Reverse Mentoring: Knowledge is Not a One-Way Street

Over the last few months, there has been a lot of chatter about reverse mentoring. Seemingly, the newest craze in business.

Traditionally the word “mentorship” evokes the image of an older, more experienced person sharing their knowledge and expertise with a young, bright-eyed entrepreneur. Reverse mentoring uses a different approach, where younger, often less experienced individuals mentor older individuals. The assumption has always been that the older you are, the more knowledge you have to impart, however, this is no longer the status quo.

There are many reasons to consider reverse mentoring. A few examples are:

  • It can help you relate better to your employees and tap into their energy and creativity.
  • Younger employees may be better engaged with technology and applications that can drive your business forward.
  • If your industry is going through a lot of change, graduates are a good source of knowledge as they have studied these changes in school. They can help you tap into knowledge about the most recent advances in your industry.
  • If working with existing employees, reverse mentoring can help you build a cross-generational knowledge for your business and identify key individuals for future roles.

6 Tips for Starting a Reverse Mentoring Relationship

Interested to find out more? Here are six tips on how to start a reverse mentoring relationship:

1. Find a Compatible Partner

Your ideal mentor is someone with skills in areas where you are lacking. Look for a mentor who also has the desire and the potential to go up the career ladder or expand their business too. That way you can develop a reciprocal relationship.

2. Don’t Stereotype

Just as not every 50-year-old has the same knowledge or expertise, don’t assume every 20-year-old does, either. For example, just because someone is skilled digitally doesn’t mean they’ll know how to use Facebook, LinkedIn or Pinterest for business. You could end up teaching a younger associate a thing or two.

3. Set Expectations

Create ground rules for what you both want to get out of your relationship and how often you’ll meet. At the beginning your meetings will likely be longer as youdiscover what you want or need to learn. Later-on your meetings will be shorter and more focussed on key learning points.

4. Make it More Than just about Technology

If you are starting this relationship because you want to stay on top of changes in technology, don’t limit yourself to just that. As your relationship develops, it may be that person can teach you about anything from popular music to how to lead the next generation more effectively.

5. Be Open to Suggestions and Criticism.

Sometimes it’s hard to accept that there are better ways to do what you are doing. Especially if you have been doing it that way for a long time. But remember, by starting this relationship, you must be open to accepting constructive criticism and find out how you can do things differently.

6. Give as Much as you Get

Remember this relationship does not need to be a one-way street, it can be beneficial to both parties. Think about how you can introduce your mentor to the key industry leaders and help advance their business or career.