Reverse Mentoring Leads to Progress

How often do we take the time to step into someone else’s shoes – to really understand their point of view?

I had the privilege of being reverse mentored last year by Harsha, one of our HR managers in India. I was more senior but I was there to learn and Harsha was my teacher. The relationship wasn’t about typical mentoring topics like career planning or sponsorship. Instead, it was all about what it was like to live and work in India, especially for our female employees. At the time, I had never worked nor travelled to India.

I knew within minutes of our first meeting just how different the relationship would be. We established ground rules for trust, so each person could share whatever was on their minds. We created a safe environment to honestly explore sensitive topics. Often feedback that reaches my level is filtered and scrubbed – Harsha was anything but scripted.

Harsha shared the details of her support system that contributes to her success, which is quite unusual for India. She taught me how a concept like flexibility can mean something very different across the globe and how it could be a real game-changer in India given the experiences of women in other companies and what was being done for them.

The biggest takeaway I had from the relationship was that often times it is the little things that can make a big difference and how they can get diluted through lack of clarity or poor communication on expectations. Empowering organizations need to be able to drive through inertia and when all levels of the organization understand the possibilities, great things happen.

I advise anyone entering a reverse mentoring relationship to prepare to be wrong, prepare to admit you don’t know something and prepare to listen and learn. Mostly, prepare to have your eyes opened for the better.

Nigel Lewis
Vice President – Global Aftermarket Solutions