Paying it Forward

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. James M. Powell III
  • 97th Air Mobility Wing
The term "pay it forward" has been the standard code phrase that equates to doing something good for someone in response to a good deed done to you. Many of us know this same principle as the "golden rule," which stipulates, "Do unto others as you would want them to do unto you." In the private sector, paying it forward may not always be a quick or fast process.

Most of the success stories that you hear usually involve individuals who have made it all the way to the top and feel compelled to reach back and bring someone else to the next level. While this is admirable, the potential for reaching the masses doesn't exist. As a result, there are a lot of deserving individuals who may miss out on the opportunity to excel to the next level.
Fortunately as members of the profession of arms, we all have an avenue to "pay it forward." It doesn't require that all members be at the top echelon before they can reach back and have the capacity to reach the masses. I'm simply talking about mentorship.

For starters, a mentor is defined as one who acts as a trusted counselor. Trust is an important part of any relationship, so it goes without saying that there has to be a level of trust that exists between a mentor and a subordinate. Air Force Pamphlet 36-2241, or more commonly known as the Professional Development Guide, uses a MENTORING mnemonic (Model, Empathize, Nurture, Teach, Organize, Respond, Inspire, Network and Goal Set) to emphasize some key elements. I would like to shorten it to just MENTOR and put my personal revision into play.

The M would stand for Mold. This is indicative of the responsibility we have to shape future leaders and prepare them for what lies ahead.

The E stands for Empower. Empowering leaders is essential to building their level of confidence to step out and experience what success and failure feels like.

The N represents Network. The importance of networking with peers can never be underestimated. It can provide an avenue to birth new ideas or head off issues before they surface, so forging strong bonds with peers is essential for success.

The T stands for Train. We must train leaders to know what correct standards look like and how to enforce them. All the mentoring in the world would be ineffective if new leaders don't understand and articulate the standards.

Our fifth letter, O, is for Oversee. Growing pains are a normal part of any new process; leadership is not immune. Avoiding the fire-and-forget approach with respect to assuming new leaders can find their way after spending minimal time with them is an important step to ensuring the entire process is successful.

The final letter, R, is for Relationships. The bottom line is that mentoring involves a relationship between the mentor and his or her Airmen. The goal is to make mentoring positive, constructive and timely to improve the chances of success and help the individual achieve his or her full potential.

Good mentorship is contagious, and that equates to bringing more quality leaders into an organization. At the end of the day, we all have an opportunity to pay it forward and be a solid mentor.