Reverse Mentoring: A Surprise Relationship That’s a Win-Win
A few years back, I needed to deepen my understanding and fluency in social media, especially Twitter, as my communications work increased in that area. Twitter was mind boggling to me as it was not intuitive. How could I become engaged on it and build a following? At a NY Women in Communications committee meeting (I was Co-VP, Membership committee at the time), I met a young woman, Samantha, who showcased her knowledge in social media again and again. That’s when the lightbulb in my head turned on. Why not ask Samantha to mentor me in social media? Soon after, I approached her and she got crosseyed. How could she mentor me, someone who was almost twice her age? We talked about how the initial idea was somewhat strange, but also how we could help each other through the process. She’d help me with social media and Twitter; I’d help her figure out her communications career path. In fact, studies show that the best cross-generational mentorships work in both directions.
Later, I initiated NYWICI’s own reverse mentoring program, which I spoke about on the Fox Good Day Street Talk morning show during national mentoring month (January). Reading The NY Times this morning, my own experience with reverse mentoring came alive again in reading What Could I Possibly Learn From A Mentor Half My Age?, which includes personal story but also notes that major companies like Cisco, Target and United Healthcare are embracing reverse mentoring especially as technology becomes increasingly important in their businesses. Here are 3 things reverse mentoring taught me:
- Re-Energize Your Brain: If you limit yourself to only learning from people older than you, you’ll be missing out on a lot of new ideas. As you progress in your career, you may find that your mentor pool shrinks considerably if you’re concentrated on finding only older and more experienced mentors.
- Improve Use, Fluency in New Technology: Chances are, the more you know about new technology and how to best use it, the more productive you’ll become.And if you give them the chance, the younger generation can demonstrate why they love technology so much: It often gets things done more easily.
- Break Old Paradigms: If you’re like me, you get bored doing things by rote after a fashion. A reverse mentor can provide a fresh approach to everyday business tasks. It’s energizing and opens the gates to lots of new thinking even beyond the mentoring relationship. Millennials’s energy, constant questioning and challenging of assumptions are great for improving process (assuming you are a leader open to new ideas).
Have you ever considered or participated in reverse mentoring?