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Reverse Mentoring - A Talent Development Tool For Senior Managers

Finding a strong mentor can greatly help you develop your career. This process has typically involved senior professionals sharing their time and insights to junior level employees. This mentoring process is now more also being reversed and senior leaders are now finding great value in learning from the entry level team members.

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” 
Benjamin Franklin

Chrissy Scivicque in her Forbes Magazine article "How To Start A Mentorship Relationship" defined mentoring as: 

"A mentor is a more experienced (typically older) professional in your field who offers you career guidance, advice and assistance from a real world point-of-view".

It is interesting to note that in today's business environment of constantly changing technologies that the definition of mentoring could also be said that a mentor is a "younger, more technically proficient professional who can provide key insights on emerging technologies and trends to their senior counterparts".

Welcome to reverse mentoring.

Now entry level employees can be valuable assets to their older team members by teaching them how to be more productive on the latest software, what social media trends are worth following and how to better sell and market to the growing millennial segment.

I look at my own experience as a perfect example. At The Frontier Group we hired two straight from college marketing managers to run our outbound and inbound marketing. We had moved to a new innovative marketing automation platform called HubSpot. To effectively manage Hubspot we needed people with social media fluency and technical proficiency. The two young grads had that to spare.

In the process of their onboarding I found myself - who had previously been responsible for marketing - continually looking to them for insights, guidance and knowledge on how marketing automation and inbound marketing works. It was a great experience being a student again and I had a pair of great teachers. A mentoring relationship had been developed.

Lee Colan, Founder of L Group wrote in Inc. Magazine that for reverse mentoring to work the following factors need to be in place.

  1. Create and maintain an attitude of openness to the experience.
  2. Dissolve the barriers of status, power and position.
  3. Commit the necessary time.
  4. Have a game plan and goal.
  5. Define rules of engagement.
  6. Actively listen.
  7. Be patient.

These factors are for the most part similar whether it is a traditional or reverse mentor relationship. One big difference though is that the senior leader must make every effort to dissolve the power/status barriers that may exist.