Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Modern Mentoring Gone Bad

I used to be a big fan of "Mentorism" about a decade ago (probably because I saw it as a net good for me, hey, I'm human too), but over time my position has evolved a bit with distance, and observation and has led me to see that the actual practice of Mentorism is much different than the theory.

A midpoint in my thoughts on the subject was put out about ~1.5 years ago over at USNIBlog,
Good people can argue yes or no if Mentorism is best left as an encouraged, but natural and informal process where junior personnel seek advice and example from more senior personnel who can help them understand what is needed to succeed.  Many think that something so good as having a Mentor provides such a benefit that it should be mandatory. I happen to believe it works best when allowed to happen naturally – but support for formal Mentoring is a easily defended opinion. Either way – Mentorism is a net good for all involved, including the Navy.
In the few cases where I saw real SeaDaddyism, conflict soon followed.
Good advice comes naturally and in small doses - that is where Mentorism works best. Formal mentor systems are a waste of time - and too much Mentorism is a cancer in any organization that claims to be a meritocracy.

Going a bit further, Michael Moynihan over at the DailyBeast makes some additional points worth considering - especially in the SeaDaddyism gone amok with Petraeus-Broadwell;
Despite this rather impressive résumé, Broadwell decided she needed career guidance from the man tasked with executing the troop surge in Iraq and commanding American forces in Afghanistan. Here is Broadwell speaking at the University of Denver, discussing time she spent with Petraeus before he took control of the CIA: “I had access to everything. It was my responsibility not to leak it, not to violate my mentor, if you will, I was writing about a very close mentor.” On another occasion, she described Petraeus as an “academic mentor of mine, if you will.”
Well no, I won’t.
It’s unclear what the word “mentor” means in this context, beyond hero worship, reckless infidelity, and the purloining of classified material. Washington’s political culture is a thicket of euphemism, and it seems that being “mentored” has become synonymous with aggressive social climbing. And here I was, assuming that the average mentor is an idealistic, bearded Oberlin graduate intervening on behalf of a disadvantaged teenager. Apparently, everyone has a mentor these days.
One National Public Radio host declared herself “annoyed” that the Petraeus scandal might cast a pall over all male-female mentor relationships. But allow me to suggest a potential upside: there is a vanishingly small chance that the Broadwell-Petraeus affair might do irreparable damage to the mentor industry, which is about as useful as the holistic medicine industry.
I hadn’t previously noticed, but bookstore shelves heave with guides to mentoring both the wayward and ambitious: Mentoring Leaders: Wisdom for Developing Character, Calling, and Competency; A Game Plan for Life: The Power of Mentoring; Monday Morning Leadership: 8 Mentoring Sessions You Can’t Afford to Miss. The American Psychological Association (APA) website offers a number of self-evident “tips for mentors” (though it’s not entirely clear why).
“You may want to reflect back on your school experience,” says the APA sagely, “and identify information that would have proven useful to you back then.” A writer at Forbes provides three tips towards being a great mentor, including this bombshell revelation: “Go into your conversation with some ideas you’d like to discuss, but don’t be afraid to stray off course.” Inc. magazine has its own three tips, including the admonitions “listen well” and “focus on action.”

But perhaps the Mentor Industrial Complex isn’t all bad. The wonderfully named David Clutterbuck, a British writer who has written a number books on the subject, offers the following sensible advice on inter-gender mentoring: “Sexual tensions between the two can inhibit the relationship and make it less rewarding than mentoring between two of the same sex.”
Indeed. And next time, Mr. Clutterbuck might want to advise against providing your mentee—of either gender—access to classified documents. But like most of the tips given to potential mentors, that one, too, seems self-evident.
Maybe we can coin (no pun intended) a new word. When a Mentorship moves to SeaDaddyims and on to bump'n uglies - we can call it a Clutterbuck, as in - "I might as well call my detailer and get transferred now. No way I'm going to do as well as I thought at the next FITREP cycle. It is clear as day that OPS is ear-deep in a Clutterbuck with the CO. I don't have a chance."

Want to know how much damage this can do?  Very big frag pattern. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

While I appreciate the importance of the Petraeus debacle to the command structure, lets not forget that this story would never have seen the light of day if it wasn't for the administration needing a distraction from the real scandal Benghazi. Maybe something to keep in mind?