The Leadership Basics

Leadership – What is Reverse Mentoring?

Reverse mentoring is where the mentor (or more senior person) garners just as much knowledge and experience from the mentee, as they’ve been offering them. They come into the relationships offering two very different perspectives, with both parties being open and keen to hear the other’s way of thinking, or the vastly different experiences the other person has lived or is living.

Reverse mentoring began as a diversity tactic. Diverse, talented people were set up with more senior people to support their careers and to offer them the experience and advice they did not have access to. It was a way of allowing diverse talent into closed networks.

Of course as the relationships started, the mentors realised they had as much to learn from the mentee as they were teaching.

This may have started with women and racial minorities, but is now also used across all diversities. There are some great examples already around generational (or age) reverse mentoring, aimed at moving the technical savvy and aptitude of the new generations entering work, across into the networks of the more senior leaders who want to stay abreast of change and future technologies and ways of work. Equally, in these relationships, the tech savvy are picking up some ideas from experienced and seasoned leaders who may not have ordinarily crossed their paths until much later in their careers.    

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Good leaders not only seek diversity on their teams, they also seek out reverse mentors to give them perspective, experience and knowledge that would otherwise not be available to them.

Highly sought after diverse talent often knows well who mentors and looks after great diverse talent. A great reputation in this space is a serious competitive advantage in attracting talent, and also ensuring your business is genuinely inclusive and ready to be even more inclusive of diverse talent.

How do you build strength as a great mentor of diverse talent, and also as someone who is receptive to reverse mentoring? Exactly the same way as you do for normal mentoring. You mentor people, learn from them at the same time, and have a very positive impact on their career and opportunities. You just need a few people talking about the impact you’ve had on their career by mentoring them, and you’ll quickly be known as a great mentor. 

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mwah. making work absolutely human

To be great at mentoring is all about practice and making a difference. You’ll know you’re doing it right when people you mentor are having great success. Your scorecard is their careers, their lives, their achievements. Good mentoring is never about the mentor and always about their impact.

There are some good articles on reverse mentoring:

What it is and why it’s beneficial
http://www.forbes.com/sites/work-in-progress/2011/01/03/reverse-mentoring-what-is-it-and-why-is-it-beneficial/#188f5a2853aa

An article about some very senior leaders who absolutely have reverse mentors to keep them connected to the future
http://www.smh.com.au/small-business/trends/whats-the-new-approach-to-mentoring-20150220-13kqg4.html

A short article about the psychology of looking behind you as well as in front of you for career and development advice
https://www.psychologies.co.uk/what-reverse-mentoring

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mwah. making work absolutely human

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