February 23, 2022

How and Why Reverse Mentoring Helps Diversity

Valentina Coco Website Profile Picture
Valentina Coco
min read

Have you heard of Reverse Mentoring and its positive impact on diversity in the


So, what is Reverse Mentoring?


In case this is the first time you’re coming across this term; Reverse Mentoring is a

proven framework that can be used to support and facilitate discussions and an

understanding of our personal stories and backgrounds.


In Reverse Mentoring, mentor and mentee are paired together based on best ‘fit’

for the overall mentoring topic. Then, between them, mentor and mentee agree on

the key topics they’ll cover, along with the structure of how they’ll work

together. Details are then recorded in a mentoring contract.


Within this mentoring dynamic, it’s the mentee that drives the relationship.


When I work with leaders and teams using this method, I also include regular group

coaching sessions for mentors and mentees. This creates an opportunity for

everyone to share their learning and reflect on the experience.

Why do we need it?


Reverse Mentoring really brings the human factor into the topic of diversity and

inclusion. It’s this humanness that makes it more than merely a training and a

set of rules that are often either implemented but inconsistently upheld by

management, or, in some cases, completely forgotten.

The human connection to the topic helps the mentee to develop empathy for those

experiencing it. Empathy is key to helping leaders connect and relate to the

actual person in front of them, rather than simply the abstract concepts of

that person. It’s the humanness that helps leaders understand the nuances and

personal impact that diversity issues are having on individuals.


Connecting from this place of empathy enables discussions about uncomfortable topics like

racism and exclusion to go far beyond a superficial level, to something that’s

genuine and can foster permanent change.

Results of Reverse Mentoring 


Reverse Mentoring encourages self-motivated leadership.


From this place leaders are connected to the problems and challenges in their teams and

are empowered with tools and knowledge about how they can genuinely support and

facilitate change. Importantly, this connection inspires leaders and teams to

not only start, but also maintain ongoing discussions.


When coming up with new ideas around diversity and inclusion, it’s so important to

ensure you have discussions with people who have and/or are being directly

impacted. This first-hand experience is the key to taking your ideas from

merely theoretical to real-time and impactful.

Reverse Mentoring in action


Many years ago, when mentoring barely existed and Reverse Mentoring was less hip

than it is now, I was working in a team at a large and very famous company.


Even though the company was very well known and a place where everyone wanted to

work (in certain functions), they were struggling to integrate and engage their

millennial workforce.


The company needed to understand why this was happening, and if it was more than

just the new function/technology they were being introduced to.


To try and solve the problem, the leadership team created fancy perks believing this

textbook approach would motivate and engage their young teams. They emphasised

things like free napping pods, ping pong tables and so on. They gave them

access to A LOT of training and created a ‘leadership skills’ mentoring program

specifically for them, thinking that this would solve things. 

But unfortunately, it didn’t work! Their textbook approach was making it look like they had a problem that needed fixing.


And so, we decided to try Reverse Mentoring – we figured we had nothing to lose and

everything to gain!


Only half of the leadership team was open to the idea, but after only a couple of Reverse

Mentoring sessions, they began to see others as actual individual people, and

the language in the team began to change – it was no longer US vs THEM. The

sessions were helping to connect with the issues and another person’s

perspective and needs at a personal level.


The situation wasn’t fixed completely because Reverse Mentoring is still limited to

one person’s experience. It isn’t an unbiased training that gives insights into

every millennial’s needs. It is however something that creates a personal

connection and gives the opportunity to think differently, try different

approaches and see that what you have are relationships to understand, not

problems to fix. 


For real, lasting change to happen and genuine diversity and inclusivity to thrive,

leaders must lead with actions beyond their words to bring their teams along

with them to achieve their desired results.

If you’d like to explore reverse mentoring and how it can positively impact your leadership and your team, I’d love to support you. Please CLICK HERE to contact me and arrange a call.

Valentina Coco Website Profile Picture
Valentina Coco
inclusive leader

I'm a connector, leader, change-maker, mother and coach. My experience of going through many burnouts motivated me to find solutions to improve the culture in the workplace and achieve more.

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