Sharon Bishop: Reverse Mentoring


When I started working, in the 1980s, I was straight out of school and grateful to have a job. 
In recent years, however, there has been a profound cultural shift where attracting and keeping talent is concerned, and now it is companies that should be grateful that their employees choose to work for them. 
So how do you create a company culture that brings out the best in colleagues, and encourages new talent into the business? It's a challenge that I'm fascinated in, and I'm convinced that part of the answer lies in what we, as leaders, can do to ensure everyone in the organisation feels they matter, and their voice is heard, all the way to the top. 
Traditionally, many larger businesses adopted a top down, command and control approach to interaction. Internal communications - if it existed at all - tended to take the form of 'messages' from the boss that often got lost in translation. 
Of course, I'm keen to hear from my direct reports, and team leaders, but I also want to hear from anyone in the business who has a suggestion or a point of view, especially when it helps us serve our customers better, or do the right thing for our employees. 
We know what we want to achieve at Close Brothers: bring through new thinking and innovation, in order to change the way things are done around here for the better and importantly for the good of our customers and brokers. But what about the 'how?'
I think it's all about encouraging two-way dialogue, and breaking down any management blockages. I try to be open to new ways of making this happen. One idea we're going to implement at Close Brothers Premium Finance is reverse mentoring.
Mentoring of more junior people by experienced senior managers has been part and parcel of corporate development for many years, but what about the other way around? 
How about where senior colleagues turn to their more junior colleagues for insight and guidance? It's a system that many successful companies have used. The MD of Microsoft Norway is being mentored by a sales executive. 
That more junior employee has views that the CEO would do well to listen to, for example on what's working well, and what we can do to improve things for all employees, and what customers are telling the company. 
It's also a valuable way to get a better handle on what millennials and younger people in the organisation (and outside it too) are thinking. I'm convinced reverse mentoring will help me capture new ways of doing stuff differently. 
The idea is not brand new, but it has become more common recently, especially in line with the rapid adoption of technology in business.  
I'm really looking forward to my first reverse mentoring experience at Close Brothers Premium Finance, and I'll post my thoughts on how it's made me change my leadership style in a future post.  
Now, don't all rush to apply at once!