Time was when the older, wiser, more seasoned members, or mother and father geese of a corporate team could take the younger goslings under their noble wings, willing to impart the wisdom of the ages. But that was the mentoring relationship of days gone by – or bye, bye birdie, as the case may be. Lately the focus is on Reverse Mentorships, a situation where younger, more connected and tech savvy goslings are the mentors. This trend in reverse mentorships is most often traced to former General Electric CEO, Jack Welch who asked senior executives to ‘connect’ with younger workers in order to learn how to use technology. The foundation of this is the assumption that people over 40 may have vast amounts of organizational and other business related knowledge, but they are out of touch, and their eyes are “stale.” Additionally, they don’t have a clue about technology, or their clues are boring.
The reverse mentorship idea has been spreading for at least a decade. Young people get access to seasoned veterans while the seasoned veteran gets digital and social media training. In theory it’s a fine idea as businesses benefit both from the exchange of ideas and overall better communications, with perhaps mutual respect for the different skill sets in the mix. While this is true in many cases, there are issues. Not all geezers and ganders want upstart goslings infringing on their territory. And not all participants come to the table with open minds. Also, if there aren’t clear goals and boundaries, the negatives can outweigh the benefits. With this in mind, it’s important that reverse mentorship programs are initiated with clear goals, trust between the participants and a review process. It’s something worth taking a gander at – perhaps.