My senior year in Texas A&M University’s Corps of Cadets I was a Platoon Commander for Company C-2. Under my command I was responsible for the success and welfare of 25 cadets to successfully complete the 2012-2013 academic school year.
In order to establish an effective command structure I clearly conveyed my commander’s intent by addressing 2nd platoon cadets with my Standard Operating Procedures. If any cadet was confused about my policies they need only to refer to my Standard Operating Procedures or report up to the cadet in charge of them for clarification. I could not merely say, “This is how 2nd Platoon will conduct themselves”. An enforced system that placed an emphasis on accountability was required to encourage my staff to follow through on 2nd Platoon’s objectives.
I passed down my Standard Operating Procedures by e-mail; printed it out and briefed in person to the Platoon Sergeant to execute my plan for the 2012-2013 academic school year. I allowed the Platoon Sergeant to discuss any questions that he might have in how he might achieve my mission. He proceeded to speak with his staff and the squad leaders to develop a plan to achieve our mutually agreed upon goals.
My mission statement for 2nd Platoon was to achieve superior standards for academics, physical fitness, and military training: a 3.5 Grade Point Average as a platoon; 285 Physical Fitness Score as a platoon; and reduce inspection penalties by 25% from last year as a platoon. A system needed to be in place to provide reliable lines of communication; everyone from freshmen to the highest appointed personnel had to trust one another to transfer reliable information. I believed in the daily reports the platoon sergeant brought up, and in turn he received information from his staff.
The system clearly was effective due to daily reports brought up that showed cadet grades; physical fitness scores; and inspection failures in 2nd platoon. Cadets that were not showing improvement were easily pointed out and counseled for remediation. My mission was explicitly known to the platoon and executed to the fullest extent. From last year grades for 2nd platoon increased by 25%; Physical fitness scores increased by 15%; and exceeded reducing inspection failures by 75%. 2nd platoon did not reach my overall objectives of a 3.5 Grade Point Average and 285 Grade Point Average. But the fact the team was able to improve over last year was a victory to be proud of.
In my recent interviews with Amazon.com, the largest online retail company, the hiring manager expressed the necessity for managers to clearly communicate objectives to their associates on their team. I know that my leadership experience as a Platoon Commander provided me the self-assurance to approach my next leadership opportunity with a planned agenda to effectively lay out a plan to a team of co-workers. By identifying and monitoring the progress of the direct reports, I can determine how to best achieve mutually agreed upon organizational goals.