Mentoring as the return key on a keyboard

Why Opt-In for Reverse Mentoring?

Back in 2014, I attended a United Way luncheon and listened to a keynote that has stuck with me. This particular keynote, delivered by a partner at PWC, was on the topic of employee development and talent growth strategies.

The strategy that intrigued me most was reverse mentoring. The speaker’s case study for this strategy was his personal experience. As he talked, he painted a picture of a rich practice with many benefits. The way in which he described the concept was persuasive. The benefits he named were powerful.

Definition: Reverse Mentoring was a concept established in the 1990s by Jack Welch. The concept partnered a  younger team member  with someone more senior in experience for a mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge. The exchanged was aimed at closing skill gaps. For example, a younger person may be more savvy in social media than an older leader whereas the older leader may be more seasoned in office politics.

At the time, I was intrigued but not in the place where a reverse mentoring program was feasible. Fast forward to 2016 – the time was right.

In February of this year, I opted to participate in the mentoring path to satisfy a particular certification requirement. Much to my surprise, the mentor assigned to me is from a much younger generation.

My mentor is a millennial. Hannah Rose is a bright and enthusiast twenty-five year woman. Just as the speaker highlighted in his case study, I am reaping the rewards of reverse mentoring. The mentoring is rich with learning, teaming, sharing and growing.

In order to reap the intended benefits, Hannah Rose and I entered into the relationship with a full commitment to each other. I engaged with a willingness to learn from her and share what I’ll call “acquired wisdom.” In turn, she came in empowered to teach me new things, use her expertise for my benefit and provide feedback to help me grow.

“In learning you will teach, and in teaching you will learn.” ― Phil Collins

What a delightful experience it has been to be “under her wing.” Her fresh eyes, open mind and innovative ideas reflect her generation and background. She has stimulated thinking outside my box. She helps me see things from a different point of view and inspires me to step into new ways of being and doing. Her feedback is spot on, and I appreciate her courage to be direct with me.

4 Keys to our Reverse Mentoring success:

  • Committed to each other’s growth
  • Empowered to teach and learn
  • Open to feedback and reflection
  • Recognize the value in different perspectives and experiences

We are almost seventy-five percent through the four months allotted to this mentoring program. What I know for sure is that the relationship and partnership will not end with the program. It will continue and evolve. And that is exciting.

I now have a cherished and trusted colleague. She will help me close knowledge gaps, show me ways much different from my own and bring the younger generation closer to me. What a gift I was given with reverse mentoring!

There is no doubt that my leadership and coaching has expanded because of Hannah Rose. What might you learn from a reverse mentor relationship? Curious to find out? I highly recommend giving it a try.