Magazine article Joint Force Quarterly

Mentoring: Civilian Contributions to the Joint Force

Magazine article Joint Force Quarterly

Mentoring: Civilian Contributions to the Joint Force

Article excerpt

The future operating environment will place new demands on leaders at all levels. To best prepare our future leaders for success we must continuously assess and refine our leader development.

--General Joseph F. Dunford, Jr.

This year, in support of the Secretary of Defense's priority to "build a department and joint force of the future by embracing change," General Dunford laid out his approach for the future joint force. His three key joint force focus areas include the requirement to develop leaders for Joint Forces Next.

To achieve the Chairman's goals, the Joint Staff developed three core functions to focus staff efforts on the unique capabilities they bring to support the Chairman, Secretary of Defense, and President of the United States. Committed leadership is the driving force behind all current and future efforts.

J7 Role in Integrating Tomorrow's Joint Force

As director for Joint Force Development and the Chairman's lead for the third core function, "Integrating Tomorrow's Joint Force," I am committed to the Chairman's vision of "a joint force composed of agile and adaptive leaders and organizations who can critically think and innovate through dynamic problems in an increasingly transregional, multidomain, multifunctional threat environment." Success requires that we pay attention to current and future joint leaders--military, officer and enlisted, as well as civilian. Civilian professional development and growth need a deliberate approach. Our ability to meet future challenges will depend in large part on the quality and effectiveness of our own civilian leaders.

Today, our civilians lead organizations at every echelon. They drive doctrinal and functional changes and work side by side with senior leaders, deployed military units, and all levels of staff. They understand the operational picture as well as the risks, constraints, intentions, and political nuances of the current operating environment. Our civilians provide critical continuity, expertise, and stability. A deliberate approach to grow and retain quality civilian leadership is a critical component of joint force development.

Creating a mentorship program is one of the primary ways we can develop and retain our civilian leaders. The Joint Staff J7 established a formal Joint Force Development Civilian Mentorship Program in 2014. The deliberate integration of a mentorship component within our leader development program provides the Joint Staff with an even more capable and competent cadre of civilian leaders with in-depth joint force development expertise.

Mentoring, unlike training, is intended not only to impart skills, but also to encourage a change in individuals' perspectives on their organization, their goals, and their own personal development. Our leaders need to understand how their particular work or skill set contributes to the organization's overall mission in support of the warfighter. Civilian leaders need to understand the importance of work/life balance as an essential skill for success. We must continually review our professional goals as we expand our experience and education. A mentoring program is grounded in quality mentors. Mentors listen to their mentees' ambitions and concerns and share their own professional experiences. Mentors build the confidence of their mentees, so they can further enhance the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in positions of increased responsibility.

While developing the Joint Force Development Civilian Mentorship Program, our research team identified several themes from successful Federal and formal and informal corporate mentorship programs. In line with those successful themes, the J7 team outlined the following program objectives:

* Commitment: requires and ensures a pledge from mentors, mentees, and the directorate's senior leaders and personnel supervisors.

* Effective pairing: matches mentors and mentees based on specific criteria so that the individuals will have different, but complementary, characteristics. …

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