Reverse Mentoring – Critical to Success in Analytics Business

In last 10 years there has been unprecedented rise in information. This rise is coupled with growth in technology which has made the access of this information easy. Thus giving rise to innovation and making analytics business world faster than ever. Every 6 months we see a new technology or perspective coming.

In company that wants to be in analytics business, organization is nothing but the people in it and organization culture is the people’s belief. Its asset is the openness of its people to learn new ideas, enhance their capability and innovate.

An employee wants a good mentor for development and be successful. In current fast changing times, it is impossible for mentors to keep tab on market changes. But for leaders and managers it is important to be on top, if the company want to progress in analytics consulting domain.

We need to turn the table around. It is the employees who should now mentor their managers.

This idea of reverse mentoring is not new in the industry. Years back Jack Welch when he was chief executive of General Electric directed his top executives to learn how to use internet from their junior colleagues. But this was a short term coaching not mentoring in a true sense.

In current dynamic world where technology and ideas are moving with the blink of an eye reverse mentoring needs to be taken into totally different paradigm. Managers and leaders cannot be always aware about arrival of new technologies and innovations. They need to be more dependent on their Direct Reports (DR) to be aware of the markets.

This will be possible if at all levels, we give employees responsibility/opportunity to help their managers decide how they (managers) should develop in this fast changing business world.

I would like to present a simple approach by which we can improve an organization culture and make it robust to face changes in analytics domain.

We will need to change attitude starting from hiring talent as well as in nurturing that talent. Typical industry mantra is – hire DR smarter than you. But the challenge is how to recognize that fact. Hiring managers should ask themselves before hiring the candidate:

  1. Will I be happy to report this candidate after 5 years?
  2. What step I need to take to unleash his talents so that organization can bank on him?

The candidate should be hired based on answers to such and similar questions.

Once the manager hires the candidate he should give him opportunities to express himself. In the appraisal interviews it is the manager who should ask his DR:

  1. What should I do to get my next promotion?
  2. How can you help me?
  3. What should I do to help you in helping me?

First question is important in promoting innovative thinking. Every moment new ideas are coming the DR will be encouraged to explore those ideas and innovate, hence will be able to develop a vision. Question 2 and 3 will ensure that that innovative thought is implementable, measurable and aligned to company’s business objective.

A development plan combined with company’s business objective, manager’s interest and all DR’s inputs should be developed for manager. Each DR should be given responsibility on this development plan. This will be obviously above their regular responsibilities. A manager should be given due credit if they demonstrate role of their DRs in their development.

Even if the manager has not hired his resources, the suggested approach will motivate them in having right understanding and expectation from his resources.

Finally thought

It is observed that this is the attitude followed by every company at CXO level. The differentiator between great organizations and others is that in great organizations this strategy is followed at the most junior level. As this strategy gets diluted in the lower hierarchy the organization gets lower in the food chain.


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