I’m my own worst critic. I beat myself up more than anyone else ever could. On self-assessments, this is easy to see; I’m the one giving myself C’s when my bosses are giving me A’s. Is it a lack of self-confidence? Or do I not understand the questions?
Recently, it became a requirement in the Army for officers to complete a Multi-Source Assessment and Feedback module before an evaluation. (You need to be in the Army with an AKO e-mail and CAC capabilities to complete the module.) Within the MSAF, you do a self-assessment of your performance based on different categories, then ask a required number of Superiors, Peers, and Subordinates to complete the same assessment of you. The categories are:
- Prepare Self to Lead
- Overall Leadership
- Lead Others
- Lead by Example
- Get Results
- Extend Influence Beyond Chain of Command
- Develops Leaders
- Create a Positive Environment
After everyone has completed the assessment, your results are compiled, and you are able to see how your self-assessment compares to the assessment of others. This is an incredibly valuable tool for leaders, whether you plan to stay in the Army or not. This information will help you with your career for life.
One of the hardest things I’ve done was to give the Army my ‘notice’. It’s not like the civilian world where you give them a few weeks, maybe even a month; the process of leaving the military takes more time, so you have to let them know 6-12 months in advance. You do the paperwork, get counseled by your commander, and start the Army Career & Alumni Program (ACAP). As an officer, choosing to leave upon completion of your contract is called a REFRAD, or Release from Active Duty. Enlisted soldiers doing the same are choosing to ETS, Expiration Term of Service. It’s a similar end result, but a different process.
I worked directly for the same Battalion Commander for three years. He presented my first award, promoted me twice, and served as a constant and steadfast mentor for me. We didn’t always agree, but we had a strong mutual trust and great professional relationship. He was there through some major ups and downs in my life, and I felt I owed much of my success to his mentorship.
Like many military leaders, he wanted to help retain the best people for the organization. He spoke to me often about his career path, the great opportunities the Army had afforded him, and why I should stay in for 20+ years. I always listened to him, weighing my pros and cons. When I made the decision to submit my paperwork for REFRAD, he was one of the first people I told. (Well, I had to tell him, or he’d have found out anyways. But it wasn’t a conversation I looked forward to.)
It’s hard to tell someone that while you respect them, you don’t want to follow in their footsteps. I felt like I was saying, “Sorry, I don’t want to be you when I grow up.” I didn’t want any hard feelings, because the decision was entirely mine. It’s not you, it’s me! The Army isn’t for everyone!