Our children went to a Quaker school where they enjoyed a daily period of silence during the morning assembly – to think, reflect, meditate or doze. They didn’t sit in age groups, so 11- and 18-year-olds might be side by side. I won’t say there was no bullying at all in the school, but there was certainly a general atmosphere of mutual respect, and I think this daily practice contributed to it.


In large business organisations, the big ones and little ones rarely mix, which is why two-way mentoring is an interesting way of weakening hierarchical division.

A mentor is usually a senior manager who meets periodically with a more junior member of staff to advise on the latter’s career and professional development. The only person I’ve ever met – from among thousands – who didn’t find mentoring really useful was someone whose mentor was forced on him through a corporate programme.

If you don’t have a mentor, the best way to get one is to ask: think of someone higher up who you admire and who could help you. The worst thing that could happen is a refusal. Most managers feel flattered to be approached in this way.

More recently, some organisations have introduced reverse or upward mentoring. Now the senior manager becomes the learner. How can companies and individuals benefit from this? One answer is that, when instructed by tech-savvy youngsters, the senior staff can make better strategic decisions in a technological environment they don’t have a clear grasp of.

I’m more interested in the soft processes going on. The seniors might learn to listen better. People with a 40-year career ahead of them can communicate a different organisational and world view to people who are only thinking five or ten years ahead.

Two-way mentoring can strengthen communication and culture in your business. Now, who could I ask to upwardly mentor me?

Steve Flinders is a freelance trainer, writer and coach, based in Malta, who helps people develop their communication and leadership skills for working internationally: steveflind@aol.com

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Scan Magazine Ltd.’

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