Developing Leaders: The Role of Mentorship

BY LT. CMDR. KIRK ENGLER, SC, USN, SUPPLY CORPS CAREER COUNSELOR OFFICE OF SUPPLY CORPS PERSONNEL

Over the course of three days, Supply Corps admirals and captains gathered to discuss the state of the Corps. During the event, Captains Eric Morgan, Marty Fields, Joan Oldmixon and Mark Wheeler led a spirited discussion on leader development and mentoring.

Sneak Peek: CNO’s Leader Development Framework

To begin, Capt. Eric Morgan gave the assembled group a sneak peek at the Chief of Naval Operations’ (CNO’s) Leader Development Framework, which will soon be released. This initiative is led by flag officers from 17 different officer communities “with the objective of strengthening professionalism across all officer communities,” said Morgan. The framework focuses on four main characteristics:

  • Fleet-centric. Leader development will begin early in our careers, focusing on character and commitment to Navy core values.
  • Career-long learning. Leader development will be comprised of experience, education, specific skills training, and personal development.
  • Temporal milestones. Leader development training will be integrated within community career paths.
  • Dedication to self-improvement. Leader development will be driven by strong mentoring, coaching, and self-assessment.

Mentoring

Dovetailing with the CNO’s Leader Development Framework, Capt. Marty Fields discussed active mentoring in the Supply Corps and what that means for leaders and protégés. “Mentoring is a means of forming professional relationships that foster free communication and provide an avenue for senior officers to share experiences and offer Feature Story guidance,” said Fields. The most valuable mentoring involves an ongoing process designed to help individuals reach their optimal potential. It enhances morale, good order and discipline, and improves operational readiness and professionalism.

Who is a mentor? We are all mentors, whether you are a new division officer mentoring your junior Sailors, a department head mentoring first tour division officers, or a senior officer mentoring your wardroom.

What makes you a good mentor? Just like we were taught in the Basic Qualification Course, punch the pubs! Know what is current, new, and changing in our community. Know what promotion boards value and what the community brief says. While there is no “one right way” to build your career, there are myriad references to help guide you. It’s Your Career playbooks, promotion board convening orders, board precepts, the annual OP roadshow, OP Monthly, and the eSUPPO app are powerful tools available to mentors and protégés.

Why do we mentor? Ultimately, we must all be accountable for each other. The benefits of a mentoring relationship are best achieved when both mentors and protégés are fully committed. Supply Corps officers must recognize the importance that mentoring plays in the success of our community and should actively seek opportunities to mentor junior officers and Sailors. At the same time, junior officers must actively seek career advice from more senior officers. Formal and informal mentoring is essential to shaping the future leaders of the Supply Corps.

What do you need to do to be mentored? Learn your job, learn our business, seek those you trust, seek many advisors, and find common threads that resonate with your professional and personal goals.

Mentoring Junior Officers in the Surface Fleet

To cap off the discussion, Capt. Joan Oldmixon and Capt. Mark Wheeler provided their thoughts on mentorship of supply officers serving in the Surface Fleet. “We view mentoring as a team sport and encourage our staffs to reach out to afloat SUPPOs every day,” said Oldmixon. Wheeler added, “we need to lean in when they need assistance and applaud their efforts when successful.”

Surface type commands’ staffs do more than mentor junior supply officers in the Fleet. Staff officers also engage with commanding officers and executive officers to expand line officer awareness of Supply Corps community values, duties and responsibilities.

The leader development dialogue ended with recognition of the amazing work our junior officers are doing on the waterfront and the overwhelming positive feedback from the warfighter. “There are fantastic young officers coming up behind us, diversely talented and unblinking in the face of challenge!” concluded Oldmixon.

January/February 2017