Home > Publications > Armed Forces Comptroller > Past Issues > Vol. 57, No. 1 Winter 2012 > Mentoring



The following are full responses to the ASMC questionnaire on mentoring. Some respondents answered each of the four questions separately; others offered their own experiences as mentors or mentees.

Becky McCutcheon
Aviation Chapter
What, in your opinion, is the role of a mentor?
In today’s academic, social, and business environment, much emphasis is being put on the word mentor and the all- encompassing role of a mentor. There are formal programs, books, courses, training programs, etc.

When I think of the role of a mentor, I relate it in the purest, simplest sense. In my opinion, a mentor is a wise nurturer. Our Native American Indian tribes had a chief who in the purest sense was this wise nurturer. These leaders shared their secrets of success (and failures) within the tribe. These early mentors were kind, patient, and self-sacrificing individuals who observed and evaluated the skills and performance of tribal members. Their shared experiences and philosophy nurtured and guided individuals toward reaching their optimal potential. To be a successful mentor, a person must have the desire, ability, and skill to guide and lead a junior individual.

How do you find a mentor/mentee? We are surrounded by informal mentors (parents, grandparents, teachers, religious leaders, friends, and co-workers). However, as financial managers in the DoD, we have formal opportunities to develop a mentor/mentee relationship. These programs can be unique to the agency/command. The majority of intern programs incorporate a mentor/mentee opportunity. In some cases, this might be a program requirement.

Many instructors in professional military education schools (DFMC&S and DDSC) offer to serve as mentors. Senior leaders in the financial management career field often serve as mentors. In many cases, the mentee needs to initiate the relationship. I would caution a mentee to get to know his or her potential mentor.

What makes a successful mentor/mentee relationship? For the relationship to be successful, each party has to have a strong desire to serve in the mentor/mentee capacity. It is relatively easy to sign up for a program, but actions speak louder than words. The mentor must “walk the walk,” not only “talk the talk,” and must be driven to genuinely nurture the mentee and want to see him or her succeed.

In addition, I think both the mentor and mentee must do the following:

  • Develop a mutual trust and respect for each other
  • Value each other as a person
  • Have a commitment to be strong when negative feedback is necessary
  • Be willing to rise to the next level
  • Have a desire for growth

Commander Fred Dini, CDFM-A
Aloha Chapter President, 2011-2012

Almost a decade ago, the Navy Supply Corps developed a formal mentorship program, which still exists today. At different times, senior officer mentors have been assigned randomly to specific junior officers or based on common career fields, commands, or locations. At other times, junior officers have been encouraged to seek out and schedule mentoring sessions with leaders outside their chain of command until a mutual decision was made informally to establish a long-term mentoring relationship. Though the Supply Corps mentoring program continues to evolve, its basic premises have held constant: a mentor should support, challenge, and provide guidance to a mentee, through listening, positive and constructive words, and example; a successful mentor/mentee relationship is based on values of trust, respect, availability, confidentiality, and accountability.

One mentor I've often turned to for guidance is a person I worked for in the past and who kept in contact with me and stayed interested in my career. His interest, combined with my admiration for his own career path, made me feel comfortable in seeking out his professional advice.

I stumbled into other mentor relationships simply by attending Navy professional development events. Once, while I mingled with my co-workers, a senior officer introduced himself, struck up a conversation, and encouraged us to contact him. I stayed in contact and eventually worked for him in what turned out to be a terrific learning experience. Another senior officer unexpectedly took her time to introduce me to her peers at a social event; that simple, very-appreciated gesture opened many doors for me and gave me a useful mentoring tool that I've since had the opportunity to share with mentees.

My experience has been that to find a mentor, you simply need to identify someone you admire and bravely take the sometimes awkward first step toward introducing yourself and asking for his or her professional advice. The worst that can happen is a nonacceptance,, but the best that can happen is a long-term professional relationship and the best personalized guidance you could ask for.

Maria D. Palmer
President, Vandenberg Space & Missile Chapter

Mentorship is one of the most important things we all can do to benefit our lives. If worked out properly, mentorship allows for a mutual relationship to evolve in many positive ways. The mentor must have an honest desire to help others through his or her wisdom. The mentee agrees to be responsible and grateful for the mentor’s time provided.

Through open communication and commitment, both the mentor and the mentee will chart and set goals. They will also come up with a mutual plan of accomplishment and will establish mutual respect for each other. The mentor will do his or her best to share experiences and knowledge in order to help the other succeed. The mentee, on the other hand, will need to communicate his or her wants and needs. Mutually, they will come to an agreement on how best to accomplish this. The mentor will provide guidance and support throughout the process. The mentee will work diligently to put the plan into action. Both will discuss what has been accomplished and what may need to change until the desired goals are met. The result is a rewarding experience that benefits both. It’s a win-win situation.

