One fact has remained consistent during my three decades in the military – I am not a mind reader, nor are those who worked with me. Therefore, prior to assuming battalion command, I decided to write an evaluations philosophy. The purpose was three-fold: to reinforce my command philosophy and the performance principles I considered important; to publish how I intended to grade subordinate performance; and to offer my methodology and logic for assigning evaluation block ratings.
Over the years, I have found that such a philosophy is useful for both the senior leader and, more importantly, for the ratee. In this post, I will explain the details of the evaluations philosophy and offer two examples from previous units.
Clarity from Day One
As a squadron commander, I used five documents to conduct initial counseling with newly arrived leaders. These were:
- the new leader’s initial counseling form
- my Officer Evaluation Report Support Form
- my command philosophy
- a policy letter prohibiting fraternization
- and my rating philosophy.
During the initial counseling session, I explained the initial counseling form and evaluations philosophy, so they clearly understood my expectations based on their pay grade, branch, and assigned duties. I gave them the opportunity to ask questions and communicated that in future counseling sessions, we would discuss their performance against these benchmarks.
It’s important to note that the evaluations philosophy is descriptive, not prescriptive in nature. I use bulletized descriptors to describe the difference between the various block ratings (Most Qualified, Highly Qualified, Qualified, and Not Qualified). It’s not a checklist but rather a description of what might make one person’s performance better than another’s.
It also expresses a key belief to officers and senior non-commissioned officers…that I judge performance as either truly superior, average, or on the verge of career ending. The document outlines performance “red lines” that potentially or automatically result in a relief for cause evaluation. These adverse behaviors (e.g. Driving Under the Influence, using drugs, etc.) are typical of any command but deserve recurring attention.
Finally, this philosophy reinforces that a particular block rating is earned and not given. For example, an average company commander cannot expect to receive a higher block rating than a super-star assistant operations officer, simply based on his duty as commander. I’ve observed this behavior many times during my career and find it to be an unethical practice.
Expectations + Counseling = Growth
I have continued to use an evaluations philosophy while serving as the Chief of Tactics at Fort Benning and now in command as a Colonel. Providing subordinates with a written philosophy allows them to understand the value of their rating while showing that their senior leaders understand the importance of enumerating the very best performers. Ultimately, an evaluations philosophy coupled with routine performance counseling should give subordinates the constructive feedback they need to further develop – a goal all senior leaders strive to achieve.
To provide some more detail, I offer my evaluation philosophies from squadron command in 2012 and my current command at the US Military Academy Preparatory School. Feel free to use them as applicable and provide feedback in the comment sections.