Reverse mentoring is an extraordinary way to learn and grow. Opportunities to grow and learn are all around us, but all too often we get so caught in motion, so caught up in the “doing” and in checking things off our lists that we overlook the learning that is right in front of us. And that is where reverse mentoring comes in.
Reverse mentoring is the inverse of traditional mentoring, where one might learn from older, more seasoned professionals in their workplace. These days, the opposite is often true: we learn from those younger than us or we learn from people in unexpected ways.
In my case, this means I learn from my clients, which I do all the time. Here’s an example: Several years back, a college student named Arthur Woods asked me to be a mentor to him and his friend, Neil Shah, as they launched Compass Partners, an amazing program that teaches college freshmen how to launch socially responsible businesses. I loved the concept and was eager to serve (and still do). But the truth is that I have learned more from them than I have ever given.
Connecting to a younger generation was awesome. Neil reviewed my book before it went to press and provided invaluable suggestions. They invited me to coffee and introduced me to Alan Webber, the founder of Fast Company. They introduced me to Kenneth Cole (yes, that Kenneth Cole). And they have saved my tail more then once. As vibrant, passionate 20-somethings, they stretch me in more ways than I can describe.
Of course, I had to be open, receptive, and curious, which leads me to my point: Learning is everywhere, when we open our eyes. I was well established in my career when I was asked to mentor these young men, but I ended up learning so much from them. They gave me an opportunity. It was a classic case of reverse mentoring, which turned out to be a profound learning strategy that I will look for again and again.
So, look around. Ask yourself:
• Where else and from whom could you be learning?
• Who is doing something cool that you could learn from?
• What might you need to do to open up and be more receptive?
You might just have to pause and open your eyes to see the learning opportunity standing before you.