In this edition of the Executives Outcomes newsletters, I am revisiting and updating the fascinating world of mentoring and explore a concept that is gaining in prominence, that being – Reverse Mentoring. In an era where technology evolves at an unprecedented pace, we find out how experienced mentors can benefit from the wisdom of younger generations and vice versa. To add to this we all now have to comprehend the advent of Artificial Intelligence (AI) that is compounding the rate of technological change. Therefore reverse mentoring is gaining traction, where younger mentors are able to mentor, senior mentors, and in turn these senior mentors, can still mentor, younger mentors in business matters. Both have skills that are important in developing competent managers of the future.
In my first full management position, I had an outstanding mentor, my boss. His leadership spearheaded me onto multinational organizations, companies such as Alcatel, General Electric, Applied Materials, and consequently into a European General Manager position. There, I recall the various different country managers that I have mentored, in the art of managing their country business units, while also dealing with their different cultural aspects.
Here are two business examples of reverse mentoring. One is from the corporate world and the other is from a non-profit.
I paraphrase an article from Harvard on General Electric (GE) and its CEO Jack Welch, from 1981 to 2001. Keep in mind that this example is over two decades ago. It became apparent in GE that the senior executives were not fully comprehending and utilizing the power of the internet and the use of computers. Thus, their time was not being fully utilized to the extent that it could be. This would include missing critical data, or taking copious amounts of time in gathering data, before taking yet more time in deciphering and dissemination of that data. Mr. Welch being in this conundrum, sought out younger GE employees, and used them as his mentors, to improve his capabilities in the new technologies of that time. He then instructed all of his senior executives to do the same. Now think again about this being two decades on from today. Think about the unstoppable exponential rate of technological change, to date. How efficient and effective are you in today’s world?
Secondly, and I think this example will aptly bring home to everyone, that whatever you are doing, you are never too old to learn, you just need the right teachers, as Jack Welch discovered. Trish Lopez is an entrepreneur in New Mexico who saw gaps in the technology market, and married those technology gaps into the generation gaps. She established ‘Teeniors,’ a nonprofit organization that employs young people to help senior people understand technology, https://www.teeniors.com Young mentors teaching [previous] mentors how to use today’s technology. Trish’s company has won at least nine awards. She not only bridges an important technology gap, but she also employs teens to complete these tasks, thereby rewarding both generations.
In my latter days I have been giving back more to the newer generations. In New York I attended a STEM college, where a number of business professionals, worked beside and guided latter stage school students in the art of project building and the basics of business. It’s amazing to realize how smart these school children are.
I then transitioned into being a yet another business mentor with a professor from the State University New York. I worked with him and his submission to the National Science Foundation (NSF) for an assisted grant application, on a mass data collecting project. While I was with the NSF, I was then in turn re-mentored in the art of learning new strategic startup skills, which I have since used in startup businesses and with entrepreneurs.
Thank you for being a part of the Executive Outcomes community. I hope you find this newsletter informative. Stay tuned for our next issue, where we will continue to explore exciting strategic topics and trends in the world of business and technology. Until then, keep learning, keep mentoring, and keep growing!
“I’m Phil Wilton, your Executives Outcomes are my business, because your executive decisions, and your outcomes are just as important to me, as they are to your business’s success.”