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Abbreviated Mentoring Guide


What is Mentoring?
Informal versus Formal Mentoring
Assisted Formal Mentoring
Mentor Roles
Protégé Role
Suggested Protégé Activities
Matching Mentors with Protégés
Potential Obstacles
Team Building
Suggested Additional Reading

Introduction Top Next

The Medical Service Corps has established that mentoring is a key element of leadership and that it is a primary tool for promoting officer growth, development and professionalism. The Corps has developed and promulgated a formal "assisted-mentoring" program guide. The complete assisted-mentoring guide can be viewed and/or downloaded from the MSC Toolbox. This Abbreviated Guide was adapted from the Corps’ complete guide. It remains a work in progress to better adapt it to the needs of the Research Psychology specialty.

What is Mentoring? Top Prior Next

The word "mentor" reaches back to Greek mythology. When Odysseus went to war, he entrusted Mentor with his son's education and development. Mentor's wise counsel, teaching, parental concern and protection are evident in current interpretations of the mentoring process (Roche, 1979; Murray & Owen, 1991). Mentoring is effectively used in many organizations as a way of developing a new recruit's knowledge of values, beliefs, and practices, thus implanting the organizational culture. Horgan & Simeon (1991) propose that this translates into a more productive, efficient, and effective professional. It also contributes to successful retention, career satisfaction, better decision making, and greater perceived competence.

The Medical Service Corps has adopted the following definition of Mentoring: A deliberate pairing of a more skilled and experienced officer with a less skilled one, with the agreed-upon goal of having the lesser skilled officer grow and develop specific competencies.

Research indicates that too often we are asked to take on a leadership role with little or no training. Although we devote time to fine-tuning our management skills, we rarely spend time developing our leadership skills. An effective mentor program can in many ways be considered a training program for leadership. In fact, Kovach (1992) states that a formal program lends credibility to the purpose and benefit it provides.

Informal versus Formal Mentoring Top Prior Next

Mentoring can occur in a variety of settings either informally or formally. Informal mentoring is the most common form and may be undertaken by a supervisor, a family member or by any member of the community. It is traditionally viewed as spontaneous, exclusive, and reliant upon the "chemistry" between the mentor and the protégé. By comparison, formal mentoring is accomplished by a deliberate pairing of protégé and mentor in order to develop specific skills and competencies. Formal mentoring provides a standardized but flexible structure that is more conducive to the organizational environment, and better able to prevent potential obstacles.

The Medical Service Corps has elected to use an "assisted" formal mentoring process. In order to understand why the assisted formal approach has been chosen, a comparative analysis of informal and formal mentoring is important.

Informal mentoring is generally recognized as the stronger personal mentoring of the two approaches. Spontaneity, longevity, comprehensiveness, and "special chemistry" are characteristics that reveal that the roles assumed by the informal mentor can vary greatly in both number and specificity. Informal mentoring, while extremely useful, may be a sub-optimal approach to achieving organization-wide objectives.

Formal mentoring includes all who wish to participate, whereas, informal mentoring may overlook large segments of the community. Additionally, formal mentoring can be planned to meet specific identified command requirements that coincide with key decision points in the protégé’s journey in the Navy. Given that informal mentoring will occur regardless of other initiatives, formal mentoring has distinct advantages that best meet the needs of the Navy Medical Department. Formal mentoring:

  • may be "assisted" by implementing a program,
  • is planned,
  • is tailored to meet specific protégé-driven goals and can meet specific command-driven goals,
  • can be monitored and refined, and
  • is voluntary.

Formal mentoring that is "program assisted" (or assisted formal mentoring), makes it possible to manage change by empowering junior participants and encouraging them to get involved as never before.

Assisted Formal Mentoring Top Prior Next

Assisted formal mentoring is selected as the best approach to providing a program that will reach across all levels and specialties of the Navy Medical Department. This type of mentoring takes full advantage of the benefits of formality while maintaining the flexibility derived by tailoring mentoring objectives to meet the specific needs and goals of the protégé, based upon an inventory of desired skills and competencies.

Mentor Roles Top Prior Next

It is important to define mentoring roles in order to appreciate the significance of the commitments a mentor may be making. For simplicity, a list of key roles and their meaning is necessary:

Trusted Counselor - Mentor listens and reflects the protégé’s ideas and plans and shares his or her insights, practical experience and may recommend specific steps.

