Why Reverse Mentoring Could Work for Oil, Gas Companies
“Often times, mentoring is talked about in terms of what the junior professional is getting from the senior professional. Reverse mentoring is saying, ‘as a veteran worker, this is what you’re going to get from the other side of this,’” she said. “We have to be clearer on the dual process. In the past, we were trying to mentor veteran workers on technology and the by-product was getting professional skills, soft skills and leadership skills to more junior people. They love having that time with senior leaders.”
Not only were junior leaders getting supplied with skills of the veterans, but the reverse was happening as well.
A Twist on Reverse Mentoring
While the teaching of new technologies, social media and current trends is the main selling point for many reverse mentoring programs, companies like PwC took a different approach to the process.
The auditing and consulting firm identified a need within its organization for more inclusive leadership. PwC had success in the past with reverse mentoring around social media and technology so they decided to use it to address some other concerns: more knowledge of minority communities and women.
“This program was designed to create a more inclusive leadership. The philosophy behind it was if our leaders saw what life was like from a different perspective in the workforce, and in particular, what it’s like through the experiences of somebody completely different than them, then we felt those leaders would be more inclined to have an emotional awareness. That would change leaders’ behaviors and the way they lead people – by becoming more inclusive in their behaviors and leadership,” Andy Woodfield, lead partner for the international aid development consulting practice in PwC, told Rigzone.
Woodfield’s logic was simple: if you want to engage people, you should understand what life is like for them.
The program, which was rolled out in the UK, was successful enough to be implemented in the company’s other offices and in different countries. The program also encompasses some traditional aspects of reverse mentoring as partners in senior positions are matched with mentors from a different gender or ethnic background.
The mentorship is nine months in which participants meet once a month outside of PwC.
“The key thing is the partner is not the mentor and the mentor leads the conversation,” Woodfield said.
While most of leadership development is academic or intellectual learning, this type of mentoring really resonates with people on a deeper level and changes behaviors.
“In the past, I would always speak about the importance of diversity, gender balance and ethnic mix,” said Woodfield. “Now, every single partner is talking about and considering these things when it comes to recruitment, performance management building teams and pitching ideas to clients.”
The idea of reverse mentoring may be new for most oil and gas companies, so questions about implementation will be common.
Woodfield suggests the first step is identifying the areas of difference that are most challenging for the company.
“Whomever needs to be appreciated, find someone opposite of them for that person to mentor,” he said. “By understanding that life is different for somebody else and structuring [the program] in a way that gives power to the mentor, that’s how people learn.”
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