Reverse Mentoring

Since we will be talking about mentorship, I’d like to put it out there now that I don’t have a mentor and I think I want one. According to Forbes, January was “Mentor month”, hello. Some persons are of the opinion that you can’t be successful/reach your maximum potential without having a mentor. I wonder if that is totally correct or just a little correct.

A mentor by basic definition is “an experienced and trusted adviser”, so the general expectation is that they would be older than the mentee. Right? Or is it not? Does experience come with age or not? Lol. Wahala.

I was just kidding. Of course, experience doesn’t always come with age. A younger person or a member of a ‘junior’ team can advise, guide and educate a supposed ‘senior’ member especially on new tools and technologies- learning can also be a bottom-up process.

Reverse mentorship plays out when a younger person (younger in terms of age or in terms of time spent in an organization) who is more up-to-date with the required skill and knowledge set as is applicable to a certain field, goes into some sort of partnership with an older person (in the same terms I already described). Note that I have used ‘partnership’ and not some other dictatorship word. This is because mentorship should be about exchanging knowledge, empowering and establishing leaders, not about dominance and bragging rights. The goal should be bridging the skill/knowledge/idea gap between your generations in a way that where one person is weak, the other person’s strength suffices. Looooool, the just-concluded banter between the millennials and the gen-z kids on twitter just came to mind.

Okay, steps!!

First, you want to find someone who actually knows what they will be exchanging with you; not someone that claims to know. Run a little test on them or something. They must be able to provide what you lack and vice-versa.

You also want to confirm that you find this person likeable, bearable. You don’t want to jump in and jump out, because there is no chemistry, do you? If this partnership is mandated by HR, for example, they shouldn’t force people who have a history of not working well together or two people who have no respect for each other or something.

Communicate! Let both parties state clearly (or at least be aware of) what they want to get out of the partnership as well as what they would be giving. Also, decide on the preferred means of communication: emails, in-flesh meets, etc. You know you are from different generations, you don’t want to appear insensitive or condescending. I mean, some of my baby boomers and gen-x lectures prefer face-to-face meetings while the younger ones would rather I sent them a softcopy, but a few gen-y and millennial ones still reject softcopy versions. E shock me too.

Some values are key. Respect your partner. Keep an open mind. Be patient with your partner, especially if it’s taking them some time to understand. You also have to be interested in even learning from each other and whether you are giving or receiving, employ some tact. In addition, feedback doesn’t always have to be destructive criticism; sometimes, say stuff that is nice and encouraging.

Track your progress steadily. Always check-in to confirm that you both are satisfied and draw up plans for improvement if need be. Maybe, schedule regular meetings and brain-storming sessions.

One extra point from Jenny baby: try not to judge each other based on what you think you know about each generation. Everyone is their own unique individual with their own unique set of experiences. Treat them as such.


Over-confidence and under-confidence.

Mistrust of each other’s abilities (especially from the senior partner)

Fear of giving feedback as honestly as possible (especially on the part of the junior partner)

If somehow, the two people paired don’t like themselves, there will be no progress.

Sometimes, feelings develop between partners (lust, love, whatever). Don’t be caught off-guard. Trust me, you don’t want to complicate your life 😂😂

A quote, just for you 😘:

“It’s a situation where the old fogies in an organization realize that by the time you’re in your forties and fifties, you’re not in touch with the future the same way the young twenty-somethings. They come with fresh eyes, open minds, and instant links to the technology of our future”.

— Alan Webber.

Whether you are a mentor or mentee, even if you are neither, just make sure you are adding value wherever you are, biko.




Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store