Reverse Mentoring - What is Reverse Mentoring, How Does it Work and What are the Benefits?
In our reverse mentoring guide we explore what reverse mentoring is, how reverse mentoring works and some of the key benefits to reverse mentoring.
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The rise of mentoring in recent years has made way for a wide range of new types of mentoring. Reverse mentoring is one such type of mentoring that has seen a huge increase lately. But what really is reverse mentoring, how can it help individuals and organisations, and why might you consider reverse mentoring? In this article, we’ll cover a guide to reverse mentoring, how it works, where the key benefits are and how you can get involved.
What is Reverse Mentoring?
For those already in the know about mentoring, you will know that it is the sharing of knowledge, skills, and experience from one person to another. Reverse mentoring is not very different in a lot of respects. Reverse mentoring is defined as one individual typically considered less experienced, more junior or younger, sharing knowledge, experience and skills in a specific area where they are more knowledgeable, with someone more senior, older or typically more experienced. Examples of reverse mentoring could include a student or recent graduate, mentoring a senior director in their late 50’s or early 60’s about technological trends seen by the younger generation. Intergenerational learning through reverse mentoring can be incredibly powerful.
Another common use of reverse mentoring is for effective education around challenges that may face minority groups and can help to improve diversity and inclusion cultures in an organisation. Here, a reverse mentor may be a member of a inclusion group, such as a BAME or LGBTQ+ network, who can educate someone else in the organisation about the challenges they face that others may not be aware of or truly understand. Examples here could include prejudices they face, restrictions with international travel and business abroad or historical significances to cultures. Reverse mentoring is, again, really powerful here as a channel that lots of businesses and organisations, as well as schools, colleges and universities should consider tapping into, for improved communication and a broader sense of inclusivity.
Reverse mentoring is also used to help directors, senior leaders and managers of businesses to really understand what is happening throughout a business or organisation. Where senior leaders sometimes miss out on what happens ‘on the ground’ in an organisation, having a new-joiner from a company or someone who’s recently moved from a different organisation or company, mentoring a senior leader about the challenges they face when joining, or the internal conflicts making their jobs difficult, this can help to educate senior leaders to understanding things more effectively and ultimately allowing them to carry-out change in an organisation.
Simply put and, in summary, reverse mentoring has a wide range of far-reaching applications and some seriously impressive benefits for individuals and organisations, businesses, universities, colleges and companies alike.
Why is Reverse Mentoring Effective?
Reverse mentoring is effective and can have a big impact for a number of reasons. Primarily, reverse mentoring opens additional channels of learning, education and knowledge-sharing that are otherwise very difficult to achieve. Reverse mentoring gives those who typically wouldn’t be seen to have as much of a ‘voice’ and opportunity to teach, the chance to do so with individuals they often wouldn’t otherwise interact with in a larger business (the C-Suite executives, the business leaders, the investors and the managers).
Reverse mentoring acknowledges that, as with all mentoring, there is a belief that we all have knowledge, experience, and skills that we pose and that we develop each and every day that we are living, working and experiencing organisational cultures. Acknowledging this and then harnessing it to share more and help everyone to grow and develop equally is very powerful for both employee and individual empowerment but also broadening individuals’ horizons, understandings and ultimately improving communication and learning cultures.
Reverse mentoring promotes more transparency in an organisation, encourages everyone to speak up and share, and gives every individual more of an opportunity to grow, when done right. Equally, we often think that senior leaders and managers in an organisation don’t have anything to learn but, just like the rest of us (and sometimes more so) they are hungry for knowledge and growth.
How Does Reverse Mentoring Work?
The great thing about reverse mentoring is that it really isn’t that different from standard and traditional mentoring processes. In fact, reverse mentoring should follow the same guidelines and best-practice as traditional mentoring. The only key difference is that the person mentoring (the ‘mentor’) may not otherwise consider themselves experienced enough to be a mentor.
Ultimately, if an individual possesses knowledge, experience and/or skills in any of the following areas, to name just a few, then they could be a great reverse mentor:
- A solid understanding of technologies in the market
- Involvement with a diversity and inclusion or resource group
- Challenges affecting an individual or others that senior leaders may be unaware of
- Trends and changes in industry that those senior leaders may be unaware of
Reverse Mentoring Guidelines
As stated previously, reverse mentoring guidelines are not very different from typical, traditional or standard mentoring guidelines. The roles are reversed but otherwise, everything else should stay the same. Below are a few key guidelines to help individuals to make the most of reverse mentoring.
- Finding a Reverse MentorFinding a reverse mentor can be more challenging than typical and traditional mentoring and should be handled delicately. PushFar’s mentoring platform makes it easier to identify those individuals open to being mentored and if someone has indicated that they are open to being mentored and you feel you can offer the necessary support they are seeking, then you can request them accordingly. Otherwise, simply indicate on your profile that you are open to mentoring people on key areas (e.g. technology, reverse mentoring and diversity and inclusion) and wait for a mentee to approach you. As a reverse mentor, you should not worry or feel intimidated if the person you are mentoring is senior – that’s part of the point and great benefit to reverse mentoring.
- Setting the ExpectationsThis is something we reference a lot and that is because it is important to set expectations at the start of a mentoring relationship. There can be a tendency for the more senior individual (often the mentee in reverse mentoring) to try and take control of the mentoring relationship. It is particularly important here to make it clear who the mentor is and what the focus of the mentoring should be. Set expectations such as how frequently you should meet, in what medium you meet (such as Skype or Zoom), what the goals and objectives of mentoring are, and how long the mentoring relationship should last for.
- Offer Experience-Based Guidance and MentoringWe learn from our failures and from the mistakes we make, far more than we learn from our successes. Therefore, the more we encourage mentoring, the more we can grow and reduce the mistakes and failures we make. In mentoring, it is important to provide experience-based guidance and help your mentee to not repeat mistakes. You are primarily a mentor because you are in a position of experience within the key reverse mentoring subject areas you have offered to reverse mentor an individual on, and therefore if you can pass on this experience, knowledge, and insight to your mentee, you will help them to develop and grow.