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Reverse Mentoring As A Powerful Development Intervention

Written by: Andrée Funnell, Senior Level Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


So a couple of months ago I was approached by a corporate client of mine about a fantastic new initiative known as a “Reverse Mentoring Programme”. To be honest I had never come across the term before. I assumed it would be something similar to 360-degree feedback whereby the initiative instead of working top-down it works bottom-up. So I set about finding out more and this is what I discovered.

What is Reverse Mentoring?

‘Reverse mentoring encourages employees to form “professional friendships” ‒ regardless of seniority – to exchange skills, knowledge, and understanding’. The former CEO of General Electric®, Jack Welch, is credited with inventing the concept of reverse mentoring.

The idea behind this particular initiative is in my mind is both innovative and inspirational. My client has personally interviewed and selected 13 talented individuals who are the next generation leaders and they represent the business known as the ‘Junior Board’. This programme provides them with the opportunity to have a voice and provide a platform that will help shape the business strategy with innovative ideas and recommendations that impact all aspects of the organisation. These 13 carefully selected individuals will shadow the Senior Management Board for a period of 6 months before changing mentees. Swopping mentees after 6 months will provide a broader awareness of the organisations strategy, processes, vision and objectives and how different areas of the business function.

One of the other benefits that the organisation has identified is the need of the Senior Board to understand the X,Y, Z generation’s perspective and the focus on the vision, strategy, and ways of working for the future that will encompass diversity, equality, technology and a whole lot more. On the reverse, the Junior Board have an understanding of the culture and current strategy, plans, and ways of working from their perspective and current ways of working.

I was asked to develop and deliver a one-day training workshop to provide them with the key skills, tools, and understanding to become effective mentors. In addition, 1:1 coaching sessions were agreed to support their individual need in order for them to succeed in becoming effective mentors and ensuring a successful project.

Reverse Mentoring

In a reverse mentoring relationship the mentor is typically but not always younger or less senior in the organisation. However, the key to the effective mentoring relationship is that they are the more experienced person in some critical areas of the business that the mentee (older or more senior person) wants to learn about.

The key benefit to reverse mentoring is the connections that are formed with more senior colleagues who have the capability of opening doors for you as you develop in your career.

5 Principles of Reverse Mentoring

Reverse mentorships require more than a step-by-step program (although we’ll outline one for you in just a moment). They need a true partnership between the mentor and mentee that’s built on five key principles:

1. Compassion

Mentees can often feel vulnerable because they’re afraid of showing their lack of knowledge or experience in a subject to a junior employee. Ensure that everyone involved understands that the program is a judgment-free zone and that everyone involved is committed to that understanding.

2. Mutual Respect

Navigating generational gaps in the workplace can feel intimidating for everyone involved. Both parties must respect each other and the program before it starts; it may help to set aside some time before the official program launch for the mentor and mentee to get to know each other and build a relationship before diving in.

3. Transparent Communication

Both mentor and mentee need to feel comfortable enough to communicate honestly and authentically—it’s the only way to build a strong connection and learn from the experience. Mentors, specifically, may need support and guidance from the program coordinator when it comes to confidently communicating with their mentees.

4. Willingness to Learn

One common mistake with reverse mentorship is when senior-level mentees aren’t open to learning from their junior mentors. This often comes back to issues related to respect. It goes both ways, too. Mentor and mentee must enter into the program with an open mind, a willingness to listen without judgment, and a desire to learn with humility.

5. Commitment

All mentorships are a commitment of time and energy. Before starting, make sure the mentor and mentee have the time, workload, and mental energy needed to see success. You should also clearly lay out what the program entails, its expectations, and how long it will be.

Below I talk about what is known as Mentoring in the old sense of the word and is still extremely powerful today.

What is Mentoring and why join a Mentoring Programme?

Joining a mentoring programme is a very powerful tool that can help you reach your potential because of the training and empowerment it provides. Mentoring is also one of the most effective ways for you to advance in your career because your skills are developed and your performance is monitored. In short, mentoring enables you to be the person you really want to be.

Two-way Relationship

It is important to realize though that mentoring is a relationship between two people who trust and respect each other. Mentoring is not simply a teacher-student relationship; rather, it is a partnership that will help both the mentor and the mentee grow both personally and professionally.

The mentor can aid the mentee so that he can find the right direction they wish to take in their career. The mentors will usually rely on their own experiences in the past and their knowledge about the industry. Because of this, mentoring can be a great way for a mentee to understand their career options and progress professionally in the future.

Most of the time, having a mentor will boost the confidence and the self-assurance of a mentee because he has all the support, encouragement, and guidance he needs. But the mentors should also take note that challenging the mentee to do their best is the most valuable thing they can do so that the mentee will know how to handle difficult situations the right way in the future.

