Constructive feedback key to successful mentoring

  • Published
  • By Maj. Jason Vance
  • 445th Logistics Readiness Squadron Commander

It’s my privilege to author this month’s edition of the Buckeye Flyer. The topic I have chosen is near and dear to my heart, mentoring.  Being able to mentor and pass along personal and professional career guidance is what continues to drive me in my career.  A few of the questions I’ll attempt to answer in this article include:

            What guidance governs the Air Force Mentoring Program?

            What is mentoring and why does the Air Force place such significance?

            What are the roles and responsibilities of a mentor?

            How does the Air Force document mentoring?    

The Air Force Mentoring Program is governed by Air Force Manual 36-2643.  This manual applies to all Airmen (officer, enlisted and civilian) and is for active duty Air Force, Air National Guard and Air Force Reservists. 

The Air Force views mentoring as a valuable instrument to groom its Airmen to become well-rounded at all levels.  At the core of mentoring is providing career guidance centering on professional development, core competencies and fostering communication that will enable our Airmen to advance into key leadership roles.

What is mentoring? 

Mentoring was established in the Air Force to bring about a cultural shift with respect to professional development.  Specifically, mentoring is where someone with more experience provides guidance to someone with less experience. 

There are no restrictions on who can be a mentor.  A mentor/mentee relationship can be someone in the same place under your supervision or external to your organization.  For example, one of my go-to mentors is someone outside of my organization and someone who I can contact any time day or night.   

What are the roles and responsibilities of a mentor? 

Anyone can be a mentor.  The key is maintaining a positive outlook and working environment where everyone feels comfortable.  One important aspect of mentoring is you can’t possibly have all the answers to everything; however, having a pulse of where you can find the answer is equally valuable.

How does the Air Force document mentoring? 

For individuals in the military, there are two primary methods to document mentoring and the approach depends on the rank.  If you’re in the grade of airman basic through technical sergeant you would use the Airman Comprehensive Assessment, Air Force Form 931.  If you’re in the grade of master sergeant through chief master sergeant you would use an ACA Air Force Form 932.  There are eight sections to the ACA and it’s important that the mentor take this process seriously. 

When it comes to mentoring, providing positive feedback is the easy part.  The hard part is providing negative or constructive feedback.  This is one of the more challenging parts of being a mentor/providing feedback but negative/constructive feedback can grow Airmen the same as positive feedback.  It’s highly recommended that you’re truthful and honest when it comes to feedback; otherwise you can do more harm than good.         

Throughout my 24 year military and 18 year civilian career, I have had many mentors that have played a significant role and helped to shape the person I am today.    

In closing, I hope you found this article to be insightful.  Finding a mentor is not a requirement but highly encouraged.  The key is to find that person who you can trust and provide you both positive and negative feedback that can assist in guiding your career.