One way our chapter achieves its goals is by adopting an airman to become an ASMC member. This provides an opportunity to an airman to be introduced at an early stage in his or her military career to the benefits provided by ASMC. ASMC goals are achieved through mentoring others, helping them with CDFM exams, and providing them with resources and tools that will make them better employees, thus benefiting them and the organization’s mission goals. This is one of the reasons ASMC is a great organization. Its own goals promote mentorship by helping members grow to be professionals as well as responsible individuals.

Harry Pillot
President, New Biscayne Chapter
What, in your opinion, is the role of a mentor?

The role of a mentor is to assist the mentee in accomplishing his or her goals. The mentor uses his experience and connections to ensure that the mentee takes the appropriate actions to reach those goals. The idea is to develop a long-range plan for the mentee.

How do you find a mentor/mentee?
The mentor program must be endorsed by the Command, or it will not work. It is not finding a mentee/mentor; it is having the opportunity to participate. In our command we endorse and emphasize the mentorship program. Most leaders (seniors and not-so-seniors) make themselves available to participate; several employees have taken advantage of this program.

What makes a successful mentor/mentee relationship?
The key attributes of a mentor-mentee relationship is openness and communication. The mentee should be able to communicate openly what are his or her goals and objectives, and the mentor should be able to understand those objectives and have the ability to direct and focus the mentee in the right direction. It is important that the mentor stays in continuous communication with the mentee’s supervisor to ensure there is no conflict with the meeting times and especially with tasks that require the mentee to be away from his or her worksite.

What formal mentorship program exists within your organization?
We have a Combatant Command Regulation that covers our Mentorship Program. The regulation is posted on our SharePoint site for all to read and apply. There are also meetings to describe and encourage participation. Additionally, there is a contract between the mentor and the mentee as part of the program. The contract is reviewed by the mentee’s supervisor before it is signed.

Chip Fulghum
Washington Chapter

Mentoring comes in all shapes, forms, and sizes and means a lot of different things to different people. To me, mentoring really comes down to three basic things: feedback, fostering professional development, and career advice. Today I'll focus on feedback. Consider this: Do you like getting it? Immediately you'll say, “Yes,” of course. But if you really give it some thought, you might answer differently. I've given literally 100's of talks, and every time I get the critiques, I get anxious and a little nervous. The reason is simple. I don't want to miss the mark or disappoint. Eventually I get over that and read the critiques and take them to heart—but it does take some time. Oftentimes when we get feedback, we resist it. We attempt to rationalize it away. All of us have what I call a "rationalization" hat that we put on from time to time. Instead of embracing the feedback and working to incorporate it, we resist and justify to ourselves why it’s unfounded. You know what I’m talking about—rationale like, your boss doesn't like you, you're not the favorite, etc. You've got to resist that urge and accept what the individual is telling you and use it to make yourself better. Ultimately that's what feedback is about—improving yourself.

To have effective feedback, one key ingredient is required—trust. There must be trust between the two individuals in order for meaningful feedback to take place. For there to be trust, you must have a relationship, which means you care. That of course is going to take the most precious thing you have—time. You've got to invest the time in your people by getting to know them, their goals, and their family goals in order to have a successful relationship built on trust. Then your feedback will be more readily accepted. Give feedback often and don't wait for the twice a year when it’s required. Finally, remember that feedback, like mentoring, comes in all shapes forms and sizes—written, verbal, and nonverbal—so be on the lookout for it daily.

Darrell Allen II
Aviation Chapter
A Pair of Glasses

A mentor is like a pair of glasses. A person has to have to the correct prescription for the glasses to be effective. The wrong prescription would make a person’s eyes worse, but the right prescription would enable the person to see well and farther than he or she thought was imaginable. For a successful mentor/mentee relationship to occur, the mentor needs to be the correct prescription for the mentee. Basically, the main goal for the relationship should be for the mentor to help the mentee improves his or her vision.

I have been fortunate to have a great father in my life. He taught me to be a man and that’s the most important thing someone can teach a boy. I have also been blessed to have other mentors at certain periods in my life: teachers, bosses, older friends. Most of the mentors in my life have found me. I noticed people like to help people who are trying to accomplish something they once did. When I was struggling to finish school, a former student noticed me and decided to take me under his wing until my education was complete. The same thing occurred at work. When I was struggling, a co-worker who had been in my position earlier in his career decided to mentor me (R.I.P., Anthony).

