Many executives worry about how to retain younger workers, get fresh perspectives on strategic issues, and stay current on new technologies. Reverse-mentoring programs, where junior staffers “coach” senior leaders, can help. But for these relationships to work, finding the right match is crucial. Pair people across regions, departments, and locations, both to avoid conflicts of interest and to emphasize diversity of backgrounds.
Also try to match different personalities, such as pairing an introvert with an extrovert; it’s more effective than matching two extroverts, for example. Be sure to consult mentees before making the pairing formal, since senior leaders are selective about who they’ll be coached by. And make sure they have enough time (and enthusiasm) for the relationship to thrive.
The top reason that reverse-mentoring programs fail is that executives don’t prioritize them. If a couple of sessions are canceled, the momentum quickly dwindles. Train younger employees in how to structure sessions well — the more executives benefit, the more they’ll want to keep the commitment.