Did you know that January was National Mentoring Month? Missed it? Well it’s a little bit late to celebrate, but if you feel bad about missing this important event, there is something you can do to make up for it. Try reverse mentoring.
In case you’re not familiar with the concept, here’s an example. When your four-year-old granddaughter shows you how to Skype, that’s reverse mentoring.
Now we’re not suggesting that you invite your granddaughter to your next listing conference, but we do think that Realtors at whatever stage of their careers can gain a new perspective on their business by listening to the voices of another generation.
Here are three important areas of your professional life that can benefit from reverse mentoring:
- Embracing technology
- Reaching new markets
- Changing attitudes
Before we give you some specific tips and examples about how you can use reverse mentoring, here’s a quick historical note. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, the concept of reverse mentoring was pioneered by Jack Welch when he was the CEO at General Electric. Welch instructed 500 of his top level managers to partner up with young workers who could teach them how to use the Internet. Since that time, the concept has been used effectively in many Fortune 500 companies and other major businesses around the world. However, our brief and very anecdotal research indicates that reverse mentoring is not widespread in the real estate industry. Now could be the time to change that. Let’s begin with:
1. Embracing technology. In 2014, it’s doubtful that you need someone to teach you about the Internet. But how about partnering with a 20-something who can show you how to add some pizzazz to your Twitter and Facebook posts? You might even learn the finer points of using Instagram, Pinterest, Dropbox, and other tools for enhancing your visual presence on the Internet. And if the only thing on your iPod playlist is a collection of Frank Sinatra albums—you need all the help you can get!
2. Reaching new markets. Not all millennials are couch surfing with friends or returning to the empty nest they left behind at Mom and Dad’s. Recent research shows that millennials, a generation totaling about 75 million in the U.S., will be outspending every other generation, including baby-boomers, within the next five years. So it stands to reason that some of them may be in the market for a home. And whether they are interested in a studio condo, a converted loft, or a house-sharing arrangement with sorority sisters, they probably won’t respond to the same marketing techniques that have made you a success with young families or baby boomers.
When it comes to making big buying decisions, such as a first-time home purchase, millennials are more likely to rely on input from friends, family and even complete strangers. They’re totally tied to the Internet, which means that your marketing strategies must include social media marketing, search engine optimization and most of all, user-generated content. Your 20-something mentor can drastically shorten your learning curve by showing you how to implement these things.
3. Changing attitudes. Most of us have been doing the same things the same way for so long that we’ve dug ourselves into a nice comfortable little rut. Millennials have a totally different take on work, especially when it comes to location, environment, and work-life balance. The corner office or the title on the business card is less important to a millennial than workplace interaction, socialization, and a creative environment. They embrace concepts like job-sharing, unconventional work schedules, and kids (or even pets) in the office.
Why not ask your young mentor to put together a brainstorming session where people meet to discuss ways to create more collaboration in your office? Or maybe he or she could help you redesign your office space in a way that takes better advantage of technology and encourages creativity? The possibilities for growth and change are almost endless.
And here’s a nice bonus: Everything we’ve discussed so far is pretty much a one-way street. But reverse mentoring benefits the millennial mentors in totally different, but no less important, ways. They gain visibility with the people who matter. You have a chance to see their unique talents and give them opportunities to shine. This produces a high level of motivation and job satisfaction. Productivity increases while turnover decreases. As the song says, “Who could ask for anything more?”