I always express my gratitude to my mentors by trying to buy them something nice—dinner or maybe a gift card to a fancy store. But the main thing all of my mentors desired from me was to “pay it forward.” Today, I am a proud mentor—or a pair of glasses—to someone else.

Joe Marshall
Washington Chapter

The role of a mentor is to provide career context and advice, help in networking, and be a springboard for career discussion/ideas.

A mentor needs to be somebody not in your chain of command. The idea that someone can mentor you and then grade you is nonsensical. It needs to be someone the mentee respects but feels he can communicate with you effectively.

Key in the relationship is that the mentee remains in charge of his or her career. The mentor is there to assist, not take over.

We don't have a formal program here, and I believe most formal programs fail because they confuse Chain of Command and mentor relationships.

Jonna L. Burich, CDFM-A
Aviation Chapter

In my opinion, mentors are individuals who take the time to show you the ropes. They work with you to impart their wisdom from their experiences on the job. They encourage you and help you work through mistakes without ‘raking you over the coals’. They keep you from reinventing the wheel as you learn your profession. I’ve been fortunate to have had several excellent mentors throughout my career. I also strive to be a good mentor to others by being available to answer questions or give examples of past processes. Mentors are the repository of corporate knowledge of any organization, not hoarders of information.

Kristin M. Borntrager, CDFM-A
Twin Cities Chapter

I feel the role of a mentor is to offer information, wisdom, and career guidance to his or her protégés. Mentors have a unique opportunity to take a personal interest in the individuals they are guiding and perhaps expose them to agencies, careers, or other networking opportunities necessary to meet desired goals. If the mentor is also the supervisor, allowing for development is crucial and must be budgeted for in both time and funding. I also feel it is role of a mentor to be a good example—walk the walk, hold individuals accountable for their actions, and accept responsibility for their own mistakes.

James Watkins
Director, Accountability and Audit Readiness, ASA (FM&C)
Mentorship Vignette

Mentorship takes many forms, and the following is one lesson I have carried with me all my life because of the impact it made. It is an example of an unusual technique with a strong teaching message.

I was a new second lieutenant in an Infantry Company overseas. Upon reporting to the unit, the company executive officer provided background on the unit, personnel, mission, etc. He also mentioned that the company commander was an alcoholic and drank heavily during the day. Within the day (or the next day) the company clerk found me and stated that the commander wanted to see me. It was in the afternoon, and it was July. I reported to the commander, who invited me to sit down. Then he pulled out two glasses from the desk drawer. He reached in the same drawer and pulled out an almost-full bottle of Jim Beam. He filled the glasses with Jim Beam and said we needed to have a drink while we talked. Being a new lieutenant and mindful of what the executive officer had told me, I grabbed the glass and took a drink. I almost gagged, but the shock was on me. To my surprise the liquid was iced tea!

The commander provided my first of many mentoring sessions. He said, “Don’t believe everything you hear and only half of what you see.”

As it turns out, the commander was not an alcoholic; the executive officer had set me up for the lesson. And of course, I didn’t see a bottle of Jim Beam; I saw a Jim Beam bottle full of iced tea.

To this day, those words of advice ring true, and the experience was a good example of mentorship.

Glenn Johnson
What, in your opinion, is the role of a mentor?

To provide guidance, encouragement, and "tricks of the trade."

How do you find a mentor/mentee?
Ask! Approach someone you admire and respect.

What makes a successful mentor/mentee relationship?
"Chemistry"—mutual respect and the ability to communicate and work well together.

Angeline Frett
What, in your opinion, is the role of a mentor?

In my opinion, the role of a mentor comes in many forms. A mentor should have a great knowledge of the subject in order to give reasonable advice. A mentor must be capable of providing guidance, especially when it comes to advising a recipient on establishing career goals. Of course, mentors must understand that each mentee will have a different career path, which means that the mentor should be capable of change. The most important role of a mentor, in my opinion, is to be a problem solver—ready to give advice at all times. A successful mentor will help a mentee bring out his or her own personal goals and not impose beliefs of how the mentee should be. That happens through trust.

How do you find a mentor/mentee?
It is important that the mentee understands exactly what his or her needs are and to figure out if the person should be someone on the job or from another source. Today’s technology allows a mentee to look on line for a mentor as well as check out reviews about mentors and programs. You can also ask a supervisor or a co-worker or visit area colleges for a recommendation.

