Lessons from Your Future: Reverse Mentoring

My dry scaly pre-arthritic knuckles slowly imitated the impossibly fast, fluid motions of my niece, who was showing me a factory reset on my android phone. Simply holding down the Volume Up and Power button, it’s the fastest fix when your phone doesn’t restart. Smartphones have become the yardstick of how well you relate to the younger generations amongst your friends and family.  If you have gone past using it as just a ”phone” you are doing very well family relationship wise!

We are again talking to you, Senior Leadership and management. The last article, “Paying it forward”, focused on what you could give back to your organization. This article focuses on your relationship with the younger members of your corporate family. The pandemic has forced us to relate remotely but it is a great chance to reach out and learn from them. You will be surprised what a big difference it will make to you and your organization.

“Simply put, it is seeking the wisdom of your teammates that has been bestowed not by age and experience, but by fresh eyes and the realities of a new generation.”

A long time ago Jack Welch of General Electric discovered an unusual mentoring relationship while meeting with a company in the United Kingdom. He called it “Reverse Mentoring”. Senior and upper level management became mentees of high performing junior employees. Initially it was a means for older employees to connect with newer technologies. Now it has spawned into building bridges across many facets of corporate life. Simply put, it is seeking the wisdom of your teammates, that has been bestowed not by age and experience but fresh eyes and the realities of a new generation.

If your company already has a program, revisit it. Use these days of Covid-19.

If your organization does not have a “Reverse Mentoring” initiative, Here is a recent Harvard Business Review article on the subject to get you started. Then, be like Jack. In the next 48 hours think of a bright colleague who is under thirty and is a high performer.  Ask your senior management team to do the same. Get Human Resources involved to find and match mentors and mentees.

It’s going to be awkward. Especially in the Indian Workplace where we have a seemingly inborn sense of place and hierarchy in an organization. There will be scepticism from the senior folks and suspicion from the juniors. What has the HR department concocted to disguise a new and twisted form of performance evaluation? Pairing folks who have no reporting relationship will help build cross department ties. Interacting in groups,diffusing the one-on-one pressure, too is known to work.

“It’s going to be awkward… There will be scepticism from the senior folks and suspicion from the juniors.”

What can they talk about to get started? Here are three topics that we are sure your junior employees understand intimately and will be of great help to the senior folks. They are not work related. Eventually as the relationships mature you can expand the scope.   Also, take this opportunity to learn the subtle nuances of millennial phrasing. ‘What EXACTLY do you mean?” is a good opening.  You’ll be surprised.

Mobile Devices: Android, iPhone, troubleshooting, cool productivity apps… All manner of things. This has the greatest potential for ongoing knowledge transfer. It’s a new Peter Principle: When you understand your phone completely, it’s ready to be replaced.

Google Analytics:  The intention is not to become an SEO expert but just understanding what makes a page go up in search results ranking and how search engines work will create a conversation that could be the basis for further discussions. How and Why do Google ads follow you?

Social Media: Some basics will surely enlighten most senior employees. Tweeting, Blocking, Deleting, Sharing, “Going viral”… and the seniors could reinforce the notion that NOTHING you ever do on the internet can be taken back or down!

“Finally, making it Covid Lockdown friendly. You are going to have to rely on technology to enable this communication. There is a lot both the mentors and mentees can do.”

These topics of discussions are ice breakers. You can later drill down to specific needs at your organization. These will get the conversation going. Reverse mentoring creates interactions that have been missing between two very important aspects of one organization. Start by building trust and communication.

Finally, making it Covid Lockdown friendly. There is a lot both the mentors and mentees can do. Make short videos on your mobile devices. Post questions in the form of a video from your Lockdown environment. Get answers from all those who have them. Setup video calls, let the junior team members lead the call and teach you about what they feel is important. Edit, and index these recordings for others to use. There are many ways to leverage your Enterprise Video Platform.

The trick is to make the technology transparent. If you need help write to us. We have solutions and suggestions

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