Reversed mentoring


In this last post, Emily Prevost, associate coordinator of leader research & product development in the BGCT Congregational Leadership Team, is sharing some of her thoughts on healthy mentoring. Along with a lot of other things, Emily helps young leaders identify their calling and develop leadership skills.

Ken Coffee’s comment on Monday reminded me of a “trend” that has emerged in the past few years called Reversed Mentoring. The idea is exactly what Ken was talking about — more experienced or seasoned professionals learning from younger co-workers. This trend is often discussed in terms of learning to use new technology or gaining fresh insight from a new generation. The only reason it’s “reverse” mentoring is that, as Ken rightly points out, most people see mentoring happening only in one direction … with an older person bestowing insight on a younger person.

In reality, couldn’t we all learn something new by spending some time with someone with a different perspective? Age isn’t the only factor in gaining experience. My 23 year old sister has a lot more experience than I do when it comes to text messaging, but so does my friend who is nearly twice my age. 

In much the same way, there are lots of experiences that I’ve not yet had that might or might not have anything to do with age. Much knowledge and expertise come from experience, which is gained over time, but also with exposure to certain areas.

When we recognize the wealth of information that we can share with one another, this opens wide the door for partnering in mentoring (or reverse mentoring if you prefer). So, every mentor also has the opportunity to become a mentee. At the same time that you teach something, you also learn something from your mentoring partner.

I was reading an article several days ago about some people who had participated in reverse mentoring opportunities, and they pointed out some things that would have made their experiences more positive. For instance, many of them felt that having a plan would have made their time more productive (see Monday’s blog on intentionality vs. formality). Several of the participants also pointed out the need for both participants to have an open mind and to be willing to look at things from a new perspective.

I’m wondering if others who have had mentors or been mentors would have other helpful hints for making the experiences more positive and productive.

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