What do teaching, coaching and mentoring all have in common? They all require communication and interaction. Teaching and coaching typically involve a controlled environment with determined settings, timeframes and performance centered on improvement in a specific skill area. Mentoring, on the other hand, is open, continues to evolve over time and allows nurturing of the “whole person.” Mentoring should not be a scheduled event, briefing or setting. It naturally happens every day. How it is delivered and accepted is what makes all the difference.
There is no doubt, mentoring has become a significant part of our Air Force culture. It is important that we cultivate future leaders and develop a path for young Airmen to follow. All Airmen (regardless of rank), need leadership, guidance and support throughout their career – personal and professional. Airmen are encouraged to become “well-rounded,” so where and how do we teach this lesson? Basic military and technical training schools continue to teach Airman fundamentals and basic skills. So what happens after training?
Everyday Airmen are placed in squadrons all over the world with no idea what they’re supposed to do next. Their training prepares them to follow a structured set of rules, but never taught them how to properly seek out a mentor. In general, Airmen are apprehensive when it comes to confiding or seeking guidance in other members of higher rank. As leaders, at any grade or rank, it is our responsibility to ensure we are approachable and available. We are here to help, lead, mold and mentor young Airmen on a constant basis, to help them become successful and reach true potential, remembering that one day not so long ago, we too were those young Airmen.
Mentoring has many positive effects. It allows individuals to gain insight into the organization and can increase commitment to its goals. It can also improve communication and change culture for the better.
Mentoring promotes improved levels of professional success. Lastly, mentoring gives members the opportunity to meet people and promotes social networking.
Mentoring helps Airmen develop insight through guidance and support. A mentor asks the right questions to promote greater self-awareness and informed decision making. Airmen also receive feedback on performance, potential, career progression and future plans. The role of mentors is not to solve problems, but to question how the best solutions might be found.
Mentoring is a great opportunity to show interest in others and get involved. Mentors also benefit from this relationship by getting to know the mentee, learning what is relevant to him, gaining experience and ultimately, could be changed by the relationship.
I truly believe, the earlier we take an active interest in our young Airmen, the stronger we make our Air Force.