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Mentoring and Reverse Mentoring

by Jack Santos  |  August 13, 2012  |  Comments Off on Mentoring and Reverse Mentoring

The term “Reverse Mentoring” seems to ebb and flow – in Forbes, in the Wall Street Journal, in Mckinsey reports – originally ascribed (in some circles) to Jack Welch at GE.

What a perverse term.

More recently it has become vogue to use “reverse mentoring” as a way to get old farts (like me) more in tune with social media and anything new that the younger workforce is doing.

Mentoring carries with it a connotation of power – the person in a position of power is assisting the person not in the same position.  And there are certainly some good aspects to that.  I have been mentored, and it helped my career. “Peer Mentoring” starts to bastardize that power relationship – by definition peers are at the same power level within the organization.  “Reverse mentoring” takes mentoring to a whole different planet – either by recognizing that subordinates have a certain amount of power – or purposefully negating the power equation (as if that could be done).

How about flipping the whole mentoring discussion on its head and just talk about managing relationships and engagement?  By putting social interactions on steroids (thru Facebook, Linked in, Twitter and other social media), it becomes less about mentoring, and more about making sure that you (boss or subordinate) are properly managing your relationships, and that all interactions are a good give and take.  Mentoring, then, just becomes a moniker for those relationships you put special emphasis on – but it should still be bi-lateral.

That’s at the core of the research we do for Professional Effectiveness at Gartner.  It’s a recognition that EVERYONE brings something to the table in the organization, and the goal should be how you can make yourself effective in that environment.  The skills that we normally ascribe to “leaders” aren’t just for those at the top.  That doesn’t mean there isn’t a hierarchy, or a chain a command.  It would be foolish to think that organizations can be totally egalitarian.  Early in my life I did extensive work on studying communities – and found that even in supposedly “democratic and egalitarian, leaderless” communities there was always a structure and hierarchy involved, and most of the time a strong leader.  But there is a difference between being a (formal or informal) leader,  and needing those same “leadership qualities” to be effective at every level of the organization.

Maybe the distinction can be talked about as “big L” Leadership versus “small l” leadership.  So in that sense, everyone in the organization is a leader.

That’s part of what we’ll be talking about at our workshop entitled “Career Survival Skills for Gearheads”   at the  Gartner Catalyst conference next week.

Category: catalyst-12  cio-issues  management  managment  social-media  

Tags: catalyst-na  culture  gearheads  management  social-media  

Jack Santos
Research VP
7 years at Gartner
40 years IT industry

Jack Santos is a Research Vice President with Gartner, part of the Enterprise Architecture and Technology Innovation team within the Gartner for IT Leaders product. He focuses on enterprise architecture and technology trends. Mr. Santos' specific area of research covers individual development, leadership and management practices for enterprise architects, EA innovation, and collaboration approaches. Read Full Bio




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