Teacher or Tutor - Mentor instructs or guides the protégé to learn specific information or concepts. The mentor may provide specific information and some "how to" guidance such as a copy of pertinent sections of a manual or examples of completed work.

Coach - Mentor may go over the protégé’s training and background, assess the experience level and where deficiencies are identified, teach these skills to the protégé. Then the mentor would let the protégé try out these new skills such as assigning certain writing assignments for which the mentor provides feedback at various stages of the writing assignment.

Motivator - Mentor encourages and pushes the protégé to assume additional responsibilities when the time appears right. Urges the protégé to test his or her capabilities.

Sponsor - Mentor supports and represents the protégé to the organization. He or she may champion the protégé 's request to attend developmental courses or full-time education or provide strong backing for a challenging assignment for the protégé.

Referral Agent - Mentor directs the protégé to proper sources to achieve his or her goal and introduces the protégé.

Role Model - Mentor is a senior participant who demonstrates, by example, the traits, performance and contributions to the Navy that spell success; someone the protégé wants to emulate.

This list of mentor roles is not all-inclusive but it demonstrates that considerable thought and effort must be given to ensure success. Mentoring need not be a burden since it is already one of the roles senior officers and enlisted play.

Protégé Role Top Prior Next

The protégé must assume the role of one who is committed to learning, who will take responsibility for his or her career development, and one who will enter into an agreement to work with a mentor. The protégé 's roles include making the best estimate of their current skills and competencies, participating in the style preference and needs assessments, and work with the prospective mentor to achieve a workable utilitarian "contract" to reach their agreed-upon goals. The protégé must commit to follow through on his or her action plans, including readdressing things that don't appear to be working well.

Suggested Protégé Activities Top Prior Next

The entry-level protégé should receive a well-rounded orientation and should be afforded the opportunity to work, assist, and/or "fill in" in all command departments. This will provide a well-rounded familiarization with all aspects of the command, allow for networking to aid new officers in tasks, duties and projects, and prepare junior officers for command responsibilities. Visits to operational platforms are strongly encouraged.

The protégé should receive a structured overview of the Navy. The following are suggested courses and collateral duties that should be assigned during the protégé’s first tour of duty.


Collateral Duties



  -JAGMAN Investigation   -Navy Leadership
  -Admin Separation Board   -Total Quality Leadership
  -Court Martial   -Navy Correspondence
  -Attend Captain's Mast   -Combat Casualty Care Course
  -CDO/OOD   -Retention Team
  -Casualty Assistance (CACO)   -Alcohol and Drug Abuse Managers/Supervisors
      -Navy Rights & Responsibilities
      -Management Development
      -Civilian Personnel Training
      -Naval History/Customs
      -Five-day Justice Course

All protégés should be encouraged to volunteer for committee service and should attend the following functions:

  • Dining In
  • Dining Out
  • MSC Ball
  • Navy Ball
  • Change of Command
  • Retirement Ceremony
  • Reenlistment Ceremony
  • Others as deemed appropriate

All mentors are responsible for providing the tools to assist their subordinates to achieve their potential. The protégé should become familiar with the following:

  • Enlisted PARS
  • Enlisted evaluations
  • Time in Rate requirements
  • Exam requirements
  • Appropriate Awards (military and civilian)
  • Writing of award recommendations
  • Availability of training
  • Officer Fitness Reports
  • Civilian appraisals/Standards of Performance
  • Civilian Position Descriptions
  • Navy Correspondence
  • Point Papers
Matching Mentors with Protégés Top Prior Next

Mentors and protégés can be matched any way the command wishes. Commands may need only to identify those wishing to participate in the program and schedule a meeting with all those interested. At the meeting, introductions can be made and goals, concerns and interests can be discussed. Following this discussion, participants can match themselves or the command can help them choose partners.

If possible mentors should be senior to protégé s in grade, not be in the protégé's immediate supervisory chain, and be easily accessible. Both parties should agree to the match.