What makes a successful mentor/mentee relationship?
Communication is the most important step in establishing a relationship. Telling your mentor up front what you expect from him or her and allowing your mentor to reciprocate is the answer. The mentor and the mentee must have a positive attitude and be capable of having innovative ideas. Both have to be respectful of each other, especially when coming up with solutions to issues. Keep it professional.

Jessica Dunaway
Huntsville/Redstone Chapter

As a Department of the Army intern, I was required to have a formal mentor, who reported to my supervisory chain on our sessions together and my progress as an Army Civilian employee. I was fortunate to be placed with a wonderful lady who is still a mentor to me almost ten years later. I have had other influences that I would consider mentors who were not formal, but rather co-workers, supervisors, or friends. As I have advanced in my career, I have used these examples to help others, both formally and informally, in a “pay it forward” kind of way. The Army defines mentorship as “The voluntary, developmental relationship that exists between a person of greater experience and a person of lesser experience that is characterized by mutual trust and respect.” You don’t have to be a supervisor or even a team leader to be a mentor to others. You just have to be willing to share the benefit of your experience and knowledge.

We can even be mentors to others just by encouraging one another. One of the most effective ways to do this is to provide frequent, positive feedback during an assigned task or while striving toward a goal. Positive feedback is a great morale booster that removes doubt, builds self-esteem, and results in a sense of accomplishment.

The command that I support has a formal mentoring program, which makes it easy to become involved. The AMCOM “People Empowering People Mentoring Program” was established for all permanent civilian employees interested in volunteering to participate in a formal mentoring relationship and serving as a mentor or protégé. I have participated in both roles.

Mentoring is a powerful tool that can be used for professional and personal development. It improves individual performance, retention, and professional development. Mentoring helps to stimulate career progression and provides many opportunities for all involved to expand their leadership, interpersonal, and technical skills. I encourage everyone to get involved in mentorship.

Gillian “Jill” Misiewicz
Mentors, be one . . . get one—advice to a prospective mentee

The role of the mentor depends on the relationship between the mentor and the mentee. The most effective situation is where there is a high level of trust in the relationship and where the mentor really knows and understands the person he or she is mentoring. That can be former supervisors, people who have worked with you on projects, or even people you greatly respect. Since that level of understanding is not always there, it is important for you to understand each mentor’s knowledge of you and the organization and take that into consideration when weighing advice.

A mentor is your champion, not your coach. Pay attention for hints on improving your behavior or presentation, because they may be subtle. Finding a mentor depends on what you are looking for mentorship in. Formal programs can be great but may lack personal investment. If you are looking to progress in a certain functional area, finding someone who has been down that path, but who is not in your chain of command, is ideal. How do you find that person? Ask around, get recommendations, or ask respected people you meet at conferences or courses.

My most important advice for you is to not just get a mentor, be a mentor. Mentoring is really about being a good team player and sharing information. Whatever your career level is, there is someone coming up that could use your help, and that helps the organization. If you can help those around you to do better and be better, in my opinion that is what mentoring is all about.

Dave Weinberg
Washington Chapter
What makes a successful mentor/mentee relationship?

Work, desire, time, trust, and communication are all key to a successful mentor/mentee relationship. Those words are a sample of a long list of what it takes to make a relationship successful—any relationship! Think about the relationship you have with your significant other, for example. If one of these elements was lacking, how strong would that relationship really be?

It is key that both parties realize that when entering a “relationship,” it will take work. As a mentor, I am always more energized to share and give if the mentee is leaning forward and willing to work to improve. Said differently, his or her desire makes me more willing to spend time. I hate wasting time.

That desire and excitement will feed my desire and excitement. So a clear understanding that a relationship is a two-way street is paramount. As a mentor, if I am the one who is doing all the calling, all the lunch set-ups, and all the arrangements, I’m going to think I’m on a one-way ride and that there isn’t much desire. I hate wasting time.

Time—that is my most precious gift to a mentee. I have a limited amount of it, and I can never get it back. It is important to me that a mentee realizes and appreciates this gift. When we spend (not waste) time, the relationship should get stronger. Think of time as an investment.

This investment in time will increase the chance that our relationship will get stronger which means the trust between us will get stronger. The value of strong trust in a relationship is priceless. Think about the boss you trusted; how hard did you work for her? Now think about the boss you didn’t trust. It is important to learn from your personal experiences, to learn what to do from how you felt. Additionally, you probably know it takes time to build trust. You may also know that it takes only an instant to lose trust.

