The impact of reverse mentoring
The benefits of mentoring are no secret – in L&D we understand the impact that it can have and the development it gives our people. It’s particularly beneficial for individuals looking to move to the next stage in their career or taking on new challenges, but at what stage should we stop being mentored?
Is it when you are a senior manager? A CEO? Or perhaps when you’ve reached the level in your career you were aspiring to?
The answer is never. We should never stop looking for opportunities for growth no matter our seniority, our position in the organisation or how far in our career we’ve come. But there comes a time when we may struggle to find someone who can help us develop. Or so we think.
Reverse mentoring has grown in popularity in recent years, predominantly impacted by the boom in social media and technology. Companies such as United Health and Target are prime examples of matching junior members of the team with senior members to build working relationships to exchange skills, knowledge and understanding.
We should never stop looking for opportunities for growth no matter our seniority, our position in the organisation or how far in our career we’ve come.
The beauty of this is that the process recognises that there are skills gaps on both sides. It creates an opportunity for each individual to address their own weaknesses with the help of the other person's strengths.
But what other impacts does reverse mentoring have on individuals and organisations as a whole?
Broadens your mind
Reverse mentoring really gives participants the opportunity to broaden their minds. There are often situations or impacts that wouldn’t even be contemplated, but it gives both senior and junior team members the opportunity to rethink things they thought they had understood.
Strong conversations create opportunities and considerations that wouldn’t have otherwise been available. The result of this, very often, is growth.
This is a fantastic tool for both senior and junior individuals of an organisation to gain great insight into what’s really happening. Junior members will gain an understanding of what’s happening at a senior level, and how and why decisions are being made, and senior members of the team will have an opportunity to see how it is truly impacting the people within the organisation.
It’s easy to get stuck in a certain mindset but participating in reverse mentoring means that individuals are given an opportunity to open their minds to new things in an accessible and acceptable way. It helps to change people’s mindsets on certain topics, as they are able to understand, first hand, how things really work.
This is particularly true for data and digital knowledge. Understanding how something works, and the impact it can have, can really change the mindset of an individual – especially hearing first hand why it has the impact it does.
When you look at the Synaptic Circle, a neuroscience model, you’ll see that reverse mentoring can achieve a positive impact in many areas. The model, created by Amy Brann, covers the basics all leaders need to be aware of from a brain perspective of how people work.
- How L&D can tackle modern-day challenges
- Why learning culture is so important
- What makes a successful L&D partner
The Synaptic Circle includes confidence, certainty, culture, celebration, control, connection, and contribution. What the research tells us is that if we do not have our needs fully met in each of these areas, it starts to undermine our performance and impact how we feel about ourselves and, ultimately, how we interact with others.
Reverse mentoring creates an opportunity to target many of these areas, supporting the position that it has a truly positive impact on individuals:
- Confidence. Building your knowledge in new areas, creating stronger relationships and gaining further insight into your organisation naturally builds confidence.
- Culture. Culture is vital to the ultimate success of an organisation and building a culture where junior team members build strong working relationships with senior team members improves communication, trust and respect.
- Control. When people feel out of control on a regular basis, it can lead to increased stress levels. A clearer understanding of situations and opportunities creates an element of control for participants.
- Connection. Building connections is a vital part of the Synaptic Circle, and reverse mentoring fits perfectly in here. It helps participants feel involved and allows them to build relationships they wouldn’t otherwise be able to.
- Contribution. Contributing to something and playing a meaningful part in change, even if it’s change for an individual, is a brilliant motivator, and something that everyone needs to feel worthwhile.
There’s no doubt that reverse mentoring has a great impact on organisations, and while it may not work for everyone, it’s worth exploring in more detail to identify if your business can benefit.
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