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RETIREE VP VOICE

| BY LARRY COHEN

AFSA NEWS

Views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the AFSA Retiree VP.

Contact:

lawrencecohenassociates@hotmail.com

or (703) 437-7881

54

JUNE 2015

|

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL

men • tor

v. advise or train

(someone, especially a

younger colleague)

n. a trusted counselor or guide

The Department of State’s

Core Precepts provide

guidelines by which selection

boards determine the pro-

motability of Foreign Service

employees. They are, in the

words of the department, a

“collection of competencies”

determined to be essential to

a successful Foreign Service

career. Throughout, the

precepts emphasize the role

of mentoring and assisting

others to achieve mission

goals. Regarding mentor-

ing, the precepts are both

explicit, (e.g., “

ensures the

professional development

and mentoring of staff

”) and

implicit, (e.g., “

actively devel-

ops the skills of subordinates

or colleagues

”).

Permit me to go out on

a limb. While mentoring is

clearly core to the principles

of career development, it is

not something the Depart-

ment of State, its managers

or its leadership as a whole

has done very well to date.

The stress of overseas

service in U.S. diplomatic

missions can be overwhelm-

ing. Feedback or guidance

from supervisors or basic job

knowledge may be lacking.

Without proper remedy,

tensions among staff can

demoralize an entire mission.

Personnel new to the Foreign

Service and locally employed

(LE) staff, overwhelmed

culturally by the demands of

their American bosses, may

suffer disproportionately.

This brings me to reem-

ployed annuitants, or WAEers

(When Actually Employed).

I have written previously

about the WAE program.

Specifically, I identified the

difficulties retirees report in

navigating the program, the

shortcomings of the newly

created central registry

and resource inefficiencies

throughout the system.

One thing, I believe,

remains unquestioned.

WAEers themselves pos-

sess skills and experience

pertinent to their active-duty

colleagues and, specifically,

to their professional develop-

ment.

For bureaus and posts

WAEers are an extraordinary

resource, able to hit the

ground running. But they

could be much more. Since

they are already retired,

WAEers are not beholden to

the evaluation and promo-

tion process and should not

fear—as is unfortunately

true for many active-duty

employees—career-harmful

retribution. They ought to

feel free to speak their minds,

offer guidance and advice,

and, yes, mentor colleagues,

including LE staff. Who better

to understand the challenges

than those who have been

there before?

Bureaus and posts can

better tap the WAE talent

in their midst. Mentoring,

and even training, can be

included as a component of

an individual’s assignment.

Moreover, when the need is

evident, WAEers themselves

should take up the mantle to

assist and guide.

In my own case, when

on WAE assignment, I try

to deliver basic tradecraft

classes for LE staff on such

topics as writing, note-taking,

briefing and public speaking.

Their response is overwhelm-

ingly positive. They especially

appreciate that someone,

voluntarily, is helping them

enhance their own profes-

sionalism.

Let’s dare ourselves to

mentor.

n

The Case for Mentoring

On April 21, members of the AFSA

Awards Committee met with Dr. Sushma

Palmer to mark the launch of the awards

judging process. This year was the first

time the panel considered nominees

for the new Mark Palmer Award for the

Advancement of Democracy. Dr. Palmer

established the award in honor of her

NEWS BRIEF

AFSA/BRITTANYDELONG

late husband, Ambassador Mark Palmer,

a Foreign Service officer who cham-

pioned democracy and human rights

throughout his career. From left: Perri

Green, Todd Andrews, Sharon Wayne,

Janice Bay, Dr. Sushma Palmer, Ambas-

sador Steve E. Steiner, Dan Martinez,

Ruth Hall and Peter Swiers.

n

AFSA LAUNCHES PALMER AWARD FOR THE

ADVANCEMENT OF DEMOCRACY