Ever Heard of Mentoring Up?

Ever Heard of Mentoring Up?

Layman’s definition of ‘mentoring’ is pretty straightforward.

It’s a relationship where an older more experienced person takes a younger less experienced person under their wing to guide, counsel and encourage on their path to career success, effectively making the mentor’s hindsight, the foresight of the mentee.

This definition is correct and describes the bulk of mentoring relationships, however, at Mentor Africa Foundation, we aim to not just build healthy mentoring relationships, but a healthy mutually beneficial mentoring relationship.

Allow us to introduce you to the concept of ‘Mentoring Up’.

Mentoring up, or as most people would call it, reverse mentoring or reciprocal mentoring, is a school of thought that seeks to bring the intrinsic skills held by the younger generation (Millennials and Gen Z) to the forefront of mentoring relationships.

These are skills that are necessary for career and business success in today’s world but are not native to the older generation.

Mentoring up is seen as a fairly new concept because workforces have never seen such diverse skillsets where all members irrespective of their position on the career ladder have value and competencies to offer one another.

Hence mentoring relationships can now be about collaboration, integration and cooperation, from top to bottom and vice versa.

Mentoring Up - Duke BioCoRE workshop - slides & handout

“Mentoring up is adapted from the concept of “managing up,” introduced by Gabarro and Kotter’s classic paper in the Harvard Business Review (1980). Gabarro and Kotter conducted field research on how business managers worked productively and discovered that effective managers not only managed their employees but also managed their peers laterally and their supervisors upwardly.

Their investigations led to the groundbreaking publication “Managing Your Boss,” which provided case studies and strategic advice to managers on how to consciously work with their bosses for the benefit of their working relationship and the company.”

In plain terms, mentoring up provides a balanced learning relationship between the mentors and the mentees.

The ultimate win-win relationship!

Here’s how to introduce ‘mentoring up’ to your mentoring relationship.

1. Adapt Effective and Open Communication

Effective communication is the process or the exchange of thoughts, ideas and data or information in such a way that all parties involved fully understand what is being said or distributed. Open and effective communication is the vehicle that carries the success of all mentoring relationships as it allows free flow of information between mentors and mentees with the goal of utmost understanding.

We spoke about the value of effective communication and how to practice it in your mentoring relationships here.

2. Align Expectations

We always preach a shared mutual understanding of all mentoring relationships by both parties of what is to be learned and shared in the relationship.

This is why our app allows mentees and mentors access to view potential mentee and mentor profiles to allow both parties to make informed decisions before a mentoring connection is made.

Expectations, prospects and possible problems should be shared and understood from the onset to prevent anyone from being blindsided.

Also, it should be noted that as we evolve and change as people, the needs and expectations of members of the relationship are allowed to change.

However, all changes should be communicated and agreed upon before they are implemented.

The goal? Staying aligned at all times.

biggest mentoring community in Africa

3. Encourage Shared Learning

Like previously stated, the cornerstone of mentoring up is that both parties are in a mutually beneficial relationship where they both learn from one another.

Hence, for an effective relationship, shared learning should be encouraged.

Senior colleagues should create an environment where intellectual capital in his/her field is being shared with the less experienced mentee while younger digital-savvy mentees should ensure their expertise is shared and their mentors are aware they can lean on them for this knowledge.

4. Be Ethical

In everything we do as professionals, maintaining standards and ethics is key, and mentoring relationships are no different.

Mentors and mentees must maintain the highest and model ethical behaviour in all their dealings. Ethics must come into play while setting the tone, building understanding, aligning expectations and practising shared learning.

This also entails maintaining equal power dynamics, promoting professionalism and breaking relationships when they outlive their usefulness with grace and mutual respect.

As a concept, mentoring up has revolutionized the mentoring environment and laid more emphasis on building equally beneficial and dynamic mentoring relationships.

If you’re looking to try out your first mentoring relationship then click here to get sorted out.

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