A Mutually Beneficial Approach

May 4, 2016 · Share via Email LinkedIn

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Everyone needs someone to lean on. Starting out in a career, the value of having a mentor who can help you navigate the workplace, develop your innate abilities and see the big picture is immeasurable. And being that mentor? In many ways, that's even better. Having an opportunity to give back, recognize your own self-worth, and share accumulated wisdom are all great ways to re-energize your career.

We tend to think of the mentoring relationship as a one-way transference of knowledge, but anyone who's been involved in a good one knows it's actually a shared opportunity for learning and growth. In recent years, reverse mentoring has become a catch phrase. In this mentoring relationship, senior-level executives are paired with younger employees to gain exposure to new cultural mindsets and become conversant with trends, tech platforms and the social codes of younger generations.

There's a new vision for the mentor/mentee relationship emerging which values each participants experience and encourages a more empathetic and reciprocal give-and-take relationship:

Call it 360-degree mentoring.

In this model, both parties come together as equals. Seasoned employees share insights on the big picture and a deeper knowledge of the company's subject matter, while younger employees share a fresh perspective and help navigate the technological landscape and everyone benefits.

Imagine a culture built on shared dialogue, collective wisdom and knowledge.

Inspired to bring this mentoring dynamic to your workplace? Whether your company already has a formal mentoring program in place or not, share this idea with your human resources or talent management team. Offer yourself, and a willing 360-degree mentor partner, as a "test case" to further explore the idea and report your feedback.

Reflect - Both you and your partner should spend some time thinking about your knowledge gaps, set some goals, and think about how your partner could help support those goals.

Prepare - Both you and your partner should "change up" your daily media routine and expose yourself to each others go-to resources. If you're a Millennial, check out AARP.org, Forbes or The Atlantic to get a sense of issues relevant to the senior executive. For those 50+, try spending some time on Buzzfeed, Re/Code or Mashable to see what's popping there. This will provide you with some insight into what makes each generation tick in order to spark a dialogue.

Plan - Collaboratively, come up with an outline for what success looks like for your 360-degree mentor relationship. Think about time, space, resources needed, and define the rules of engagement.

Share - After you've made some headway, spend some time detailing the benefits and challenges you've experienced. The more you are willing to share, the easier it will be to get buy-in from your leadership.

Today's challenging business environment almost demands that companies value what a broad range of experience and diverse perspectives can bring to the table. A 360-degree mentoring program is an investment in time and effort that can make you and your entire organization stronger.