Mentoring has historically been viewed as a very one-sided relationship. The mentor has much to give to the protégé and receives little back. Mentoring was seen as filling an empty cup.
In the last twenty years mentoring has been redefined as a much more reciprocal relationship. While the mentor often has much more to give than the protégé by virtue of their longer experience, successful protégés also seek ways to give back to their mentors. In our mentor program we have described that as a return on the mentor’s investment. That return can be in gratitude, in follow-through, in acknowledgement of the mentor’s impact, or in sharing with your mentor connections or knowledge you have that may be of interest to the mentor.
Mashable recently posted an article entitled, “Reverse Mentoring”. The article was about how younger professionals can give back to their mentors by sharing technological expertise, especially social media expertise, with mentors who may not have the same comfort with those tools. Reverse mentoring is a catchy way of describing return on investment for the mentor. It is describing what the protégé is able to give back to mentors who have shared business expertise and experience with the new professional.
The article is a great reminder that we all have something to give, talents to share, with our mentors. Our mentors do more for us than we can fully repay, but in sharing our own talents with them we give them a positive return on the investments they make in us.