Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Building Enduring Relationships & Bringing Transformation Through Reverse Mentoring

The other day my 8 years old daughter was teaching my father ‘How to effectively surf the newly purchased LED TV, record programmes and pictures, where to check the message s sent by the service provider so on and so forth.

What do we call such type of learning process? Why companies call the young and the inexperienced to coach older professionals? The answer is straight here.

As the world's demographic curve leans swiftly towards the next generation, organisations are faced with younger consumers and employees and with new technology and newer digital ways of doing business. The young and inexperienced can now teach the veterans a trick or two.

Now the center of gravity of experience and learning has moved down, to the select few who know more about new changing world and who can do a hawk-eyed scrutiny of competition the world over. The company identifies such candidates to coach and handhold their seniors in various domains. In one-to-one formal sessions, these selected juniors pass on their learning to the seniors

Keeping this concept in mind and to leverage and derive the maximum out of it, the companies have increasingly started adopting creative ways of coaching – mentoring such as Reverse Mentoring. It is an initiative in which older executives are paired with and mentored by younger employees. The mentoring sessions are formal: the one-on-one sessions that take place typically last for one to two hours. Learning continues informally too. It's very formal, face-to-face. Reverse mentoring can be structured or unstructured, formal or informal. Whatever the style, the learning is always two-way.

Reverse mentoring has become crucial given the rate at which things are changing around us as the skills seniors have grown up with are dramatically different from the skills and capabilities needed in the future.It is equally important for leaders to realize that they do not know everything .

One of the senior executive had rightly quoted while being mentored that “Leadership is not just about learning the ropes; it is also about acting as the customer while being mentored “. One has to go through the experience like a student. The mentoring is like going from PowerPoint presentation to reality.

Who Gets What !!!!!

  • The challenge of mentoring a leader exposes the mentor to venture into unexplored territory – something that he may not be doing in is daily routine work life.
  • The exercise helps the mentor to build strong confidence in self
  • A mentor gets valuable insights and access to treasure of experience for his/her own personal development
  • The mentee is the primary beneficiary of the relationship as he or she is learning new skills and knowledge from his or her mentor.
  • He gets to understand the real market dynamics, consumer preference of the youth segment and perspective of young employees  which is becoming increasingly relevant for better work culture and business too. 
  • Ensures Meaningful Engagement:Reverse mentoring helps rejuvenate and re-energies old employees and keep young employee meaningfully engaged. The exercise helps engage his/her team better by understanding their needs and desires. Juniors engages in such relationships strongly feel that they get the opportunity to work and observe senior leaders closely, and gain critical, first-hand experience on the way things are handled at senior levels. Seasoned managers and their companies gain by becoming more alive to the needs of younger customers and employees.
  • Building Strong Relationships: It helps improve relationships between the different generations in the workplace. It helps in building strong bonding between the leadership and the next generation.
  • Encouraging Constructive and Fresh Ideation : Beyond learning , it throws up young ideas,as some of the youngsters have creatively intelligent ideas to share. A reverse mentor could be a good sounding board for the mentee to test and develop ideas.
  • Both Can Profit From Association : It is a symbiotic relationship similar to a Small Blackbird Plover removing tiny morsels of food from African Crocodile’s Teeth .The former gets the teeth cleaned ‘free of cost ‘and the later gets the food – both the parties gain out of association. The school room logic surprisingly applies in the corporate world as the leadership will come to know what younger generation is thinking. And on the other hand, the youngsters also get an opportunity to know where the company is going in terms of direction. Thereby they start to take lot of ownership. Both will benefit as it connects senior leaders with younger high performers.
  • EGO Breaking Exercise: In older days, the senior management was considered to be the repository of knowledge. As the time moved, the executives began to realize that knowledge isn’t a one-way street. A trick to success in reverse mentoring is an ability to create and maintain an attitude of openness to the experience and dissolve the barriers of status, power and position. I will call it an ego breaking exercise.

During my stint as a leader for more than 10 years , I did learn lot of new things from my team members - young colleagues.What about you ? Do share you experiences as well. 

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