Mentoring a 'win-win' relationship

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Joseph Narrigan
  • 45th Medical Operations Squadron commander
March's leadership theme is mentorship. Having the opportunity to address this topic has allowed me to reflect on individuals who have positively influenced me throughout my life and reinforced the importance of our Core Values and Air Force culture. I venture my experience is not too much different than yours.

Each of us has someone who has helped encourage us along the way. Someone who has helped us become more than we would have alone... a mentor. It may have been a teacher, a coach, a parent, a supervisor or someone who has walked in your shoes before you and shared some of their wisdom.

In the early 1980s, "Senior Airman Narrigan" worked for Capt. Wayne Adams. Captain Adams always found time to help medical technicians appreciate not just how to be a medic but also how our duties impacted the mission. In the early 1990s, as "Lieutenant Narrigan" I worked for Col. George Adams, no relation. Colonel Adams taught me how to accomplish the mission while taking care of our Airmen. These gentlemen, while having different leadership styles, impacted my life because they took the time to be a mentor.

Natural or informal mentoring occurs through friendship, teaching, or counseling in an informal setting. Planned or formal mentoring is an assigned relationship through a structured program. The Air Force's mentoring program covers a wide range of areas including career guidance, professional development, Air Force history and heritage, knowledge of air and space power, ethics and perhaps, most importantly understanding and applying our core values in not only our Airmen's careers but also their personal lives.

As General Bolton recently stated mentoring is like investing. Instead of investments in homes or the stock market, he said, by mentoring we are investing in the Air Force's future. We are building a portfolio, if you will, of future Air Force leaders.

While the mentor's job is to guide, encourage and correct the mentee, the mentee must be willing to act on constructive criticism. Mentoring is a win-win relationship for all. The mentee gains valuable knowledge while the mentor gains respect and appreciation, as well as a sense of investment in their duties.

Mentoring builds leaders of the highest quality and prevents the loss of valuable potential. I encourage you to share your knowledge and experience with someone today. I encourage you to read AFI 36-3401 and hone your mentoring skills today.