Mentoring Monday: The Navy Mentorship Program

The fact is that I don't like the Navy Mentorship Program. There, I said it. Kind of feels better getting it off my chest.

Here's why: The Navy essentially requires everyone to have a mentor. That in itself isn't too bad, but when an organization requires something, it usually waters the program down a great deal. Take, for example, the Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist (ESWS) pin. Once upon a time, it wasn't mandatory, and the standards were high. They were so high that people would retire without them and people had to work hard…even sacrifice…to get it. That's not the case anymore. Now it's mandatory and it carries such a bad reputation that it has garnered a name like” freeswass” since we usually call it “e-swass.” I used to say that you could go to the Chief Petty Officer's Mess door and just knock three times. That was the cue that you needed your ESWS pin and they'd give it to you. It's horrible.

That's the problem the Navy is facing with the mentorship program. When it is required, or mandatory, then it loses its luster. My first mentors taught me so much, and the unofficial mentor I had as a PO1 was outstanding, but any of my required mentors have just been so-so. Why? I didn't trust them, didn't relate to them, and didn't particularly care what they thought. They probably didn't care much for me either. It's horrible on all accounts.

If the Navy wants to support mentoring then it should get rid of the mandatory requirement and go back to the way it used to be. If you want one, you’ll get one, or one will get you.

Having said that, there are definitely ways to make it work within the current system. Several people are simply going to get a mentor, or be mentored, as a paperwork drill. For those of us who refuse to be bound by that system, we will work through this program, but actually do the mentoring. We meet with our protégés, counsel them on choices they are making, and move them as best we can to the place they need to be. Basically those of us who do it right do it the way we were taught long ago by real mentors.

1 comment:

boilt frog said...

The rules of a bureaucracy become ends rather than means to an end. The noble gives way to the perfunctory. Token efforts are given to meet the paperwork requirement.

It is my understanding that all branches of the military are plagued with award inflation. Is this the case with mentoring?

"[Y]ou could go to the Chief Petty Officer's Mess door and just knock three times. That was the cue that you needed your ESWS pin and they'd give it to you." If they bang twice on the pipes is the answer "no"? Bad song, but the problem you face is serious. I went through ISO at my company. What a paper mill! Work instructions were written not to be of use but to show the auditor. The system was so complicated that minor corrections became major efforts. Whenever I see some company proudly proclaiming the newly acquired ISO certification, I groan.

Best wishes working around the system. Read The Rickover Effect for inspiration. Also Coram's Boyd: the Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War. How did these two survive in the military bureaucracy?