Making the Most Out of US Army Developmental Counseling & Form DA 4858

Full disclosure: I do not have a military background, and my intent here is to share general tips for professional development. We at PDFfiller support and thank our armed forces for everything they do!  

Development. The act or process of growing or causing something to grow or become larger or more advanced (Merriam-Webster). Development is something we do literally from the moment we are conceived, and is instrumental in every aspect of life from biology to our professional careers.

For the men and women of the United States Army who selflessly put their lives on the lines to keep us safe, developmental counseling is a way to grow personally and professionally. Whether you’re looking to hone your leadership skills, build a new skill set, get a degree, or take corrective action, developmental counseling can be a crucial asset to career growth. Documenting both success and opportunities in  performance provides a chance to take that “step back” and look at where you’ve come from, where you’re going, and how it all affects the big picture. It also provides a great opportunity to learn from leaders.

To accomplish any goal, a strong plan of action is non-negotiable. Imagine trying to build a house with all of the materials, but no idea where the plumbing goes, how big each room is, or how many there should even be. If you’re trying to develop yourself, and others around you, your action plan should your primary focus.

Here are a few tips to getting the most out of your action plan:

Set a clearly defined, measurable objective

Instead of “Go to college,” try “Receive an associate’s degree by the end of 2016.” Setting an objective and deadline not only allows you to visualize a tangible result, but allows you to start properly planning to make your goals a reality.

Create milestones

Set smaller, incremental goals to measure success by, such as “decide on a major by June 1” or “Begin classes in the fall of 2014.” Achieving smaller goals en route to your primary objective can have a major psychological impact, helping you feel accomplished and inspiring you to see your commitment through. It can also serve as somewhat of a checklist, making sure you’re taking care of things like financials or time-based commitments.

Note what does and doesn’t work along the way

Regardless of why something did or did not work, Knowing what works can make your continued development significantly easier and allows you to better develop others. Knowing what doesn’t work can help you work smarter the next time, and can help prevent others from making the same mistakes.

Hold yourself accountable

It can be very easy to give up on a goal if you falter. If you don’t meet a milestone, ask yourself why, and be prepared to modify your action plan to get back on track. There’s no excuse for making excuses.

Put everything on paper

When it comes to our goals and aspirations, we tend to think it’ll be easy to remember who we want to be and what we want to do. By taking the time to not only avoid generalization, but also write down specifics, you have a solid point of reference as you work towards your goal. This will also help with milestones and accountability.

Only you can control your development, and with the right planning, anything is possible. If you’re not sure where to start, you can find some great examples of developmental topics at You can also fill out DA Form 4856 using PDFfiller.