Coach Soch: Reverse Mentoring And Leaders

To ask is to think. Thinking is introspection. Introspection is searching. To seek means to be aware. Being aware is when the journey begins.

Reverse mentoring, another form of workplace mentoring, is making quiet strides in bridging the generation gap between leaders. By reversing the traditional mentoring relationship and hierarchy, leaders have the opportunity to step into the shoes of a student and gain new perspectives (assuming they actually want to learn). It helps connect senior (and older) leaders with younger leaders and emerging talent.

While many mistakenly assume that only large and old organizations need to embrace reverse mentoring as a tool, successful technology founders and entrepreneurs have used it as a growth catalyst. They introduced the concept of agility by breaking old ways and constantly unlearning and learning newer and emerging technologies from the youth.

Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric (GE), popularized the concept of reverse mentoring in the late 1990s. He brought together over 500 senior and junior employees with the goal of having the younger generation educate the older generation about technological advances and potential business applications. In his words: “We now have the youngest and the brightest teaching the elders. It formalized the idea of ​​coordinating collaborative learning between colleagues from different backgrounds to create symbiotic corporate learning.”

For startups, especially those using disruptive technologies and business ideas, the need to be agile and have a learning organization is a must. In an ecosystem like this, using unconventional tools like reverse mentoring could bring many benefits. It can help companies achieve strategic goals such as: B. increasing millennial and Gen-Z retention, fostering inclusivity, and maintaining competitive advantage through technological advances. This also helps with a real-time feedback mechanism that breaks down age and hierarchy barriers in teams. Having Millennials and Gen-Z as mentors produces equally beneficial outcomes. The young people feel valued for their contributions, get additional access to networking with experienced executives and benefit from encounters with alternative projects and career paths.

Where youngsters are successful

Target Audience: With many brands, especially startups, the younger employees may have a lot more in common with the company’s target audience. The youngsters could relate to the product offering better and faster, instantly accessing insights that the seasoned (and experienced) talent might otherwise have missed or taken the time to internalize.

Technical skills: In many industries, technical skills quickly become obsolete. Younger employees are more skilled and able to receive up-to-date formal training than older employees. As formal hierarchies create a sense of rigidity, the experienced talent is better off when younger talent offers reverse mentoring in this regard.

Technology: Teenagers are easily in tune with the latest technological advances. They can mentor the experienced talent in technology, related skills and potential new ideas to leverage such technologies for business outcomes.

engagement & more

For a successful result of reverse mentoring, absolute commitment of the mentees is required. The senior managers being mentored must have a commitment to attend the meetings and prioritize the mentoring relationship. They are often observed to constantly reschedule their meetings under the pretense of being busy or having urgent business needs. This not only throws the entire process back, but also puts the organization or the respective manager in a bad light.

With reverse mentoring, the organization can build inclusive relationships that do not consider age, gender, educational background, or family background. When used well and across teams, reverse mentoring can improve empathy and reduce unconscious bias.


Do you have a reverse mentor?

Do you have a formal coach?

Have you learned anything new in the last six months?

Have you mentored a senior in your organization? If yes, what did this process teach you?

As a younger talent, what did you take away from your (senior talent) mentee? Would this knowledge be useful for your career growth in the current company?

If you’re a founder, how have you used a reverse mentor on your own entrepreneurial journey? How would you scale this concept in your organization? How would you eliminate mentor selection bias?

– The author, Srinath Sridharan is a Management consultant and commentator for independent markets. For more articles in the Coach Soch series, click here.

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