Flipping the script of mentorship

To withstand the test of time, financial-advice firms must consider the benefits of having young advisors counsel seasoned veterans

Flipping the script of mentorship

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, as the saying goes. But when a firm’s future is at stake, veterans may have to consider learning a thing or two — especially when it comes from the young guns in their team.

“By intentionally creating a mentorship program in which you listen to younger team members, instead of attempting to shepherd them, you can gain ideas and insights to help you better prepare for the future,” said Jarrod Upton, COO and senior consultant at Herbers & Company, in a piece for ThinkAdvisor.

Upton explained that the goal of the arrangement, called reverse mentorship, is to help older employees gain a fresh perspective in aspects where they need to be updated. These typically involve shifts that occur from a technology or societal standpoint. As an example, Gen Y or Z employees can educate baby-boomer colleagues on how the rise in relationships that are built online could transform the next generation’s perception of how they’ll receive financial advice.

A reverse mentorship program can produce many benefits, including:

  • Avoiding the risk of groupthink from leadership teams whose members are too similar;
  • Empowering younger employees with leadership skills and healthy relationships with senior management;
  • Demolishing inter-generational barriers that impede communication throughout a firm;
  • Strengthening firm culture and limiting employee turnover; and
  • Allow a firm’s leader to understand the sentiments and feelings of employees at the ground level.

“Benefits extend to a personal level as well,” Upton said. “The program can morph into ‘give and take’ on both sides and end up benefiting the mentor as much as the mentee.”

The only risks of implementing a reverse mentorship program, he argued, arise when firms don’t engage in the proper planning to create a structured environment. It’s critical for the leaders in a firm, he added, to come in with a humble attitude and willingness to be mentored — a tough proposition for executives who have built a firm from the ground up over multiple decades.

Another important aspect of reverse mentorship, he added, is a time commitment. He recommended that reverse-mentorship meetings among advisors should be set to occur once a month for six to 12 months, at a minimum. Each participant has to be prepared, but the mentee in particular should write down any questions they want to go over before a meeting begins.

“The more productive each meeting is for both parties, the easier it becomes to keep scheduled meetings and see the program through to its conclusion,” Upton said.


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