When Leading Means Following: A Guide to Reverse Mentorship

Posted by Manish Patel on Aug 24, 2015 1:30:00 PM

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What kind of imagery does the word “mentor” bring to your mind? You might be thinking of an older individual, someone with wisdom and experience etched on their face. A business revolutionary who takes junior-level employees under his or her wing to help strengthen the pioneers of tomorrow. That’s what I would think, too, but in today’s tech-savvy world the image of the mentor is being flipped with that of the mentee.

Each day, business transactions are happening through digital mediums like mobile devices and tablets, and your employees are tracking those sales, figuring out how to best service multi-device clients and configure your presence on social media sites. It’s creating a generation more capable of navigating the latest technologies and social platforms, making them a bit more capable of keeping up with innovations.

This is where reverse mentoring, or multi-generational mentoring, comes into play. According to a Virtuali survey, the largest generation in today’s world—yes, I mean millennials—strongly believe in a mentoring relationship for developmental training purposes. Yet the traditional view of the mentor relationship (the older guiding the younger) isn’t necessarily what they want—they value a more open approach to mentoring. This allows you to get creative in how you keep your own skills sharp while also helping to mold new leaders. The formula is essentially the same: the focus will be on the challenge of learning how to accomplish what needs to be done, and there are steps you should put in place if and when you decide to involve yourself in a reverse mentorship.

First you and your mentee will need a willingness to learn from each other. There will be things your young advisor will be able to teach you, but there will still be some practices you can impart on them, as well. Another thing you’ll need is trust. You’ll both be inspiring each other and encouraging one another to go beyond what you already know in search of a new way of thinking and being. All of this is about keeping an open mind, so you and your mentor need to feel comfortable enough to express what you’re thinking and how you’re feeling so that you can overcome differences in communication styles because—let’s face it—we just don’t talk the same way.

You should know there are some great benefits to multi-generational mentoring that will help pave the way to future success for your business. For example, there are a recorded 2.8 billion people in the world using the internet each day. This means they are browsing, searching and connecting with each other online, and your website should be receiving some of this traffic. In order to keep up with their preferences, you’ll want to understand the importance of things like bounce rate and SEO. So who better to learn from than the new generation of employees who are more likely to be active online with these new technologies to teach you how to keep up with today’s customers?

Another benefit of a reverse mentorship is the unity it will bring to your workforce. See, it doesn’t need to be just you and a junior employee engaging in this mentorship. It can be anyone on your team who is willing to grow and refine their skills. Reverse mentoring can build a bridge between knowledge gaps and bring different employee generations together in a productive and efficient manner. Think of it as a way to refine the skills of your experienced employees while empowering the leaders of the future. This type of learning is a two-way street, and there is so much we can gain by creating a better working relationship between the entire team.

This article was originally posted on Business 2 Community. Read it here