Gaining and losing trust often comes down to communication. Hone your mentor/mentee relationship by using leveraging communication. That means exercising your talking, writing, listening, feedback, and nonverbal skills to make sure you have a successful mentor/mentee relationship.

A successful relationship has several key ingredients. Think about how these five come into play with all your relationships and then think of another list of five equally important elements, and you are sure to improve your current and future relationships.

Jeanne Karstens
Greater Omaha Chapter

The role of mentors or the specifics of any mentoring arrangement are as varied as people themselves. I find Merriam-Webster's definition of a mentor useful: a trusted counselor or guide. Occasionally, those being mentored may believe that mentors should also be protectors or advocates. They can certainly fill those roles, if they consider it appropriate, but it should not be the basis of the mentorship. In my experience within the Department of Defense, mentors can be superiors, peers, or subordinates within a mentor program or outside of a formal program. However, the most important elements of the mentorship are a shared commitment to the employee's development and trust and respect for each other.

My personal opinion is that supervisors and certainly all senior leaders are, by definition, mentors and should be guiding the development of the personnel in their organizations. They should be considered as trusted counselors, and the members of the organization should feel comfortable seeking them out for counsel and guidance. Formal mentorship programs can complement the guidance from leaders within an organization or may become a substitute for leadership in those situations when employees are not confident that their own leadership has their best interests in mind. For employees seeking a mentor, they should look for a potential mentor whom they trust, a person who is knowledgeable about and can successfully guide them toward their objective, and a potential mentor who is able to commit the time required to spend with them.

Looking back on my 31 years, I had the benefit of multiple mentors throughout my career. They had a profound influence on me, but none of them were in a formal mentorship program. A formal program may work well for some people, but it should not be used to supplant the tremendous experience and commitment from the leaders and other personnel within the organization to help develop all team members to their maximum potential.

1stLt Tricia T. Ewing
Okinawa Chapter
The Mentorship Partnership

The success of a mentorship rapport is dependent on both parties wanting to make a difference in each other’s lives. Through life experience and formal training, the mentor develops knowledge, skill, and insight that can be of great use to those who lack it. Principles of motivation, accountability, and inspiration keep the relationship strong and allow each person to glean significant and personal value. The mentoring relationship should be a challenging one with rewarding and tangible results. The relationship between a mentor and mentee creates an opportunity for the mentee to establish a purposeful vector with which to seek future opportunities and relationships. It gives the mentor an opportunity to influence the future and leave a lasting legacy. I strongly encourage every person who desires success to seek out a mentor. First, find someone who is where you hope to be in some aspect of your life. Then, sit down with that person and have a cup of coffee.

Aleshia Bradford
Aviation Chapter
How do you find a mentor/mentee?

I believe that you find one another. It’s not a question that is asked: “Will you be my mentor/mentee?” It is a mutual understanding by each party, and they have both in some way touched each other’s lives. From a mentee point of view, that could be seeing the mentor in action at work or in meetings that has impressed the mentee, who therefore has concluded that this person is a great leader. From a mentor point of view, it is all in the approach. If he or she sees someone with a need, help him or her, and in turn this may become a mentor/mentee partnership. As they say, people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

Vickie Compton
Redstone/Huntsville Chapter

My career has been filled with informal mentorships, both giving and receiving. Nothing impacts your career more than a good mentor. My mentors were instrumental in my becoming the Chief of Resource Management. A good mentor is not defined by being the most educated, the senior analyst, or a direct supervisor; it is defined by being a loyal, dedicated person who is willing to share professional and personal knowledge and is good at people skills and teaching. Mentorship is a two-way street, and the benefits reaped are as dependent on the receiver as on the mentor. The mentee must be eager to learn, to step outside the job description, to tackle jobs without understanding it all.

My first mentor took me under her wing when I was a GS-4 budget clerk. I asked many, many questions in addition to How do I do this immediate task? How does my organization and those in my Chain of Command function? What is the cause and effect of tasks, processes and procedures? She explained as much to me as possible, drew many schematics and flow charts, provided examples, etc., and exposed me to work many grades above or outside my assigned duties. Not once did I say, “This isn’t my job”; not once did she say, “I don’t have time to explain that to you.” I will forever be grateful to her and the time she invested in me. I hope that what she taught me has in turn allowed me to be a good mentor to others. There is no greater sense of accomplishment than seeing the people you mentor become as much or more knowledgeable than yourself in a particular area. Recently one of my employees said upon retirement, “You made me what I am today.” I have never been more honored than to think I had a substantial impact on her career. A manager is only as good as his or her employees, and there is no better way to grow good employees than to share information and knowledge through mentorship.

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