Potential Obstacles Top Prior Next

As with the introduction of any new program that represents change, potential difficulties need to be recognized and avoided. Perhaps one of the greatest problems is inflexibility or an unwillingness to accept new ideas. After all, as Burke (1989) tells us, attitudes and skills of the mentor are critical to making the program work. Ross (1984) suggests that good mentors approach issues intellectually; poor ones emotionally. This may be seen when a mentor looks at a younger protégé as primarily assigned to handle detailed work, and fails to involve the individual in the big picture (Ross, 1984). This may also be seen when a mentor assumes that the protégé lacks the experience to draw intelligent conclusions, and fails to encourage or provide opportunities for decision-making. The organization and the mentor both lose when the innovative ideas of the protégé are dismissed as folly.

When a "boss" serves as the mentor there is the possibility that the protégé could be accused of jumping the chain of the command by the immediate supervisor for speaking directly with his/her boss/mentor. To avoid this mentors should agree that the roles between boss and mentor be distinct. This distinction can be achieved in some cases by moving to a particular setting that is away from the front office.

Another potential problem area involves issues surrounding gender differences. Without going into detail, mentors and protégé s should be ever-cognizant that professionalism and open communication are the keys to avoiding personality conflicts, perceptions of favoritism, lack of cohesiveness, inappropriate relationships, preconceived (stereotypical) perceptions of gender roles or abilities, and similar problems.

A well-structured assisted mentoring program can help in avoiding these problems. It can also have very positive effects on protégé s by helping them to plan their short and long term goals. Mentors may also experience positive changes in their own personal growth and development.

Team Building Top Prior Next

Answering the following questions should assist the mentor and protégé to develop a productive and rewarding relationship:

  • What expectations does the command have for us regarding our partnership?
  • When and where will we meet?
  • How often do we want to meet? How much time should we spend?
  • How will we initiate meetings? Who will call meetings?
  • What are your expectations from this relationship?
  • Are we agreed that our discussions are confidential?
  • What will we do if either of us feels that we are mismatched?
  • How do we want to handle time management and scheduling problems?
  • Do we foresee cross-racial, cross-gender or cross-cultural problems?
  • How should we handle jealousy, bitterness, or hostility from peers or colleagues who may feel "left out"?
  • How might we handle conflicts between mentor, protégé and protégé’s supervisor?
  • What will we do if protégé doesn't ask for needed help? If mentor cannot/does not provide needed help?
  • What are the mentor’s and protégé’s major goals?
Bibliography Top Prior Next
  1. Burke, R. J. (1989), Winter). Developing formal mentoring programs in organizations. Business Quarterly, 76-79.
  2. Horgan, D. & Simeon, R. J. (1991). The downside of marketing. Performance and Instruction, 30 (1), 34-36.
  3. Jones, L. P. (1989). Common problems in planned mentoring programs. Mentoring International, 3 (1), 36-40.
  4. Kovach, T. M. (1992), January). Leaders are born through the mentoring process. ASHA, ppg 33-35.
  5. Murray, M & Owen, M. (1991). Behind the Myths and the Magic of Mentoring. CA: Jossey-Bass Inc.
  6. Roche, G. R. (1979). Much ado about Mentors. Harvard Business Review, 57 (10, 14-20.
  7. Ross, A. (1984, Sept-Oct). The mentor's role in developing new leaders. Hospital & Hospital Services Administration, 21-29.
Suggested Additional Reading Top Prior Bottom
  1. Gray, W., Ph.D. (1993). Developing Mentor-Protégé Relationships. B. C.: The Mentoring Institute.
  2. Federal Aviation Administration Southwest Region. Managing Diversity. Mentoring Program.
  3. Friedrich, N.M. (1986, Jan-Feb). When the protégé is a woman and the mentor is a man. Healthcare Forum, 29 (1), 29.
  4. Jones, L. P. (1989). Common problems in planned mentoring programs. Mentoring International, 3 (1), 36-40.
  5. Kazemek, E. A. (1988, August). Improving your department by developing staff. Healthcare Financial Management, 42 (8), 112-113.
  6. Korn, L. (1988). The Success Profile. New York: Simon & Schuster.
  7. Mainiero, L. Office Romance: Love, Power, and Sex in the Workplace. New York: Rawson Associates.
  8. Office of Civilian Personnel Management (DoN). (1993, June). Mentoring Handbook.
  9. Safire, W & Safir, L. (1990). Leadership. New York: Simon & Schuster.
  10. The Mentoring Institute. Mentoring International: Journal of the International Centre for Mentoring.

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