Reverse Mentors

June 22, 2017



Written By: Danny

By Dan Maier

This summer, the Donor By Design Team is considering new ways grow relationships with our donors, supporters and volunteers… moving beyond the thank you note to a deeper connection. Today’s topic: what might you learn from someone younger than you? 


I have a close friend who is a mentor to many people.  She’s great at it. Imagine my surprise when I learned she also has a “reverse mentor.”

Not only have I never had a reverse mentor, I’ve never even considered the possibility due to either my ignorance or perhaps my arrogance. What could a young person or new hire possibly teach me?

We all know that a mentor is usually an experienced person, an elder in a field of study or work. A reverse mentor is completely the opposite: it’s an individual who is often much younger and less experienced in a field. Why would you need a reverse mentor?

“Blind spots. Areas of ignorance,” answered my friend when I asked her that question. “I want to know what I don’t know. New markets in social media. Emerging trends and challenges among young people. Expertise in other fields. Understanding of how others think, feel, move and deal with one another,” she continued.

She went on to say that being a mentee makes her a better mentor and manager. Playing both the learning and the educating roles is a key piece of professional development.

In fact, she will seek out a young person in her group and formally let that person know she wants to be mentored. “It can be enormously powerful for a new or young professional to realize that he/she can provide mentorship to those older, more experienced and even in positions of upper management,” she said. I would add it says a tremendous amount about the learning culture of her company as well.

Since that conversation, I’ve been thinking about this long and hard. Who should be my reverse mentor? What are my blind spots? And how do I keep learning even as the gray hair sets in?

PS – Are you interested in other organizations employing reverse mentors – here is a brief news story on the trend.

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One response to “Reverse Mentors”

  1. John Alexander says:

    Really interesting concept, Danny. This old dog will consider it and also share the thought.