Reverse mentoring - madness or mindfulness?

Opening your eyes to learning from whoever you receive it from can be a step change in acceptance; for many it’s hard to learn from those that we see as either more junior or younger yet done well it can be enlightening and help many seasoned professionals move forward from either a career rut or the way things have been done, potentially speeding up processes or introducing new concepts.
HR Grapevine
HR Grapevine | Executive Grapevine International Ltd
Reverse mentoring - madness or mindfulness?
Learning from juniors can provide valuable insight for seasoned professionals

The upside down world is the demise of flying mammals, namely bats, Timpson, the key cutting and shoe repairer’s management style and the brave few souls that pay homage to the idea that a junior can give some insight into any long-timer’s career. Yet, here in the midlife, that jam sandwich between caring responsibilities for elders and juniors and the assumption that you have it all sorted, perhaps there is merit in the madness that the young guns can enlighten you on the path forward.

Patrice Gordon, author, and TED speaker first became a reverse mentoring expert when she was tasked with becoming a reverse mentor with the then CEO, Craig Kreeger at Virgin Atlantic. He revealed to her at the time that he had no black women in his inner circle and was keen to build a more inclusive culture. The idea of breaking down barriers and educating others to open their eyes was something that Gordon was very keen to do.

This early foray into reverse mentoring, in which Kreeger was willing to accept career advice from the more junior Gordon, showed senior leadership that there was some value in turning things on their head. It was noticed too by Branson who was so taken by the process that he did a shout out to Gordon on LinkedIn and from there things snowballed, she did a TED talk on the subject, and this was followed by a book deal.

How does it work in practice?

Talking to HR Grapevine and following many years of expertise on the concept, Gordon says, “For reverse mentoring to work effectively first of all leaders must be in a place where they are ready to learn and in that “growth mindset” space. There really is little point in starting a programme if there isn’t the propensity to change.”

It’s a valid point because without a Branson spearheading the move or their equivalent, it’s a strategy that isn’t going to go far.

Insurance giant, AXA, has been a pioneer in the field. In 2014, a year in which we mourned the loss of Peaches Geldof, Rik Mayall and Robin Williams, Scotland voted in a Referendum and decided to stay, and Michael Schumacher was left in a coma following a ski accident; AXA launched its reverse mentoring programme.

For reverse mentoring to work effectively first of all leaders must be in a place where they are ready to learn and in that 'growth mindset' space

Patrice Gordon | Author and TED speaker

It began with two aims – to bring digital to the attention of its top managers and help them gain a deeper understanding, enabling them to spread the digital transformation and mind-set throughout the business.

For AXA, the process involves a reverse mentoring training programme in which the model of mentoring breaks down the traditional codes. During a one-hour session a digital native (mentor) and a senior executive (mentee) meet to exchange about various digital topics.

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