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My Coast Guard
Commentary | Sept. 27, 2023

Mid-term Counseling: Do more than check the box

By Lt. Briana Biagas, Career Management Branch, Officer Personnel Management (OPM-4)

In today’s dynamic work environment, it is critical for organizations to foster continuous professional development opportunities. Mid-term counseling, a valuable occasion for growth and reflection, serves as a cornerstone in supporting the officer’s career progression. However, there is a broad variance in how counseling is conducted, which can preclude a shared vision of expectations.  

Embedded within the Coast Guard’s strategic vision is the acknowledgment that its most valuable asset is its people. While mid-term counseling is about the individual, it is equally impactful as a service wide driver in nurturing talent. It can play a pivotal role in developing officers who possess the skills, knowledge, and adaptability required to excel in an increasingly complex and dynamic operating environment.   

To address these disparities and enhance the effectiveness of mid-term counseling, the Career Management Branch of Officer Personnel Management (OPM-4) released two job aids on the OPM-4 SharePoint page. One is geared toward Reported-on Officers (ROO) and the other towards counselors to assist both in preparing for and facilitating the engagement. The aids can be customized to address the specific needs and goals of officers.  

It is highly recommended that members read both job aid iterations to effectively prepare for the counseling session. Insights are provided on goal setting, performance evaluation and developmental planning, ensuring that officers and counselors have a more structured foundation to build from during their session.  To add a note on their effectiveness, especially for those individuals with little experience with mid-term counselling, commander, Personnel Service Center Rear Adm. Russell Dash says, “If you aren’t using these [job aids], then you might be doing it wrong.”  

To determine suggested counseling windows, reference ALCGOFF 090/23 for additional information about upcoming cycles. Having timely counseling helps to avoid delays in addressing performance or development concerns. Supervisors should actively listen to officers' concerns, aspirations, and challenges, fostering an environment of trust and collaboration.  

While counselors have a responsibility to provide feedback, the ROO must initiate setting up the mid-term counseling. However, the mid-term counseling session should be approached as a two-way flow of communication between supervisor and subordinate rather than a one-way check-valve of criticism or vague commentary.  For the ROO, the engagement enables officers to conduct self-assessments on performance and seek feedback from supervisors. This self-reflection fosters personal growth and encourages officers to seek constructive feedback as a means of continuous improvement. For counselors, the engagement allows officers the platform to address officers' unique strengths, weaknesses, performance, and aspirations with direct impact to their future actions. 

Mid-term counseling is more than a requirement; it is a valuable opportunity for officers to reflect on their careers, set goals, and receive detailed guidance from those with direct observations of a member’s performance. It is not sufficient to give broad generalizations of sentiments about an officer’s performance if building and retaining a thriving and agile officer corps is a service goal. The Officer Corps must go beyond checking the box to shape a workforce that is innovative and prepared to overcome the challenges of tomorrow. The Commandant instills in the Coast Guard the message, “Tomorrow looks different, so will we.” But if we are to change tomorrow’s outcomes, then action is required today.