Reverse mentoring harvests mutual understanding

Experts have said that within the next few years, millennials will account for nearly half of the workforce in the world. Likely you already have plenty of millennial employees in your company.

Millennials want constant feedback and are eager to succeed, and their career goals are typically focused on finding work that is fulfilling. Their expectations for both their employers and themselves are very high.

How do we mold these employees into leaders and veterans in the marine industry?

One way that could be useful to your business is reverse mentoring. In reverse mentoring, a young employee is matched with a veteran – often times at a much higher rank within the company – to learn from one another.

The veterans teach the young employees how to navigate their career and empower them to become leaders, while the young employees provide insights on new technologies or social media. The coaching is ultimately mutual and opens the door for understanding across generations.

It’s possible many of you are already engaging in some form of reverse mentoring unknowingly, especially if you are working to transition your business to the next generation of your family. If you aren’t, formally or informally pair yourself with a younger employee in the business and open the channels for reverse mentoring.

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Keep these tips in mind should you choose to engage in this type of mentoring:

  • Define expectations and rules. As you’re beginning the process, talk to your mentee about expectations – yours and theirs – so each party understands clearly. The same goes for rules. Set up a list of rules for reverse mentoring and commit to following them.
  • Make a time commitment. Don’t mentor each other once and call it a day – this should be a continuing process. Plus, it will keep the door open if either of you has questions down the road.
  • Prepare for honesty. You’ll need to be direct with your employees and they may provide feedback you won’t like hearing. Be prepared for some potentially brutal honesty.
  • Turn off “Boss Mode.” Falling back into your managerial role will be easy, especially if your mentee says something you don’t want to hear. Remember this mentoring is mutual and you will need to have respect for one another and the experiences each person brings to the table.
  • Trust each other. The veterans have been in the business for years and know what they’re talking about. Conversely, the younger generation has a fresh, new perspective to add to the wealth of experience a veteran has accumulated. You will likely be encouraged to work outside your comfort zones and try new ways of thinking. Trust each other’s experiences and trust that anything they are asking of you is ultimately for your learning benefit.
  • Maintain an attitude of openness to learning. If you do, your employees will follow suit.

Has your business tried reverse mentoring? How was the experience?

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