Officers as mentors within the National Guard context
Tait, Catherine Mae
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Informal learning opportunities are one way that organizations approach the process of developing their most valuable asset: people. Mentoring rising leaders to assume greater organizational positions of responsibility and authority is one form of informal learning. This study focused on the mentoring experiences of mid-to-senior level officers in the National Guard. The purpose of the study was to understand the officers’ beliefs and behaviors while they served as mentors to their traditional, part-time, junior officers. An open-ended critical incident interview method was used to collect the data in this qualitative study. In-depth interviews were conducted with nine officers who were recommended as exemplar mentors. Thirty-nine critical incidents were described by the mentors. Thematic analysis of the data and open coding procedures led to four themes related to officers’ beliefs and four themes related to officers’ behavior. Three overall levels relating to the themes were identified as (a) military professional identity, (b) organization, and (c) people. The fourth belief theme emerged as the belief in the limitations of mentoring, while the fourth behavior theme emerged as other informal strategies. The mentoring incidents were embedded within the National Guard context. Themes related to the context and its potential influence on the practice of mentoring emerged from the data. Contextual themes included (a) size of the organization, (b) time constraints, and (c) the presence of dual careers. The findings of the study expand on the findings in the mentoring and informal learning literature by adding the unique perspective of officers while they provided mentoring within the National Guard context.