by Command Sergeant Major Randolph Hollingsworth

First Sergeant Richard A. Harris of Alpha Company, 306th MI Battalion, is my guest writer for this issue of MIPB. He advocates mentorship in the enlisted ranks and explains how to develop a mentoring program. I ask that you consider what First Sergeant Harris has to say.

The Mentorship Program: A Hidden Weapon

Editor's Note: FM 25-101, Battle Focused Training, discusses mentoring as an important part of a professional development program. Readers are encouraged to read DA Pamphlet 600-35, Relationships Between Soldiers of Different Rank, before initiating a mentoring relationship.

The purpose of this article is to outline what a mentoring program is by

For years, men and women working in government, the military, and business have used an informal, voluntary system of counseling and advising younger men and women whom they considered worthy of career advancement. Older, usually more experienced individuals referred to as mentors help the younger personnel learn the ropes, by introducing them to top leaders, giving them challenging or viable assignments and serving as their advocate within the organization.

Role of the Mentor

By definition, a mentor is one who coaches, counsels, teaches, and sponsors others. The American Heritage Dictionary describes a mentor as "a wise and trusted teacher or counselor. There is evidence that the concept is not a recent development: in Greek mythology, Odysseus asked his trusted counselor, Mentor, to become guardian and teacher of his son. Mentors can be seen as individuals who have been where you want to go in your career and are willing to act as guides and friends. Their task is to take individuals under their wings and direct them toward the next step in their careers.
As sponsors, mentors must create opportunities which allow their prot‚g‚s to improve their unique skills and military occupational specialties (MOSs). In an organizational setting, this may mean the mentor will ask the prot‚g‚ to help on a project, analyze a problem, or make a presentation to higher command levels. Some studies suggest that most successful leaders have had the benefit of such a sponsor. It is generally accepted and understood that even the brightest members of an organization will stagnate unless someone higher up the ladder notices them. As teachers, mentors often present hypothetical situations and ask for input or possible solutions. An important part of the teaching responsibility is explaining written and unwritten unit policies, general and special orders, and so forth, which pertain to specific situations. As devil's advocates, the mentors' charge is to challenge prot‚g‚s to develop and use skills pertaining to command presence in the face of opposition, conflict, or disagreement. As coaches, mentors help to support dreams, assist in determining what is important, and in identifying skills the prot‚g‚ has or could develop.

Types of Mentoring Programs

There are two types of mentoring programs, formal and informal. Most organizations use an informal approach. This involves a voluntary effort on the part of a senior NCO or any commissioned officer. These insightful individuals routinely recognize talent and potential, attempting to guide and develop those traits in others. However, many forward-thinking private businesses, in an effort to operate at optimum effectiveness in today's competitive environment, have established formal mentoring programs. Such firms include Merrill Lynch and Company and Johnson and Johnson and its subsidiary companies. The program at Merrill Lynch is called the Management Readiness Program (MRP). It is a six-month program designed to assist in career development and build bridges between high-level management and all other personnel. Provisions of the MRP require that
The Johnson and Johnson program is quite similar to that of Merrill Lynch. The major difference is that the Johnson and Johnson program is geared directly toward promising female and minority employees. They are selected on a case-by-case basis by giving them additional responsibilities and special opportunities. Johnson and Johnson uses the premise that women and minorities have had significant difficulty in finding mentors which has widely hampered these group's ability to advance into top management positions. In fact, in one recent survey 44 percent of the managers questioned agreed that women and minorities have a harder time finding someone in their organization to nurture their professional growth. Moreover, when women have a mentor, that mentor is most often an older man, which unfortunately, typically contributes to negative gossip about the nature of the relationship.

Selecting Mentors

How does an organization instituting a formal mentoring program select mentors? The following guidelines should be used in the process: