Giving Compass' Take:

· The author takes a look at reverse mentoring and how this change in the typical mentor-mentee relationship can empower and build invaluable skills in younger employees.

· How does this concept allow younger and less experienced colleagues to bring about their unique insights? How does it empower these individuals and bring about a better work environment? 

· Check out this article about the power of mentoring relationships.

The practice of mentoring has evolved ever since formal research began on the practice in the 1980s. While most workplace activities, such as learning, development, working patterns, and project management, have become less formal, mentoring has gone the opposite direction: Initially, it was a relationship established by personal initiative—sometimes mutual—between two people of different experience and status levels. In recent decades, organizations have made mentorship contractual.

A 2010 Journal of Management paper defines mentoring as a delicate balance among “coaching, guidance, feedback, encouragement, and emotional support,” with the last element being the most important. A mentor, to note, is distinctly different from a sponsor: Unlike a sponsor, a mentor does not have a vested—particularly, a financial—interest in the success of the mentee. Mathematica Senior Fellow Catherine McLaughlinexplains that “a mentor is seen as a role model, someone the [mentee] wants to emulate,” professionally or otherwise. The idea of being able to see yourself in someone else’s position further down the imagined career path is much easier for some people to imagine than those who do not see people like themselves in top-line management.

One of the business cases for mentoring has been to propel those who would otherwise struggle to reach the top ranks of management positions. This process is one that often transcends professional boundaries to create and deepen personal relationships. McLaughlin researched mentoring in academic spaces and found that there must be some affinity between the mentor and mentee for such relationships to flourish: “There needs to be some comfort level, some sense of familiarity, some shared and safe space for the mentoring relationship to be sustainable.” The mentoring training and consultancy firm Management Mentors agree, finding that it requires a safe environment in which the mentor and mentee are able to address some of  “the obstacles, fears, prejudices, challenges [and] misconceptions” related to issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Read the full article about reverse mentoring by Sharlene Gandhi at Stanford Social Innovation Review.