Do You Know What You Don’t Know?
By: Randy Wolken, President & CEO

Do you know what you don’t know?  There seems to be a straight forward answer to this question.  Or is there?  So, it is not possible to even know all that we don’t know.  However, can we know some of what we don’t know?  Does it even matter?   I think it does.  In today’s, fast-paced and ever-changing world, we need to find ways for us to learn so much – and too much of what we need to know we aren’t even aware of.  We live in a world of endless information that we cannot even begin to process.  Therefore, we need to look to others to help us receive, understand, and use the information that is being generated.  How do we do that?

One of the latest, and meaningful, tools is the reverse mentor approach.  As leaders, we are well aware of the value of learning from successful leaders and modeling their behaviors.  As they say, “learn from the best to become the best.”  However, it is not only those who are older – or more senior in position – that can offer us insights toward growth and success.  Increasingly, it is a diverse set of individuals who can offer us a glimpse of what we don’t know – but desperately need to learn.  When we have reverse mentors – or better yet – just mentors who are diverse – we learn things and behaviors we will need to be successful in today’s chaotic, changing, and expanding economy.

One senior executive I know meets monthly with a small group of selected millennials.  He has personally asked them to mentor him – so he can better lead and partner with them and others of their generation.  As a boomer, he knows that the very way in which millennials want to be led is different than he is used to.  He knows that he wants to adapt and change – and enjoy – how he leads in order to be more successful.

Also, he has received a well-deserved side benefit of having mentors – their friendship and support.  Senior leaders – and all leaders – need both friendship and support if they are going to be successful.  It is harder than ever to be a leader today, we need the assistance and guidance of others to do so.  Reverse mentors – or diverse mentors – can help us all do that.

Recently, I have started to carefully select and ask a group of diverse individuals to be my mentors.  Sure, some of them are older – and wiser –than me.  However, my mentors also include millennials and those with different backgrounds and experiences than me. They too can share their own wisdom with me.  More importantly, my respect and trust of them means they offer their trust and respect – and support – in return.  I am receiving the gift of friendship – as well as learning – through seeking diverse mentors.  It’s pretty special.

So, as you consider what you don’t know, have you thought about enlisting reverse and diverse mentors to help you?  If not, should you start today?