Major Lessons in Change

Welcome to the seventh post in the ProDev2Go Major Series.  This series focuses on the transition from Company Grade To Field Grade Officer. 

Today we have ProDev2Go’s first Guest Post from none other than Major Casey Dean.  Casey is an Army officer with a curiosity for leader development and the potential of connections.   He’s currently in the middle of his second tour as an AfPak hand.

Enjoy learning how and when to change styles.

We’ve all heard about Iron Majors, the field grade officers that pride themselves on hard work and mission accomplishment. While NCOs are the backbone of the Army, Iron Majors can be described as the cogs that drive the larger wheels. At the division-level and below this means close coordination across the formation and always thinking about what’s over the next hill. It also can mean fighting for resources for your organization, so your Troopers have the resources they need. Assertiveness and a capacity to put out the day’s fires are great assets to the Iron Major, but are those same skills needed after your KD assignment?

Should Iron Majors go into broadening assignments with the same frame of mind? Do the same skills and abilities that made you successful in passing the litmus test for future battalion command make you successful in jobs at echelons above brigade? Many of the same skills apply when you’re outside of your KD billet. However, your perspective must be appropriate with the job. It can be difficult to shift from thinking at the tactical level for so many years and then transitioning to operational and strategic-level thinking. This includes shifting your mindset from 0-45 days out, or occasionally working on the long-range training calendar (knowing it will all likely fall apart) to the development of long-term engagements and programs that could take years before they see the light of day. Looking five years ahead to determine outcomes and objectives can be very similar to planning a gunnery, if you just tweak your horizon a bit.


During a broadening assignment, teamwork is paramount. A little less Han and a little more Luke will go a long way when working in a joint, interagency, intergovernmental, or multi-national (JIIM) environment. Some assignments include engagements with other militaries where our words and actions don’t just represent a battalion, branch, or Service, but potentially the entire US Government. Many of our JIIM partners don’t speak the same language or take kindly to the same gruff approach that makes many field grade officers successful at the brigade level.  This broad spectrum increases the cultural gap between you and your teammates. Cultivating your sense of empathy, or an understanding of another person’s feelings, is valuable skill. Simon Sinek writes in “Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t” that empathy “is the most important instrument in a leader’s toolbox”. An understanding of your partner nation or JIIM partners will go a long way in bridging these divides.

The third ability that assists you was previously discussed in the ProDev2Go Major Series. Learning how to control emotions, especially when dealing with bad news, will help tremendously in future assignments. The TTPs COL Coffman wrote about when dealing with bad news from subordinates, peers, and bosses are a great asset. Keeping your cards closer to your chest and a calm head will lead to clear thinking and problem-solving solutions instead of emotional outbursts.

As you prepare for life after KD (it will happen) take some time to sit, think, and write on how you’ll need to shift your approach in your future assignment. Shifting your viewpoint both below and over the horizon, using empathy to help build bridges in new work environments, and keeping your emotions in check when bad news arrives will go a long way to helping you in your broadening assignment. Remember, the skills and abilities that got you here aren’t the same ones that will make you successful moving forward.

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YOU’RE Glue ! A lesson in Upper Level Leadership.

Welcome to the sixth post in the ProDev2Go Major Series.  This series focuses on the transition from Company Grade To Field Grade Officer.

You are now one of “Them” 

      As a Field Grade Officer, anything you say or do represents the Army — The ARMY.  Positive or negative comments about our institution stick to you like glue.  This is an incredible responsibility that you will carry for the rest of your time in uniform.  Here are three techniques to help you manage this responsibility: Be Honest, Quit Complaining, and Focus on what only YOU can fix.  Being Honest– Soldiers are smart and understand that the Army is not perfect.  As a Major do not try and cover up the facts of the situation your organization faces.  You gain more respect by communicating the situation quickly and  accurately.  Quit Complaining–  It is easy to be negative and get caught up in complaint sessions.  As a Major you are charged with fixing problems -not pointing fingers. Avoid negative people and stop spending your limited energy shaking a fist at the sky.  If you are truly unhappy fix the situation or find another career.  As an organizational leader don’t be Anti-Establishment.  Focus on what only you can fix– Your job is to make your slice of the Army the best possible.   Some Majors waste time and energy focusing on issues outside their organization before they clean up their own house.   Nobody can do what you can do inside the unit- Prioritize those things that fall under your job description.

If you remain honest, stop complaining, and make your piece of the Army the best it can be, you will be an effective Field Grade Officer.

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Succeed by NOT doing what you’re Told

Welcome to the fifth post in the ProDev2Go Major Series.  This series focuses on the transition from Company Grade To Field Grade Officer.

As a Major or Lieutenant Commander in uniformed Service your leaders don’t want you to do what you’re told – They want you to do more! 

Majors Run the tactical Army- Full Stop.  As a Field Grade Officer focus on these three areas to ensure success: 1 ) The Boss’ Priorities one and two levels up 2)  The problems within your organization 3) The problems within your wingman’s organization.

