Reverse Mentoring for Baby Boomers. A Novel Idea

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Here’s a new one: as boomers we set the pace, but we also know when to let others lead! That’s what Marcia Barhydt finds when she looks at a fairly new feature in our lives: Reverse Mentoring.

Marcia Barhydt

As far back probably as Year 1 in the workplace, there’s been a conflict between senior management and hot young cannibals new to corporate life. Traditionally, the older, more seasoned employees have been the ones to train new faces.

That was then and this… it seems… is now. Traditional roles are being reversed and we Boomers need to (in Ted Turner’s famous phrase) get on board or get out of the way.

In a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, this new premise was debated, investigated, and tossed around. And once this new concept is accepted, everybody wins.

The trend is most apparent in technology and social media, but encompasses other scenarios, like the advertising industry.

It turns out that this thinking was pioneered by JackWelch when he was a CEO of General Electric and had a 20-year-old mentor toteach him about surfing. Reverse mentoring also has evolved to include, for example, a 42-year-old exec at advertising icon Ogilvy & Mather who says his mentor is showing him how to perk up his humdrum tweets.

Of course, this younger generation doing the mentoring has already exploded to a global level thanks to Skype, videoconferencing and all kinds of virtual communications.

The lesson here is that Boomer execs, or really anyone in any position where younger workers can help, need to be open to and welcoming mentoring from co-workers who are younger than the exec’s own kids.

Now, we Boomers are no slouches when it comes to adapting and escalating our use of new technology. Think tablets, readers, and smartphones that do everything but make your coffee. Boomers are snapping up these new toys like it’s Christmas every day. We truly understand that we need to be on top of all this new technology. Okay, plus it’s fun, fun, fun.

Within many large companies where reverse mentoring is happening, the Boomer execs are wanting to get on board in a sort of “Hey, I want one too” kind of thinking.

Sure, there are hold-outs who cling desperately to the old regime and their old seniority way of thinking. But their numbers are diminishing every day.

We Boomers are once again showing that we’re easily capable of accepting change. No wait, we’re embracing it!

Why doesn’t this surprise me? It’s how we’ve been with every other stage of our lives. Why would we change now? Why would we balk at the idea of reverse mentoring?

Thanks Ted – we’re hearing you. We’re getting on board.

©2012 Marcia Barhydt

Click here for Marcia online.

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