As was mentioned earlier, a mentoring program is a two-way relationship; so likewise, the mentor can also expect that he will learn a lot from teaching and guiding another person. This will develop his management and leadership skills so he will develop empathy for people who is experiencing the same struggles he did in the past.

Benefits of a Mentoring Programme

A mentor will help a mentee believe in his or her capabilities as a person. Because of this, the self-confidence of the mentee will be improved and they will be more apt to accept more challenges in the future. The mentor would also enable the mentee to explore new ideas so that you can achieve a higher level of self-assurance in yourself and explore even greater highs of success. The mentoring program will be an opportunity for you to take a deeper look at yourself, your goals, your personality, and your life. This will enable you to know which the right path you should take in life is.

Features You Should Look For

It is inevitable that some mentoring programmes would be better than others because of the features and objectives provided by the specific programme. For example, it would be better for you to get a mentor from outside the company so that you will get an unbiased view of what you should do regardless of who your boss is. The mentoring program would not be entirely effective if your mentor knows your boss as well.

Likewise, the things that are discussed during the mentorship program should always remain confidential between the mentor and the mentee. And lastly, the mentorship program should be focused on the person. The mentor should be aware of the everyday challenges that his mentee faces so that these issues can be faced accordingly and enable the mentee to succeed in his career.

Effective Mentoring Relationships

The Mentor-Mentee Relationship

The role of a mentor is to aid the mentee in reaching their goals. While the mentor can certainly learn a lot from teaching and leading others, the relationship between the mentor and the mentee should be mentee-centred. So the mentor should listen, guide, and even challenge the mentee to do his or her best in their role.

The mentorship program requires frequent contact between the mentor and the mentee for the communication line to remain open. Mentoring is an interactive relationship wherein both parties can contribute to each other’s growth. You should take note that mentoring is far different from counselling, coaching and consulting and neither is it being buddies because mentoring is a tool that is used for personal and professional development.

Formal and Informal Mentoring

Formal mentoring is having an acknowledged relationship between the mentor and the mentee. Formal mentoring would require the commitment of time and effort between the two parties so that they can share and learn from each other. This type of mentoring program can be for a specific project or for a specified time period.

Finding a Mentor

Having the wrong mentor can be even worse than having no mentor at all. For this reason, everyone should take the time and effort to look for a mentor that will suit their needs, personality, and learning style. You need to look within yourself and the environment around you; then, ask yourself what you really want to learn.

Oftentimes, you need to consider the following questions before deciding on a mentor:

  • Would the mentor provide me with good and accurate information?

  • Would they support me in reaching my goals and objectives?

  • Would they respect my dreams, my decisions, and my goal in life?

  • Would they challenge me when it is necessary?

  • Can the mentor actually be trusted?

  • Am I willing to listen to this mentor’s ideas and suggestions?

Asking these questions before you commit to a mentoring programme is essential for you to reap the best possible benefit. It is also important to have a clear communication line between you and the mentor. Even at the start of the mentoring programme you already need to specify your expectations and your goal so that the mentor will know which direction to take.

Ending the Mentoring Programme

However, all good things must come to an end. You cannot continue with the mentoring programme forever; sure, you can still communicate with your mentor from time to time but being in a commitment to be each other’s mentor and mentee can become more like a burden rather than a privilege after the mentoring program ends.

Both parties should acknowledge what they have learned and thank each other for the time and effort that the person has spent for the another’s well-being. Even after the mentoring program ends though, the mentor can still support the mentee and be there for the mentee when they are needed.

And finally, if you could choose a mentor who would that be and why? Want to find out more about mentoring or coaching then call me today 07702 818665 to arrange a 15 minute Clarity Call to find out how I can help you achieve the success and growth you want in your life. Alternatively email me at

Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, connect with me on LinkedIn and visit my website for more info!


Andrée Funnell, Senior Level Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Andrée is a multi-award-winning Coach, Learning & Development Consultant, best-selling author, and speaker. She is the founder and driving force behind the success of Aspiring Future Competence (AFC). Since its inception in 2002, AFC has helped clients across a wide range of business sectors to get visible, get heard, and get ahead by applying inspirational ways to bring about positive change and empowerment. She has over 20 years of HR & training experience working in corporate organizations and a further 18 years delivering development solutions that make a difference to people’s careers and lives. She is a qualified coach, professional trainer, and NLP Practitioner. She discovered that Authenticity is the key to happiness, fulfillment, and success and is keen to get the message out there to others. ‘Behind the Mask’ is Andrée’s literary debut about ‘Authenticity.’ It’s an essential interactive step-by-step guide to turning your life around and achieving the kind of life you deserve by living authentically.



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