“Trooping the Line”

Each of our Armed Forces has a ceremonial process called, Trooping the Line. It usually entails an inspecting dignitary asking questions of a relational nature like:  “Where’s your home?” “How long have you been a member of your unit?” “Do you have any problems/complaints?” As well as job-related questions. While this may seem like small talk, it is a critical action on the part of a leader.

The idea is that a leader pauses what they are doing and checks in on how the team is doing at the most basic level.  To put it in perspective, there can be several levels of leadership between the Service Member and ranking leader. 

“Trooping the Line” aims to do several things:

  1. Spot Check: The leader does quality assurance by checking that team members are on the right track doing what we think they are doing. If they are off course, there’s a chance to correct the issue in real-time.
  • Pulse: The leader also gets a feel for the pulse of the team: How’s morale? How are people doing in the present circumstances?  This sparks ideas for tangible responses and actions the entire leader team can make.
  • Communication: Trooping the Line serves as a feedback loop on what the leader thinks he has communicated. Has a “simple” message been correctly interpreted? Was there a failure to communicate context – or did context deteriorate as the message went farther out?
  • Morale boost:  A few moments with a leader reminds the staff that they are a part of the team and that the team cares about them.

For clarification, there’s a vast difference between trooping the line and micromanagement. One is essential, the other can be counterproductive.

As organizational priorities change, “trooping the line” can be beneficial to the productivity of your team.

What does “Trooping the Line” look like for you as a leader?

In honor of Veteran’s Day, we use this example to pay tribute to Service Members of our Armed Forces.  

In closing, I leave you with a quote from General Douglas MacArthur

“A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He/she does not set out to be a leader but becomes one by the quality of his/her actions in the integrity of his/her intent.”  – General Douglas MacArthur 

Lucy Rose-Correia SPHR, SHRM-SCP, CPC – Chief of Talent