From the CEO: Reverse mentoring

AME | July 15, 2022

When I joined AME as CEO in 2020, I was so grateful for the chance to lead an organization bolstered by visionaries across a multitude of industry-leading companies. AME’s success is, and always has been, fueled not only by the shared values of each of its members but also through the interconnectivity of its network.

As that network continues to expand and workforces within member companies evolve, AME’s leaders are constantly seeking fresh ideas to address gaps in digital, cultural and operational landscapes. Seasoned and emerging leaders alike are witness to generational value systems differences. With hybrid remote-office workplaces becoming the norm, it might be time to pause and consider the opportunities these gaps present and how our organizations can foster a stronger sense of intergenerational unity among employees.

I find myself drawn to the program of reverse mentoring. Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric, is credited with founding this practice in 1999 to teach executives about the internet. More than twenty years later, reverse mentoring has grown to encompass a broader agenda of intended goals. Reverse mentoring, in action, is where a less experienced employee has the unique opportunity to mentor a senior-level associate.

What makes reverse mentoring commendable is its emphasis on mutually beneficial outputs. It deconstructs the rigid mentor/mentee binary so that all members learn from each other and gain valuable skills they can apply to their work. A seasoned executive might, for instance, develop expertise in a new digital platform that their junior mentor learned in a specialized university course. The junior employee, in turn, garners leadership skills from the senior leader.

Beyond tangible skillsets, the framework of reverse mentoring lends itself to generational collaboration. It helps people find common ground. While different generational mindsets frequently propagate varied philosophical approaches, a reverse mentoring program might engage both in a structured commitment to implementing lean practice within their company and future collaboration.

AME fosters reverse mentoring with its AME Champions Club and AME Emerging Leader program. Josh Buchanan, AME's volunteer Emerging Leaders director, said it best, “Reverse mentoring expands the pool of shared learning. It flips the traditional mentoring relationship model on its head and opens the door for better conversation, mutual respect and professional development. It creates an environment free of titles as we learn and lead together.” These two membership groups meet on a regular basis to mentor and reverse mentor. It is a powerful relationship for both.

We are at our strongest when we develop methods to learn from our shared experiences and grow from our differences, be it ideological, generational or cultural. If you would like to dive deeper into reverse mentorship, the final day of our AME Workforce of the Future Summit will feature a practitioner presentation on the subject with Josh Buchanan and Rob Hogan. If you missed day one of the summit, don't worry, you can still join without missing a beat. Visit our website to register. We excel in what we do when we value the voice of all our people.

As always, please stay safe and keep looking out for one another.