The Boss’ Priorities-Starting with your leadership’s priorities ensures the organization is moving in a common direction and enables collective success.  An organization has a finite amount of energy.  Do what you must do before applying the staff’s energy elsewhere .  Once you know you will meet  the priorities then you can branch out.  Fixing Your Organization- You must take ownership of the organization and the its shortcomings.  The problems within your organization are yours to fix as a field grade officer.   Take input from others, make critical assessments based on your experience, and conduct inspections to determine what is “not awesome” in the organization.  You possess the experience and problem solving skills to fix any problem within the unit.  Once you identify a problem, you own it until it is fixed or another leader assumes responsibility.  Follow through to ensure the issue gets resolved.  Then keep your boss informed and leave the organization better than you found it.  Helping your wingman- Chances are that if you have a problem in your Battalion/Brigade that those to your left and right have the same shortcomings.  Once you find the problem and its solution make sure you share that information horizontally.  As a field grade you are an organizational leader and must focus on the entire team.  Share your lessons learned to enable success across the organization.  If you start with your leaders’ priorities, fix issues within your organization, and share those lessons with your peers to the left and right-  You will be a successful Field Grade Officer.

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Guess what? You’re not SOF !

Sometimes you want Captain America and you get CPT Murica

You do not have the luxury of being issued an élite group of subordinates like Delta or the 75th – Your job is to maximize the strengths of the leaders you have and make them better.

Welcome to the fourth post in the ProDev2Go Major Series.  This series focuses on the transition from Company Grade To Field Grade Officer.

It is your first day in the Battalion and you realize that not all of your subordinate Staff members are rock stars.  Welcome to reality.  That is why the Battalion needs you.  Here are three simple ways to maximize the battalion staff’s performance:  1) Identify your subordinates’ strengths 2) Assign duties based on those strengths 3) Develop them to improve their weaknesses.   Identifying a person’s strengths can take time.  Lazy leaders discount a weaker performer and pile all the tasks on their strong swimmer.  This creates dissatisfaction in both subordinates and limits the productivity within the staff.   You must evaluate each subordinate and identify what they can contribute.  This takes time and creativity.  Talents can include: good with numbers, high emotional intelligence, detailed oriented, a super strong work ethic, a great natural team builder, a superb public briefer/speaker, etc.   Everyone has talent, it is your job to find it.  Use personal interaction, observation,  and counseling to identify these strengths.   Once you identify their strengths give them missions or tasks that match their capabilities.  Your detail oriented leaders will succeed in areas that your emotionally intelligent leaders will not.  Get the Square peg in the square hole.  Lastly, you need to knock off the rough edges and develop your subordinates.  If they can not brief or plan it is your job to teach them.  Make sure your Soldiers leave the organization better than when they arrived.  YOU owe this to the individual and the Soldiers they will lead in the future.  By Identifying Individual Strengths, Assigning duties based on those strengths, and Developing their weaknesses you will maximize your team’s potential as a Field Grade Officer!


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The Green Book Deep Dive – How to Avoid Emotion as a Field Grade

When you become a Major you must learn to deal with bad news for the good of the organization.

Welcome to Third post in the ProDev2Go Major Series.  This series focuses on the transition from Company Grade To Field Grade Officer.

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While all leaders should remove emotion from their leadership style — it is imperative that Field Grade Officers and Senior Non-Commissioned Officers stop having negative reactions to information, news, or events.  Do you wear your heart on your sleeve and your face? These three techniques will help prevent showing your immediate shock, disapproval, or disagreement when dealing with a Subordinate, Peer, or Superior.  When Subordinates bring Bad news– Ask if anyone is seriously hurt or deceased -we can fix any other problem.  Next, ask yourself, “What was my exact guidance?”  Oftentimes we get in a rush and believe our guidance was crystal clear when in fact it was not awesome.  Report the facts to your higher headquarters immediately along with your recommended plan of action. Good senior leaders understand that bad things happen in good units. You are now a Senior Leader, it is your job to fix organizational problems and develop options while maintaining a culture of trust.  Trust is lost when you overreact.  Once the situation is back on track have an AAR with your subordinate to learn from what happened and failed to happen.  When Peers Bring Bad News– When a peer lets you down, find a solution and remain composed.  It’s about the end state not the immediate challenge that you and the organization face.  Field grades solve problems through informal peer leadership.  Your reaction to bad news or challenges will determine the next evolution of peer culture in the unit.    However, remember that you and others must hold your peers accountable to allow the organization to function.  Accountability does not equal a public beat down.  Communicate the facts to your peer and move on.     When your Boss tells you something you don’t agree with –   If you are a person that cannot keep your jaw from hitting the floor, execute what we call the Green Book Deep DiveImmediately look down at your green book and take notes until you gain composure.  Then communicate to your boss that you will explore options to meet their intent.  Return with those options and the risk associated with each to receive a decision.  This is no small point, He or She is the Commander and you are there to support the command and its Soldiers.  Do not let your initial reaction mark you as disloyal. It is said that disagreement is not disrespect. You can disagree and are encouraged to do so, but the method you choose to communicate that disagreement can be disrespectful. Unless the commander wants something immoral, illegal, or unethical your job as a Field Grade is to create and sustain options.

