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Guidance, support play role in mentoring dynamics

  • Published
  • By Gail Forest
  • AFMC Directorate of Engineering & Technical Management

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- I have had several mentors during various stages of my career, and because of my own experiences I know it is important to have a mentor and to be a mentor. 

The purpose of a mentor is not to tell someone what to do or how to do it, but to provide a supportive environment for the mentee to accomplish his or her identified goals. A mentor is someone who can listen with understanding and without judgement. 

Being a mentor does not mean that person always has the answer.  It means the mentor can serve as a resource, facilitator, idea generator and networker. A mentor is someone who has learned from experiences and is willing to share lessons learned, wisdom, and perception gained from those experiences.

However, being a mentor does require time and interest. Mentors must be available on a regular and accessible basis and be willing to maintain contact with mentees.

I believe it is my responsibility as a senior leader to ensure that I take the time to review, discuss, and encourage my mentees to explore their career goals. I view a mentoring relationship as a developmental opportunity with a focus that combines role modeling, encouraging, training, and working together to enhance a person’s professional growth, knowledge, and skills. 

More importantly, a mentor should create an honest, trustworthy, and confidential atmosphere that allows and fosters open communication with the mentee. This is necessary to enhance a mentee’s sense of confidence, competence, self-respect and effectiveness that will result in his or her increased contributions.

As a mentee, you also have an obligation. Being a mentee can create opportunities for you to gain a broader understanding of the Air Force and Air Force Materiel Command’s strategic goals, policies, and procedures that will enhance your career development.

Therefore, as a mentee, you must be committed to actively listening and discussing problems; open to a mentor’s feedback and willing to receive the information without interpreting it as an evaluation of you; accept suggestions and ideas; and, follow through on your agreed commitments. Finally, you must take responsibility for your own career development and actions.

To meet the challenges of the Air Force, employees must be inspired to utilize fully their talents and expertise. This means creating an environment where individuals can expand their leadership skills, promote personal growth, and increase organizational development. Mentoring is a key way to accomplish this.