Reverse Mentoring

I attend the HRPS Global Conference every year and there are always one or two presentations that have great nuggets of information.  The presentation by Debi Hirshlag from Workday was one of those presentations.

 

Debi discussed the future of work and talked about Bob Johansen’s “Ten Leadership Skills for the Future.”  While all of these future skills were interesting, the one that resonated most with me was “immersive learning ability.”  This is essentially the ability to immerse yourself in an unfamiliar environment and learn from it in a first-person way.  What does this mean, exactly?  In other words, how do you adapt to new working environments as well as learn new technologies or novel approaches to your work?  Instead of just reading about them, how do you really learn them?

 

I have a good example: Social Media.  Several years ago, our colleagues at Buchanan Public Relations introduced us to social media.  We had already been fairly entrenched in using LinkedIn but none of us had touched Twitter.  With their help, we dove into this unknown world.  It was like learning a new language!  How do you say anything substantial when it is limited to 140 characters?  What in the world is a hashtag?!  Kathleen McFadden at Buchanan PR, who is much younger and wiser, slowly but surely taught me how to use Twitter and, in turn, demonstrated how to build my personal and professional brand.  Debi Hirshlag calls this process “reverse mentoring” – learning new skills from someone who is younger than you.  Kathleen encouraged me, critiqued my tweets and step-by-step showed me how to feel comfortable with a new technology.  Twitter is now my go-to source for instant media feeds.  What else have I learned?

 

  • You can receive news more quickly on Twitter than on any other source.
  • I share a number of very interesting articles that I pass on to clients, friends and family that I may have missed otherwise.
  • It is shocking to know that 477 people are following me from all over the world.  I know this may not seem like a lot, but it is to me!
  • I have enjoyed working with a young person who learned technology differently than me.  I have completely delighted in the fact that she is mentoring me vs. the other way around!

 

Twitter has been frustrating, exhilarating and fun all wrapped up into one.  I remember emailing Kathleen when Doug Conant, the former CEO of the Campbell Soup Company, followed me.  I am sure she was rolling her eyes, but as a great mentor she seemed genuinely as excited for me.  It made my day!

 

I have Kathleen to thank for enhancing my leadership skills for the future – “Immersive Learning Ability.”  I will also be open to learning something new from someone younger than I am in the future as well – it has been a wonderful experience.  I hope I can return the favor.

Sally Stetson
Sally brings more than two decades of experience as an executive search consultant. She has worked across diverse industries including life sciences and pharmaceutical, healthcare systems, manufacturing, telecommunications, non-profit and professional services. The Philadelphia Business Journal named Sally as one of its "2006 Women of Distinction", and as one of SmartCEO Magazine's 2010 BRAVA! Women Business Achievement award winners.

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