasidas said:
I am trying to advantageously employ a highly experienced, somewhat skilled, somewhat less than intelligent soldier. Today was an especially frustrating day.

Short, simple instructions to complete one task and move on to the next. Not complicated, not said fast, and confirmation requested and received that the instructions were clearly understood. 90 seconds later, as I was about to start my 1430 lunch, he comes in and asks what he's supposed to do next.

12 year Cpl, maximum supervision required. No leadership ability, ok. Less than smart, ok. Motivated and wanting to help, great! The inability to stfu and listen, the inability to accept feedback, the inability to process the most basic of tasks...

Cpl, our intent is to test A, to confirm that we're good to go with the kit we already have. You are going to use that A, right there, like this. Understood?

Fifteen minutes later, seen bringing another A from stores back to starting location... Cpl, why are you bringing another A over here? "Oh, well I wasn't sure that that one would work, so I signed this one out to make sure."

I have many painful experiences with this guy.

He means well. He's absorbed some things by osmosis. I accept that he has limitations. But I do not accept that he can not learn the following:

If you don't understand, say so. If you think you might not understand, say so.

Listen when I say "my intent is..."

When I say why the end result is not what I wanted, it is not an invitation for you to babble about what you thought while I'm talking. It is not me saying you're wrong! It is me explaining to you what was intended and what actions to take in the future. Its a learning experience.

I have been polite. I have been forceful. I have taken a step back and tried to explain all this stuff in the bigger picture and why I do what I do.

I'm fine with a career corporal who's never going to be an effective leader. But he's not an effective follower, and I want to help him become more effective within his limitations.

I've dealt with lazy, I've dealt with mentally ill, folks with a perpetual personal crisis, and I've dealt with snakes. I'm not new to being a boss. This guy, I'd take any thoughts on how to be more effective. I want to give him useful PD.

Many years ago, I thought my son was an idiot. No, really - it was easier to believe that than think I was inneffectual as a parent. I once handed him a grocery bag with meat for the freezer. A 30 second task, at best. A week later, we couldn't figure out where the funky smell was coming from... you see where i'm going with this? A year later he was diagnosed with ADHD. But here's the thing - the psychologist said he was a "backwards-functioning" ADHD candidate. WTF right? He never acted / reacted like a boy with ADHD - outwardly. I went through pretty much everything you have described in your scenario - all the while thinking "He's finally getting it..." and as you said - 90 seconds later, "What did you tell me to do?" His brain was listening, hearing but not processing. So when I said "Butter" he heard "butter" but saw in his head "bread".

Ritalin helped. It wasn't an arbitrary decision at all - we fretted over that one for the better part of a year. The kid who used to add 2 and 2 and come up with potato was now, well, normal - for lack of a more appropriate term.

There is no one clear way to get through to those with a learning disability - other than not to lose faith. You said he means well. It's something, right? You know he's not lazy, or a snake...

Oh, and something else - my son is now a productive member of the Canadian Armed Forces!
 

mariomike

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Brasidas said:
I should mention this is a class A reservist

If you don't mind me asking, is this individual able to hold down a responsible full-time career/job outside of the PRes?
 

Brasidas

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mariomike said:
If you don't mind me asking, is this individual able to hold down a responsible full-time career/job outside of the PRes?

Does he have a job? Sure, he's a paperpusher for the provincial government. Its probably decent pay, and he's had it for about four years now. Is he competent and effective at it? My educated guess says no.
 
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