We know the ‘traditional’ benefits of mentoring – a mentee takes all the wisdom that a mentor imparts. Its tried and true, and it works. But what if each partner could be both teacher and student?
Flip the traditional model and you’ve got a mentoring relationship where both parties win. Each recognises the value they offer. Both parties benefit. It’s often referred to as ‘reciprocal mentoring’.
And it can have powerful results for the individual and organisations.
The concept has been around for over a decade, but more and more traditional mentoring relationships have been shelved in favour of reciprocal mentoring.
Three benefits of reciprocal mentoring:
1. Gain purpose and perspective
Never before have we enjoyed such diverse generations and ethnicities within the workforce who have unique competencies and strengths to offer each other. But bridging both the age and experience divide can be tricky.
The 1:1 nature of a reciprocal relationship lets each party see the world from a different point of view – it challenges biases and gives way to new perspectives.
This kind of mentoring also demands continuous learning and transferrable skill development. The outcome is more motivated and engaged individuals.
Inverting the hierarchy that allows junior professionals to act as mentors also enables them to feel valued for their contribution. They feel confident that their investment in the company can be matched by the company’s investment in their future, which is crucial to retaining millennials.
On the flipside, when executives engage as mentors, it enables them to tap into the next generation of leaders and be part of the future of their industry. In fact, sharing knowledge down the talent chain and effectively grooming the future of their industry, can be hugely rewarding.
2. Score a competitive advantage
Perhaps the biggest win for juniors – reciprocal mentoring offers unparalleled access to senior leaders.
The opportunity to build rapport with executives means exposure to new parts of the business, advice on pathways to career ascension (vertical or lateral) and best of all, invaluable access to networks that expand your circle of influence – good for your brand, and your career.
For both mentor and mentee, it can help you think more creatively. Mentoring offers a safe space to workshop ideas, soundboard new initiatives or simply gain a different approach. For this reason, a good mentor can seed innovation.
Youthful understanding of emerging technologies and media, now trumps, in some cases years of experience and knowledge. More executives are subscribing to reciprocal mentoring to tap into emergent markets, keep tabs on innovative brands and understand what makes younger generations tick.
3. Grow leadership capacity
Put simply, mentoring develops future leaders. It provides them with a forum for setting, discussing and dissecting a path to leadership with someone who has walked that path before.
A good mentor can also accelerate learning and growth, helping to build ‘soft’ or strategic skills which are fundamental to leadership. ‘Hard’ skills in the form of increased performance are just as important to good leadership. Luckily, mentoring and training increases managerial productivity by 88%, versus 24% with training alone.
And CEOs need mentors too.Studies have shown council and advice by industry veterans can help CEOs make better decisions, avoid costly mistakes and become proficient in their roles faster.
Whether formal or informal, reciprocal mentoring is fast becoming the new currency of collaboration, integration and cooperation.
But aside from the professional gains, the give and take in reciprocal mentoring enables you to learn and be inspired, sometimes from the most unlikely connection. A reciprocal relationship paves the way for continuous and symbiotic learning that crosses all lines of seniority, gender and generation. That’s perhaps why 89% of those mentored, go on to mentor themselves.