Fixing The "IW Mentorship Problem"

Re: Fixing The "IW Mentorship Problem"

Postby BornCryppie » Thu May 07, 2015 3:15 pm

I believe that the mentorship program in the IW community is broken because of the lack of oversight and dilution of leadership.

On subs and surface ships, the leadership is held accountable for their subordinates' deliverables, and therefore it is in their best interest that the deliverables are produced at a high quality. While this counts as training, it also builds trust and establishes regular contact which facilitates incremental mentorship. Also, wardrooms on ships smaller than CVNs encourage the eating of meals with the CO and below. This, again, facilitates mentorship at mealtime.

The IW community is too diluted at all levels. Regular contact with the CO at a magnet site is impossible, department heads are often in different buildings, and rarely do they provide oversight on any deliverable other than a random slide or blurb about the weekly activities within their subordinate divisions. And I concur that on ships, being 1 of 1 doesn't help developing IWs as IWs.

I'm all about mentorship dialogue, but the unfortunate thing is that those that need it the most are the ones who tend to not seek it out. So whatever mechanism is selected for the "final answer" needs to address these outliers (which in my experience is actually about 75% of the new ENS/LTJG 1810s I've met).

One suggestion: engage with C10F or IDFOR to provide some kind of structured oversight (a la URL communities). Through the execution of the assigned tasks and / or in preparation for inspection, those officers will seek out mentorship out of necessity. This is the painful answer, but the only one that will last in my opinion.
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Re: Fixing The "IW Mentorship Problem"

Postby yoshi » Thu May 07, 2015 7:54 pm

Interesting post. While there is a lot of truth to what you say, I would offer that JO development and mentorship need to be disentangled. Somewhere along the way the idea of mentorship became conflated with being responsible for your junior officers and their development. In my opinion, they aren't the same thing. There is a minimum standard of support/development of subordinates which should be maintained by everyone in the JO's leadership chain (DH, XO, CO). This is largely what is seen in the wardrooms of ships, subs, etc, and should not be confused with mentorship. I believe the responsibility for developing JOs gradually was abdicated in favor of the idea that the JO's mentor would handle the task. However, a mentor, while certainly helpful to the JO, should be focused on guiding the JO to and through the best choices for that individual based on his/her goals. The leadership chain should be focused on getting into and out of that JO the maximum amount of knowledge and effort possible. You can't assign or force a mentoring relationship, they have to develop naturally or not at all. We are not missing the concept of mentorship or officers capable of being mentors. Instead, we are hurting in the JO development area, as are a couple other communities. You correctly articulated a couple specific areas in which we struggle - regular contact, trust building, and common interests. It is up to the Commanders, the Executive Officers, and other leaders to figure out ways to overcome these obstacles to developing future leaders. I have been in two billets where that was done, in two billets where it was not attempted, and in one billet where it was attempted but results were anemic.

While it has been and continues to be a problem in certain places (particularly in the larger, O-6 commands), I am very hopeful 3-4 years will bring COs/XOs who prioritize developing subordinates as a means of achieving mission rather than satisfying requirements. Our commands have a ton of latitude and maneuvering space, relative to commands of other communities, to implement positive initiatives and cause JOs (to want) to serve because they like it, not just because they can do A or get B, etc. In the interim, all JOs should be very demanding, insistent, and respectful about their own professional development, particularly if they feel it is lacking. It is important to keep in mind your professional and personal development are what is best for your command, yourself and the Navy. Thus, it should be a priority for the JO, and the leadership.
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Re: Fixing The "IW Mentorship Problem"

Postby BornCryppie » Thu May 07, 2015 10:15 pm

I concur on all points. In an ideal world, all things that "should" happen "will" happen. But in my experience, in the absence of a formalized framework these things only come to pass as a result of a focused effort by a stellar leadership team. Maybe I'm just bitter and jaded, but I feel like requiring "stellar leadership" in every billet may be a bit too much to ask.

I believe, however, that most new JOs spend more time keeping their head above water than planning their own professional development. In this regard, I believe that it is the job of senior leaders to DIRECT them on how to behave, as opposed to holding them personally accountable for not being "demanding, insistent, and respectful about their own professional development." Just like kids. I can't reasonably give my kids 100% freedom and then place blame fully on their shoulders when they make poor decisions. We first teach our children to follow orders in order to establish proper HABITS, then gradually increase their freedom and responsibility until adulthood when they are free to make their own career decisions. Those habits form the foundation of success in life. In my mind, the first few years in the service follows the same pattern.

If done right, our young officers may not know WHY things are happening at the time, but the process should make sense later down the line. Think: Mr. Miyagi (RIP). Mentorship through tasking.

So, if we can't consistently rely on leadership, what can we rely on?

Again, I think the answer is to leverage these few stellar leaders in developing a unified policy that REQUIRES best practices. By defining a standard, and providing OVERSIGHT in the fulfillment of that standard, we may be able to effect community-wide change. The big challenge here is that the IW community can't really figure out exactly what we want our officers to do, so a unified standard may yet be a ways off. Maybe I'll finish with a question:

What skills unique to the IW community should every Ensign have mastered by the time he or she pins on LTJG?
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Re: Fixing The "IW Mentorship Problem"

Postby BornCryppie » Thu May 07, 2015 10:20 pm

I also am 100% on board with all the things proposed in this thread. I think VTCs are a fantastic idea for facilitating community-wide discussion, and it is a critical first step. Mostly, my point is that we need to codify the results of the discussion into policy, then enforce it for those that can't be bothered to get involved on their own volition. Without "hooks," I fear that the initiative may eventually die on the vine.
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