You have to drop the ego completely. It should be egalitarian. The mentor and the mentee need to approach any meeting with real honesty and transparency. They need to connect very quickly and the best way to do that is to be authentic and genuine.
Both sides need to be thinking about what they can give as well as what they can get from every session.
It can really help if you’re in the same company or in the same function, but it’s not essential. It should be somebody that knows you though, that can act as your coach and is on your side. You should then agree up-front what your objectives are, how you can get the most out of the arrangement and how it can really be a two-way relationship.
Be humble enough to admit what you do and don’t know, and make the environment as comfortable as possible as it can be quite daunting for some people. It’s also important to give mentoring an element of structure to allow objectives to be met without being overly process orientated.
What junior staff can gain from being a reverse mentor
Q: How has being involved in O2’s reverse mentoring programme helped you in your career?
It is great to speak to senior leaders as most of us aren’t given a chance to do that in our everyday work, or if we do it’s a formal presentation or to sign off work. The reverse mentoring helped me have a normal conversation with a senior leader I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to have in any other way. It has helped my confidence tremendously.
Q: What advice would you give to other people looking to get involved in this type of mentoring?
Try and think about what you want to get out of it. Is it a specific conversation with a specific person, or is it more of a general session to speak to many new people? Think about the subjects you want to broach. They’re just as interested in you as you are in them, so while you needn’t over-prepare, think about what you’d like them to take away from the conversation.
Q: How have you used what you learned during the session and what kind of opportunities has the initiative opened up?
It has made me more relaxed around people of all levels within the company. I’m not intimidated by senior figures anymore. I simply treat them like I do anybody else – with respect.