Posted by: The Dynamic Introvert | June 7, 2016

Reverse Mentoring: An Old Story with a New Twist

 Mentor Cloud

The earliest examples of mentoring can be found in ancient Greece. Traditionally mentors were seen as being “older and wiser” than their mentees. But, today, reverse mentoring is getting a lot of attention, and for good reason. Young people, especially millennials, have a lot to offer and want to be respected for their knowledge and skills.

Younger members of staff who are just entering the workplace often have new skills and expertise, and they can provide fresh perspectives and ways of working that can benefit their more established colleagues.

 Writing about mentoring for the Vancouver Sun in 2012, Chelsea Emery had this to say about how our understanding of mentoring is changing:

“In a modern twist mentors are also relying on their protégés. Older employees often depend on younger staff for technology guidance. As employment security wanes, laid-off bosses may need to turn to former subordinates for job leads.”

The former CEO of General Electric, Jack Welch, is credited with inventing the concept of reverse mentoring. He recognized his lack of technology skills in the late 1990s, and believed that the youngest people joining the company were far more knowledgeable about new technologies than their managers. So, he asked 500 of his top executives to seek out mentors from among these new joiners.

If the organization you work for doesn’t have a formal mentoring program and there are no mentors available on an informal basis, then you may have to seek out a mentor on your own. Peer Resources is a Canadian company that provides links to well over 100 mentoring sites around the world as well as mentoring training and tips for locating a mentor. Some of the resources are general in nature but many focus on special interest groups.

Here are some tips for seasoned workers on how to get your mentoring process off to a great start:

  1. If you are looking for a mentor, be specific about what you want help with. Seek out a mentor with an impressive set of skills and who appears interested in learning and helping others.
  2. Once you’ve “found” a potential mentor meet them for coffee and see if you will be able to work with him or her.
  3. Expect to feel vulnerable when you first ask a younger person for help with something that is completely new to you, such as social media.
  4. Think about what you can offer your mentor. Be prepared to share some of your wisdom and experience and if possible connect your mentor with people in your network.

And, if you are a younger employee being asked to engage in a mentoring relationship, here are some of the ways you might benefit from helping your more seasoned colleagues:

  • Developing your leadership skills
  • Understanding and dealing with conflict
  • Navigating organizational politics
  • Exploring work-life balance and dealing stress



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