Reflections on Reverse Mentoring

Reflections on Reverse Mentoring

Events Strategy Committee member Geraldine Gallacher reflects on our recent reverse mentoring workshop.

CWN advises and supports Fractio Vitri (FV), a cross-sector network for early stage career women. We hold a few joint annual events and this year we tried out Reverse Mentoring, hosted by the law firm Howard Kennedy. Given our relative ages and experience, we make the ideal composition for such an event. 

We were delighted to be hosted by the law firm Howard Kennedy and their Head of People Irena Molloy started off the event by telling us about their own soon-to-be launched reverse mentoring programme.

We then paired up, one FV and one CWN member and had 15 mins each to share experiences. To get things off to a quick start we had worked out some questions in advance from each network as follows: 

 

CWN questions:

1. What would you find inspiring in a female leader?

2. If there was one thing you could change about senior leaders’ approach to developing your generation what would it be?

3. In what ways do you feel technology helps and hinders you?

4. What is your biggest concern now about the world of work?

5. How do you feel about remote working versus being in the office?

 

FV questions:

1. What could we do to influence leaders who are resistant to change?

2. The phrase "too old for change" is often bandied around. How can the junior workforce influence change in leaders/the more senior workforce when there is a resistance to change? 

3. What do you think you can learn from the junior workforce? What knowledge do you think they have which can be transferred to a more senior workforce? 

4. The junior workforce is more focused on the work "experience". How do you think the workplace is changing and what changes do you welcome? For example, flexible working or working remotely. 

5. Technology and the ways of working are fast evolving. How do you think technology assists in the workplace? 

6. Being honest and giving feedback to the senior workforce can often be difficult. How do you embrace such feedback? 

 

It seemed however that no specific suggestions were needed as the conversations seemed to flow well and it was hard to break them up before starting Round 2. This time, we swapped around to allow people the opportunity to meet someone different. Again, if the volume level was anything to go by these conversations proved equally absorbing. We were pleased that there was a hand-bell, otherwise we might have gone on indefinitely…

We concluded the formal part of the event by grouping the CWN members and the FV members together to discuss our learnings in the respective groups, with the idea to share these later with our cohort.  

From the CWN perspective, what surprised us was that the FV members found it hard to approach older women in their companies and so the Reverse Mentoring format provided an ideal forum for doing this. They felt comfortable asking questions they might not usually like to ask such as “What regrets do you have and what sacrifices do you feel you have made to achieve where you’ve got to in your career?”

The CWN members found it hard to think of regrets but they did wish they had had their Gen Y counterparts’ more balanced approach to life earlier. Learning that the FV members had multiple goals, with career being just one of them, offered us a valuable prospective on what “ambitious” means for the younger generation.