By Prof. Vincent Bagire
In previous articles in Leadership, I have alluded to coaching and mentorship as simple but important practices that lend efficiency in our organizations. Whether formal or not, young or newer staff are attached to more senior colleagues for knowledge and skill transfer. Even when an employee in an organization has been promoted, s/he will require mentorship. It is also upon employees to seek a mentor. We turn the same to leadership, whether in the Church or secular groups. We all need mentors to be able to learn and do well on our duties and responsibilities. In essence, it is the older, more experienced members influencing positively the newer or young ones.
However, the world is changing. With the onset of information communication technologies (ICTs), the young workers are more knowledgeable than their senior counterparts. Even before we turn to the formal organizations, in our families, the same is pertinent. For parents, our very own young children are so knowledgeable about computer gadgets that the older persons must bow down to learn from them. They are skilled in manipulating smartphones, regarding “Whatsapp” and related functionalities. The same situation is in formal organizations.
The newly recruited, a little fresh from college are more conversant with ICTs than the seniors at work. If you are an elder, experienced and still hold up pride, it is time to learn from the young ones. This is now Reverse Mentorship on site. Senior officials must be open to be mentored by their juniors. In organizations, this has to occur with some kind of self-driven or managerial guided formality. In the former, any senior employee, identifies his or her skill gaps and self-attaches to a new employee who has that knowledge base. The senior will be guided on a continuous basis on his knowledge gaps. This may not only be in ICTs but entire work processes that computers have changed. More formally, management should identify the patterns and pair up staff for reverse mentorship.
The junior staff playing the mentor role has to appreciate this task as much as the senior must humble down to learn. There is no senior-pride nor junior show of tech-superiority. Management will monitor that smooth relations subsist. Definitely, some of the mentees will be managers or very senior people in the organization. But, current skill needs a benefit not found in training nor in undertaking short development courses.
In the reverse mentorship model, both the mentee and mentor are learners. The senior will in the process of being coached on new ways to do work, also mentor the junior on organizational life and how to cope and grow in career. Cognizance of each one’s mutual role and place, will conform to the norms of mentorship.
Management has to do a pre-mentorship assessment to evaluate where knowledge gaps are and where they reside in the new staff. The gaps are common in use of computers, new accounting rules and procedures, internal audit, writing minutes, even in medical diagnosis, crop husbandry, mechanics and across professional disciplines. Then, a sort of attachment is formally done. Facilities may be provided and time for this kind of learning to avoid disruption in the normal routine.
Management should also be keen on likely abuses in the relationship and take corrective measures. Feedback and feed foreword systems will be important in ensuring success. To Christian Leaders, reverse mentorship is equally pertinent. I know it exists, but, more formality may be necessary to ensure reaping its benefits. This is because church leadership has taken steps into new horizons.
I know even, in seminary formation that training curricular is dynamic. Newer courses have been taught to the recently ordained than our senior clergy. That is why employees are encouraged to embrace ongoing learning as an own initiative instead of waiting for organizational sponsorship. Without diverting from the reverse mentorship, I have ever asked whether our church authorities have considered having clergy undertake short courses in legal practice, computer science, animal husbandry, sports science, human nutrition, among others as part of the integrated skills bundle to handle the multitude of laity needs. So, in our laity councils, we need to involve young ones and take advantage of reverse mentorship as we also coach them. This reverse mentorship model reaffirms old management theory that at work in organizations and in leadership, we are all teachers, workers and learners.
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