3 Ways to Enhance Personal Learning with Reverse Mentoring

What is Reverse Mentoring?

Reverse mentoring is a recent trend that is aimed at enhancing personal learning for both mentors and proteges. Unlike traditional mentoring relationships in which the mentor is a senior, more experienced member of the organization, in reverse mentoring, the mentor is a  junior person who serves as a mentor to the senior person. The goals of this mentoring relationship are to share knowledge and encourage personal learning that goes both ways. Mentees gain perspective from a junior person, perhaps a millennial. The millennial generation was born between 1978 and 1999 and they are the fastest-growing segment of the workforce (currently about 76 million employees). They are tech savvy, they multitask and they are interested in careers with options. They have a global perspective, embrace diversity and are open to new experiences. In partnership with the University of Miami’s School of Business Administration, CITI Latin America is pairing managers with business students to enhance their digital initiatives:

According to Chaudhuri and Ghosh (2012), this new mode of mentoring  introduced formally in 1999 by the former Chief Executive of General Electric, Jack Welch. This is mentoring “turned upside down” since new junior employees are paired up with more experienced managers or employees. Nothing really new about that. A lot of organizations match new, junior employees with more senior managers as part of on-boarding or helping new employees adjust to their new work roles and the culture of the organization. But the twist to this mentoring relationship is that the objective is to to help the senior person acquire new learning from the junior person.

One challenge to these relationships may be that mentees may be dismissive of the idea that they can learn from a youngster so these programs need top management support and training. The focus needs to be on personal learning — like all mentoring relationships. But the difference lies in what is learned. And like all mentoring relationship there needs to be a healthy exchange. The junior person still benefits from the experience of the senior person but these relationships are more balanced with an emphasis on what the senior person can learn as well.

Wendy Murphy (2012) suggests ways to enhance personal learning through reverse mentoring exchange.  Reverse mentoring operates with the same functions as traditional mentoring — career and social support plus role modeling but there are some ways to leverage these relationships.

1. Focus on knowledge sharing and learning. Mentees can learn new skills such as facility with social media from their junior mentors. Also the junior person may challenge their ideas. Junior people may have technical expertise that can enhance the mentor’s career.

2. As with all mentoring relationships the mentee can receive support and feedback from the junior mentor, as well as affirmation and encouragement. This feedback may be related to the learning of new skills but it isn’t limited to this. Through sharing of career choices and life events the mentor can serve as a sounding board and give the mentee real perspective on their accomplishments as well as their strengths and weaknesses.

3. Mentees can gain a new perspective from the junior person who may be more open to innovative new ideas and/or a global perspective. Their junior mentors can serve as role models for asking challenging questions and being willing to change directions and try something new.

Mentees gain direct exposure to millennials and can learn both new skills and new perspectives. As organizational leaders, they may learn to better understand the millennial generation so that they can lead and motivate them more successfully. They may also gain insight into how to market products and services to the millenial generation by developing relationships based upon trust and candor. Reverse mentoring can be a leadership development tool that benefits the senior mentee, the junior mentor and the organization as well. While this may feel uncomfortable for some senior people, it appears that the benefits may clearly outweigh the challenges.


Chaudhuri, S. & Ghosh, R. (2012). Reverse mentoring: A social exchange tool for keeping the Boomers engaged and Millennials committed (2012). Human Resource Development Review, 11, 1, 55-76.

Murphy, W. M. (2012). Reverse mentoring at work: Fostering cross-generational learning and developing millennial leaders. Human Resource Management, July-August, 51, 4, 549-574.




4 Information Sources for Evidence-Based Leadership & Management (ELM)

The term “evidence-based” was originally employed in the field of Medicine to guide how Doctors make decisions regarding patient care. Evidence-based management improves a leader’s decisions by disciplined application of the most relevant and current scientific evidence. Although many definitions of evidence-based management are available, Briner, Denyer and Rousseau (2009) define it as how leaders can be more effective in all aspects of their jobs including making decisions about employees, teams or organizations through the conscientious, explicit and judicious use of research information. Evidence-based leadership and management © (ELM) is a specific case of evidence-based management that focuses on leadership knowledge and how to apply it. For EBL, these sources of information include the following:

1. The best available scientific evidence – Research published on leadership and management.
2. The best available organizational evidence – interviews and/or surveys from people in your organization.
3. The best available expert evidence – knowledge from experts in the field.
4. Value-added evidence — Information from stakeholders – for example, stock price to shareholders or the organization’s promotion of women and minorities into upper management positions.

Evidence-based leadership & management takes the “guesswork” out of being an effective leader. We have decades of scientific research on what leaders can do to be more effective. In this blog, I will be discussing the four sources of evidence to share this wealth of knowledge with you. The most relevant scientific research on leadership and management will provide you with the tools you need to address the most current challenges managers now face. Second, I believe that you need to conduct interviews and/or surveys with people in your organization to assess what is specific to your situation so that you understand how to correctly apply EBL. Third, I will be interviewing experts from academe, consulting and organizations who will share their knowledge. Finally, I will examine the value-added contributions that leaders today must monitor so that their organizations remain viable – what metrics matter and how you must monitor them.

While evidence-based management is not a new concept, I will provide a focused approach on how leaders can be more effective by employing the four sources of evidence I have described in this post. I look forward to your comments and questions so that I can research answers to your questions.

Briner, R.B., Denyer, D. and Rousseau, D. M. (2009). Evidence-based management: Construct cleanup time? Academy of Management Perspectives, 4, 19-32.

Are you in the In-Group or the Out-Group with your Boss?

If you are in the out-group, you know it. Your boss spends more time with others in your work team. They get more challenging assignments and more resources. You may have seen them get higher pay raises and promotions. Your boss just seems to like them more. How and why did this happen?

Research over the past 40 years by George Graen and his associates has shown that the differentiation of work groups into “trusted assistants” (the in-group) and “hired hands” (the out-group) follows a predictable pattern. The in-group has a lot more of what we call Leader-Member Exchange or LMX. High LMX followers have more influence in decisions, more freedom to innovate in their work, more communication with their boss and they are more satisfied with their work.

In 1987, George Graen and I described the process through which high LMX emerges:

  1. Role-taking: The leader evaluates your abilities and talents. Based on this, she offers you opportunities to show her what you can accomplish. This is the “testing phase” as the boss makes offers and you respond (or fail to respond). Not responding is a ticket to the out-group.
  2. Role-making: In the second phase, the leader and member take part in informal negotiations and a trusted assistant role is created for the member. There is an unspoken understanding of benefits in exchange for hard work and support of the goals of your boss. Mutual trust is built in this stage. This involves both social and economic forms of exchange. For example, loyalty to one another is a relationship exchange and provision of budget for a new project is an economic form.
  3. Role-Routinization: A pattern of ongoing social exchange between the leader and the member has been developed. Being an in-group member means that you are dependable and go above your written job description. You and your boss now have sustained high levels of respect, trust and loyalty and you genuinely like one another. You stop keeping track of favor-doing for one another because you are both dependable and come through for one another.

If you are in the in-group, you hopefully can begin to see how this happened. In future blog posts, I will explore the LMX approach and discuss what you can do to move out of the out-group. Share this post with your boss!