Leader Trends: Are We Babysitters?

By | August 25, 2018

[August 25, 2018]  Many years ago I was accused of ‘babysitting’ my troops because my priority as a Flag officer was taking care of soldiers.  There is merit to the argument that modern leader trends now emphasize better treatment of employees and staff.  But does that mean we are babysitting them?

The Commanding General at my Division headquarters (he was a Major General, a 2-star) accused me of doing too much for my soldiers.  He went on to argue that by doing so I was preventing the troops from gaining the valuable experience and self esteem necessary to ensure they could perform successfully in a combat environment.

I’ve heard this before.  Yet it was no mistake that the measurable “military readiness”1 of my brigade was rated as one of the best U.S. Army brigades during my tenure.  The General, you would think, should have been more inclined to gain an understanding of what I was doing in my “steps to excellence” program instead of seeing me as a babysitter.

Associated with babysitting is the negative implication that soldiers are not mature or intelligent enough or lack the ability to take care of themselves.  This shows a lack of respect for the soldier and for their leaders (including me).  Of course, what he meant by ‘babysitter’ was that my unit’s leadership was doing too much.

To answer my own questions, “Are we babysitters?” I would think not.  As long as we don’t interfere with the soldier maturation process and relevant experiences gained, then I can honestly say we did not babysit our troops.  My “steps to excellence program” was designed to get unit leaders and soldiers to “think” about what they were tasked to do.

They would do this on their own.  Their abilities improved over time and proved that a program that emphasizes excellence can instill the necessary traits we want of all combat leaders.  I was not babysitting them, I was teaching independent thinking skills and the markers of excellence in all things they did.  We were very successful and I was honored to be their commander for three years.

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  1. Military Readiness is defined in the broad sense to describe whether military forces are able to do what the nation asks of them.  That is usually seen as going to war to defend the nation.  The trick is “how” to measure readiness and that is always being debated.  See this older study that parallels many others today: https://www.gao.gov/assets/230/220577.pdf

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Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

19 thoughts on “Leader Trends: Are We Babysitters?

  1. Gil Johnson

    Ahhhh. Drinking my morning coffee with my dog at my side reading https://www.theleadermaker.com on my iPad. What a way to start the day!!! Ha Ha. Good article and thanks for writing about a rather rare topic that leaders – mostly junior leaders – should keep in mind while they are working with their first teams.

    1. Greg Heyman

      Me too# (not to be confused with the Hollywood idiots’ metoo mvt). I have a Golden Retreiver who is at my feet looking at me while I type this out. Hey, great website. Simple, to the point, and entertaining.

    2. Kenny Foster

      I have a cat because my wife wants it. I would love to have a dog. I still read this website daily.

  2. Nick Lighthouse

    Good article today again, Gen. Satterfield. Thank you.
    🙂

  3. Bill Sanders, Jr.

    I too agree with Janna that most people simply don’t understand what it takes to take care of our people.

  4. Janna Faulkner

    Maybe the concepts of ‘babysitter’ and ‘coach, teacher, mentor’ are confused with one another. If you are doing the latter, who cares what people call it. I think what you were doing with your troops, Gen. Satterfield, was the latter and not really babysitting.

  5. Andrew Dooley

    Ha. I agree with you and the risks associated with taking care of troops or employees.

  6. Mike Baker

    Wow, just returned from my vacation where my kids were running wild and I had to ‘babysit’ them to keep them out of trouble. I think this is the way the concept of babysitting employees is used here and appropriately so. Thanks for another great article for a good read on a Saturday morning.

  7. Max Foster

    If you study this issue, little will be found. I don’t know why but it tells me that not much thought has been put into it. I tend to agree that employees (e.g., troops) tend to need more help today than people from years ago, but that is not a reason for giving them the tools to do their jobs. The reason we take care of them is so that they can actually do more because they know you have their backs.

    1. Albert Ayer

      Yes, well said and I also agree. Employees should be given the maximum support to get the mission accomplished.

  8. Dennis Mathes

    I found that leaders who accuse others of babysitting their team members to be less than quality leaders themselves. They are often jealous of what I did and anything to make me look bad was okay in their eyes.

  9. Army Captain

    I have been accused of doing the same thing. That is why we have to be careful and articulate what we are doing that makes it not babysitting and is good for the troops.

    1. Forrest Gump

      Thanks Army Captain. I have also been accused of doing this and it was not really babysitting but doing a good job of mentoring and teaching.

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