YOL: The power of mentorship

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, New Mexico -- Did you ever stop to think that you may have affected a person's life? Not many people realize they have this power and think that their actions and efforts don't make a difference in the world.

I am always reminded about this power during the holiday season when I watch the movie "It's a Wonderful Life" with Jimmy Stewart. That movie shows that our everyday actions or non-actions can have a profound impact on someone else's life. Many times we don't even realize or think that what we may or may not do might affect someone else's life. The question you should ask yourself is: "Is it possible that I am capable of making a difference?"

All of us can answer yes if we would take being a mentor seriously. To me, many of our Airmen do not understand that mentorship means working with others to improve their skills or abilities. You don't have to be an expert or a 20-year veteran to qualify as a mentor. What you need is the willingness to take the time to show a fellow co-worker how to do something, share your experiences or simply listen to their problems. I personally have several mentors that I have turned to in my career to ask a question, to find out how to do something or to give me counsel on what step to take next in my career.

I have been in the Air Force for over 18 years and I still get surprised when I hear from an Airman that I made a difference in their career or life. Heck, I thought I was just being a good boss or co-worker. So when I ask people why they feel I made a difference I always get a similar response...."You took the time to teach me how to do (fill in a process) instead of just telling me I did it wrong" or "You showed me how to look the answer up for myself so I would know where to go the next time I ran into trouble." And where did I learn this technique? From my first supervisor and mentor, an officer with prior enlisted experience.

So the next time you are tempted to just tell someone what to do so you can get the project done, take the time to talk them through the process or show them an Air Force Instruction and see what they can come up with. If you are in need of a mentor, ask for one. If you have a skill or ability, then offer it! Mentorship makes us all better Airmen and human beings. Sam Walton once wrote "Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it's amazing what they can accomplish." Being a mentor takes some time and effort, but the dividends are tremendous.

Who knows what life you could impact today...make it a positive one! 

(Editor's Note: This article is one of several highlighting the Air Force Space Command Year of Leadership and its focus on mentoring.)