Mentoring is a leadership responsibility

Lt. Col. John L. Flynn
435th Medical Support Squadron commander

Your first duty as a leader is to grow more leaders and one way to do that is through a process called mentoring – the act of reaching out to others, teaching them job or life skills, sharing lessons learned from your own life experience and knowledge while at the same time providing career guidance; assisting them with their professional growth and being an excellent role model for future leaders. Leadership is where mentoring starts.

What makes a good mentor? I have listed a few qualities, characteristics and skills to help you grow as a mentor, so you too can raise up other leaders around you.

Good mentors are actively and closely involved with their students. Active mentoring is an intentional, two-way relationship in which the mentor and student have committed to a learning and growth process. This kind of closeness and commitment can only come from a mentor who is sincerely interested in the personal welfare and benefit of their students. People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.

Good mentors maintain a consistent pattern of availability. As a mentor you must first demonstrate your availability to your students. “We will get together sometime soon” may be an acceptable social statement, but is unacceptable in the process of mentoring someone. I suggest you make room on your calendars to meet and discuss progress with your students on a weekly or monthly basis versus only at the required semiannual and annual feedback sessions.

Good mentors always begin with an assessment. It is very important to know the strengths, weaknesses, commitment level, previous training, personal background and expectations of the student before the mentoring process is to begin. Wise mentors start at the level their students are at, not above or below. Then you can develop a list of objectives, goals and the length of time you will spend on pursuing them.

Good mentors are excellent listeners. This is straight forward and to the point. Listen more than you talk. The number one error made by most inexperienced mentors is to play the “great wise teacher” and do all of the talking. The best mentors listen, ask a lot of questions and teach only at the right moment.

Good mentors demonstrate a personal lifestyle worthy of following. Integrity, ethics and high moral standards are vital to an effective mentoring process. As human beings we learn by visual demonstration (89 percent) or what is modeled. People do what people see; therefore your life is more important than your lesson.

The more leaders you have in your organization the better chance at success. Therefore supervisors, I challenge you, to pour yourself into others and raise up the next generation of Air Force leaders; it will make a difference for you, it will greatly impact their lives, and it will significantly increase the value and success of your own organization.