Defining mentorship, Part 1

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Jarad A. Denton
  • 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
"Mentorship isn't always about getting an Airman where they want to go, within their career."

Chief Master Sgt. Brian Lavoie, 28th Bomb Wing command chief, paused for a moment before continuing his thought.

"Sometimes, mentoring is about getting Airmen where they need to be," he said. "Mentors need to be direct and tell Airmen the truth - even if it's not what they want to hear."

Chief Lavoie said that whenever he thinks about mentoring, he is reminded of a time not-too-long ago when he was given the advice he needed to hear, rather than what he wanted to hear, from retired Chief Master Sgt. Richard Ives, 28th Force Support Squadron fitness center director.

"I never sought out the command chief position," Chief Lavoie said. "I wasn't even sure I wanted the job. But, one day, I was talking with Chief Ives and he told me, 'Brian, you've got to try it. You have the personality and the drive to be a good command chief.'"

If Chief Lavoie hadn't listened to his mentor, he said he wouldn't be where he is today. Throughout his career he has learned a valuable lesson about mentorship.

"Mentoring is universal," he said. "I mentor everyone and receive mentoring from everyone I come into contact with."

The chief said all feedback is constructive. Airmen may have poor supervisors, good supervisors and, or great mentors, what's important is that, "We learn something from all of them."

Chief Lavoie also said mentorship doesn't have to be complicated. Oftentimes, some of the best mentoring comes from passing conversations with people.

"As a supervisor, it's the daily care and feeding of our Airmen - in every sense - that shapes them into future leaders," he said. "For that reason, good mentors need to be approachable."

Additionally, Chief Lavoie said supervisors should take maximum advantage of formal feedback sessions and the enlisted performance report as an opportunity to mentor their Airmen.

"The EPR is such an underutilized mentoring tool," he said. "It can tell us all how to be better Airmen. What a great fundamental formal conduit for mentorship!"

He added that for mentorship to be effective, Airmen receiving mentoring need to listen to the feedback given to them and learn from it.

"Mentorship isn't a selfish or singular practice," he said. "It's about looking after someone and helping them achieve success. It's not about pushing through things without help or feedback. Because sometimes, when you go it alone - you end up alone."