If you can remove negative reactions from your leadership style when dealing with subordinates, peers, and superiors you will maintain the culture of trust throughout the organization.

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Define Success!

 You must define success in your life – Do not outsource that decision

Welcome to Second post in the ProDev2Go Major Series.  This series focuses on the transition from Company Grade To Field Grade Officer.

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Those who pin on the rank of Major generally have committed to long-term service in our profession.  What defines a successful career?  A wise man once told me not to tie the definition of success to a position, title, or rank.  Based on that advice my goals in life and the Army changed to a very simple outlook.  I don’t want to leave life or the Army bitter!  We cannot control our next promotion or assignment, but we can control our acceptance and satisfaction. I strive to improve my assigned team and allow others to learn from my life’s lessons.   There are leaders that tie their self-worth and value to a rank, position, or status.  However, all of us will leave the workforce one day and most will not reach the level which they believe their talents deserve.  As you cross into the rank of field grade, stay focused on improving your piece of the organization and developing others.  Your reward is not  a new rank or position, but rather the knowledge that you made a difference in the organization and another Soldier’s life.

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HELP – Not a sign of Weakness !

Know this — Your superiors expect you to seek help!

Welcome to first post in the ProDev2Go Major Series.  This series will focus on the transition from Company Grade To Field Grade Officer.

When you transition from Company Grade to Field grade Officer your leaders will give you large and complicated problems to solve for the organization.    Their expectation is that you will assemble an informal or formal team of experts and close the deal.   All too often, we see young Field Grades trying to accomplish large tasks by themselves and failing miserably in the process.  Your superiors are managing risk and resources at the Division, Brigade, or Battalion level.  They expect to provide additional resources when required to limit risk.  The more resources they provide the less risk the organization faces.  Your superiors must manage risk across a wide front,  so you may not get the additional resources due to higher priority projects.   However, you owe it to the organization and the Soldiers you will directly impact to lay out both the resources required and risk incurred for your specific project.  A former boss of mine explained that staffs can create options, sustain options, or forfeit options.  Those that forfeit options hurt the organization.  We are looking for those that can sustain or create options for the team.   You are now an organizational leader and must ask for help when needed to sustain and maintain options.  If you cannot ask for additional resources or “help” you are not only hurting yourself –you are hurting the Soldiers you serve.

The next post in the Major Series will come out soon so remember to click the blue box to follow ProDev2Go and receive these development paragraphs by email.

If you would like us to cover any additional topics in this series please email us at

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Major Payne !

This is the Introduction post for our Major Series!  Over the next few weeks we will cover a myriad of topics to help the transition from Company Grade to Field Grade Officer.  The lessons we learn as MAJs or Lieutenant Commanders generally apply to any rank, but are critical in the grade of O-4 where we transition from direct to organizational leadership.  As we have discussed previously, young leaders must start their development along the critical path of leadership to become effective. Click Here to learn more about the Critical Path

As a leader achieves proficiency in each of the five steps, (Standards, Trust, Candor, Purpose, and Communication) what are some of the areas beyond the critical path that leaders need to develop as they transition from direct to organization leadership?

  • The ability to ask for help
  • The ability to act without emotion
  • The ability to Close the Deal
  • The ability to listen, gain understanding of the directive, and execute
  • The ability to assemble a group and solve problems without supervisory authorities
  • The ability to lead younger more inexperienced personnel through the Operations Process

The First post will come out next week so remember to click the blue box to follow PRODev2Go and receive development paragraphs by email.

If you would like us to cover any additional topics in this series please email us at

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Can you handle the Truth?

We promised only a paragraph of professional development, but an exception must be made this week to introduce a video and a paper.  Below are two links that we here at ProDev2GO feel are critical to your situational understanding.  The two attachments are worth every second of your time as a professional and a member of the free world.  Recommend you start watching the CSA link at the 15:40 mark and that you read the lessons learned document from start to finish.  When you put your head on the pillow tonight, please ask yourself one question-  Are my Soldiers and I ready to fight in the morning?

Share comments on your techniques and systems that will allow us all to maintain our required readiness posture.

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Hey Leaders- Finish what you Start !

What does every organization need from its leaders? In short- Mission Accomplishment! Superiors value subordinates that can close the deal and take concept to closure!


Anyone can come up with a good idea, concept, or vision.  You add incredible value to your organization by taking action and getting missions accomplished.  There are two types of tasks that leaders face: Individual tasks and Multiple party tasks.  Individual tasks require grit, drive, and time to accomplish.  As a young leader your value to the organization is often measured by your ability to move mountains one bucket at a time.  Multiple party tasks require coordination, collaboration, follow through, and empathy to accomplish.  Those that have these skill sets are invaluable.  An individual that can lead a team of peers without a direct senior to subordinate relationship and get the mission accomplished allows the higher commander (CEO) to focus on decisions and strategy instead of process.  We enable these efforts with a clearly understood end state, an achievable milestone list, and frequent collaborative sessions. This allows you to maintain momentum on a complex project/mission and close the deal !

Please share best practice techniques that you have experienced when leading a dynamic group of problem solvers!  Also please share techniques that do not work.

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