All of us have worked with, or for, people at one time or another throughout our careers who made an impact on our professional development. Perhaps it was a boss, a colleague or even a subordinate who mentored us or inspired us to achieve our personal best.
For generations, members of the Royal Canadian Air Force have had informal mentors who coached them throughout their military careers. In an effort to formalize the process of mentorship, and the value that it brings both to individuals and the system at large, the RCAF Mentorship Programme has been introduced. The voluntary program has been designed solely for non-commissioned members of the RCAF and focuses on leadership, personal, professional and career development.
“The programme will assist our non-commissioned members in better understanding the RCAF and the Canadian Armed Forces, increase their self-confidence, empower them to make their own decisions and give them better career satisfaction,” says RCAF Chief Warrant Officer Kevin West.
The RCAF Mentorship Programme was the brainchild of Chief Warrant Officer Miles Barham, who recently retired from the Regular Force as the RCAF Chief Warrant Officer. CWO Barham says there has never been a better time to launch such a program.
“Never before, during any period of time, has mentorship been more important than right this minute,” says CWO Barham, who now serves as an RCAF reservist. “We are at a crossroads where approximately 70 per cent of senior members will retire in the next five years.
“This programme will enable our members, who will be promoted very rapidly, to achieve greatness as they lead the RCAF as part of command teams. We, the senior non-commissioned members of the RCAF, have a highlight moment in a period of history to embrace and commit to a program for the men and women we have sworn to take care of. We will be judged on the success of the NCM Mentorship Programme and its effect.”
Everyone involved in the mentorship program stands to benefit in some way – mentors can feel rewarded and satisfied by passing on their experience and corporate knowledge to younger, or perhaps less experienced members; and mentees gain a broader understanding of their jobs and the RCAF at large; gain increased self-confidence and career satisfaction; and can capitalize on opportunities for professional and personal development.
As for what the RCAF gains, it’s a matter of ensuring personal success for members, preparing future leaders, enabling future missions and organizational success, cultivating a learning organization and strengthening overall “buy-in” for the future.
“Mentorship in the RCAF will be a lifeline,” says CWO Chuck Staples, 12 Wing Shearwater, N.S., chief warrant officer. “It will provide a continuity of leadership over time; a continuous passing of the torch, if you will. It will, thus, ensure that the human side of air power is carried into the future.”
The commander of the RCAF, Lieutenant-General Yvan Blondin is particularly enthused about the program.
“The RCAF Mentorship Programme is designed to develop a means to enhance relationships. Its person-to-person approach ensures professionalism, critical thinking and that ethical decisions are always made. Through this program, our more senior, experienced personnel have a responsibility to pass on the knowledge, insight and wisdom they have gained throughout their careers, and less experienced personnel of the RCAF have a responsibility to seek out and accept the benefits their colleagues offer them.
“It really is a ‘runway to success,’ and will bring tremendous benefits to our airmen and airwomen—of all ranks—throughout the organization. The success of the RCAF is in is in the knowledge and leadership of our people.”
CWO West describes how the mentorship program will unfold.
“Initially the program will mainly consist of presentations and discussion groups on various subjects that the senior leaders feel need to be highlighted. From there it is hoped that less experienced personnel will seek out others for guidance and development in professional, personal and career aspects of their lives.
“The long term plan would be to build a database of personnel that others could use to seek out and match up with people that hold the same values and goals and share knowledge and experiences, similar to the program that exists for public servants.
“There are so many people within the RCAF and CAF who, over the years, have gained a great amount of experience and knowledge and we want our younger members to know that these more experience personnel are there to assist them in developing their skills and competencies, such as leadership skills, ethical decision making, communications, social capacities and professional ideology, that take years to develop.”