In an ongoing commitment to develop officers across the organization, the Defense Intelligence Agency invited National Security Correspondent J.J. Green to take part in its recent mentoring summit, which focused on people, passion and purpose.
Green, a correspondent with WTOP radio, discussed the role of mentorship in his life and career. He highlighted his mentors over the years, including former Director James Clapper.
At the Jan. 17 event, Green recalled a period when interviews were difficult to get as a journalist, and some senior leaders didn’t think his station was worthy of their time. In 2012, Clapper granted him an interview and became a true mentor.
“A lot of my experiences come from some unlikely places,” said Green. “As a result, I've dedicated the rest of my life to finding ways to mentor others.”
Current DIA Director Lt. Gen. Robert P. Ashley, Jr., who routinely emphasizes the value of mentorship, said it’s important to remember that as a mentor it’s not about you.
“A big part of the mentoring challenge is just making time,” said Ashley.
He added that mentoring is like never being able to enjoy the shade of a tree you plant – you make investments. You really don’t have to be an expert, you just need heart.
Displaying a black-and-white photograph on the screen behind him, Ashley described American Gen. Fox Conner, whom almost no one in the auditorium could identify when asked. The director challenged the workforce to imagine mentoring and being involved in the lives of three individuals who went on to become secretary of state, secretary of defense, supreme allied commander of Europe, president of the United States, and probably one of the most lethal warfighters in World War II.
“That’s who he mentored,” said Ashley as he displayed three additional photos of Gen. George S. Patton, Gen. George C. Marshall and President Dwight D. Eisenhower. “My take away is the impact that he had, but you don’t know who he is. But that’s OK.”
Ashley added that it was never about Conner. It was the influence and time that he spent, and Patton, Marshall and Eisenhower probably would not have been as successful had it not been for Conner.
Among the many mentoring tips Green shared, he pointed out that the cookie-cutter approach to mentoring won’t work. He said a great way to develop and improve your mentoring skills is to motivate and inspire someone different than you, who might challenge you, or push back on certain issues.
“I make it a habit to seek out people who are different from me for two reasons,” said Green. “One, because altruistically, I genuinely want to help others grow and be successful. I know that where I came from, mentoring was the difference between leading an interesting, fulfilling life and a frustrating existence with few opportunities. And number two, I like to mentor people who are different than I am, for a purely selfish reason: Because I get to learn from them.”
Green said every day presents an opportunity of influence and you have to be prepared, positive and productive.