Volume XX, Number 45 (Issue 997) November 7, 2022
Help Me Understand
Last Wednesday I happened to catch an interview with Patrice Gordon, executive coach and author of the new book, Reverse Mentoring: Removing Barriers and Building Belonging in the Workplace (Hachette Books, 2022). Before going further, let me say I have not read the book nor am I familiar with Ms. Gordon and her work, so I am not promoting her book or specific message. Still, what I did hear both intrigued me and made tremendous sense. The chief goal of a mentoring relationship is for the mentor to share his/her wisdom, experience, and insight with the mentee so that the mentee does not have to learn some important lessons the hard way.
Traditionally, organic mentor-mentee relationships develop when the mentor notices something special about a younger, less experienced individual and offers to take them under their wing. Alternatively, a younger individual (the mentee) has the temerity to approach someone they admire with the big ask “would you mentor me?”
Corporate-sponsored mentorship programs offer similar benefits although they develop differently and typically occur on a larger scale. In sponsored programs the pairing of mentors and mentees is more intentional. In our capacity as consultants, we have helped multiple clients design and implement corporate-sponsored mentor programs. Once launched, one of the ways we support those initiatives is by conducting periodic one-on-one check-in sessions with both the mentees and the mentors. Through those conversations we learn a great deal about the effectiveness of the pairings as well as the results of the program.
Among the consistent themes we hear in those feedback sessions are the bond that develops between mentor and mentee, the knowledge the mentees gain, and how the interaction genuinely strengthens the mentees’ ties to the organization. Because of the way the programs are structures, the mentees also speak positively of what they learn about other facets of their organization. In turn, the mentors tell us they benefit immensely from the insights the mentees offer them. Accordingly, as I listened to Ms. Gordon extoll the virtues of a reverse mentorship, I knew exactly what she was talking about.
But there is an added wrinkle and specific goal in Ms. Gordon’s reverse mentor model. Yes, when she speaks of the impact on the reverse mentee (the senior member of the pair) she does expect them to learn what life, work, the roadblocks,
and expectations are like in the mentor’s (younger member of the pair’s) world. Only there is more to the design. You see Gordon is intent on making sure the knowledge and experience that is shared from the mentor’s point of view helps the mentee gain a deeper and better insight into the benefits of and right way to think about and approach diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).
Recognizing how truly little I know and understand about those whose life experiences differ from my own and knowing there are others in key leadership positions throughout corporate America who are more like me than not, it makes sense that we all could stand to learn from those with different backgrounds. Thus, the path to better understanding and enhanced connections is to learn what others think and feel and why they think and feel that way. So, perhaps our collective mantra should be “help me understand.”
Soli Deo Gloria
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,” James 1:19
J. Keith Hughey
Web site: www.jkeithhughey.com
Transforming Potential into Unmatched Performance
Copyright 2022 by J. Keith Hughey. All rights reserved. Permission is hereby granted for reproduction and redistribution of this essay as provided under the copyright laws of the United States of America. The entire early library of Monday Morning Musings issues may be found at www.jkeithhughey.com. Your comments are welcome and encouraged.