Reverse Mentoring at Centrica

Nick Baird & Gurpreet Mangat

By Nick Baird & Gurpreet Mangat

Meet Gurpreet and Nick as they discuss the benefits of reverse mentoring

We’re all familiar with the concept of mentoring; professional career coaches encourage us to look for a mentor to help guide us as we climb the career ladder and navigate the corporate arena. But the concept is evolving and ‘reverse mentoring’ is becoming increasingly popular. Reverse mentoring is in initiative which not only enables senior executives to mentor an employee at an earlier stage in their career, but the mentoring is also reversed, empowering them to learn from each other. This is particularly helpful for senior leaders to gain a deeper understanding of topics such as technology and social media. It can also help them to stay on track with what rising stars and future leaders are looking for from their careers, what they consider to be an attractive employer and a positive workplace culture.

Ahead of National Mentoring Day Nick Baird, Group Corporate Affairs Director, and Gurpreet Mangat, Press Officer, discuss the benefits and importance of reverse mentoring and why it’s working so well for them.

How did you start reverse mentoring?

Gurpreet: About a year ago, I approached Nick as I’d recently been promoted into a new role in our press office which meant I’d be working with senior leaders in the business and a range of important stakeholders outside our organisation, including journalists. I hadn’t had a traditional career path into Public Relations so I was keen to get Nick’s advice on how to hit the ground running in my new job. To my surprise, he offered to mentor me – an offer which I readily accepted!

Nick: At Centrica we employ great people right across our organisation and I’m passionate about helping to develop our future leaders. Listening to Gurpreet I knew I’d spotted someone young, ambitious and talented – if I could help her channel her energy so that she could find the right balance in her influencing style, I knew she would do well. Although I assumed I’d be the one guiding her, I’ve found her willingness to speak her mind and constant flow of ideas particularly helpful.

How has reverse mentoring helped you?

Gurpreet: The most important lesson I’ve learnt is how to influence people around me to buy into my way of thinking and ideas. Nick has helped me find the right balance in my approach and I’ve learned not to expect change instantly. With Nick’s support I now have a clear focus and a career plan with immediate, short term and long-term goals.

Nick: It’s been extremely valuable to hear from someone new to the world of Corporate Affairs about the characteristics they look for in leadership and fresh ideas on how to ensure the team is motivated by their working environment. Gurpreet mentioned that the team would value more face time with me so now I make sure I engage with more people one on one, or as part of less formal group discussions over lunch, to get closer to the team’s day to day activities and understand more about their individual challenges and opportunities.

How have others around you benefitted from it?

Nick: Engaging with the team less formally has led to more people coming forward with their ideas. It’s improving our already strong team culture and processes, creating energy, openness and transparency. For example, Gurpreet suggested that I chair a breakfast discussion for the team as part of National inclusion Week. Although diversity and inclusion is a priority for Centrica as we continuously strive to be an employer of choice, this session gave us the opportunity to discuss how we can do more to celebrate our diversity and ensure our team can bring their whole selves to work. It was a great opportunity to hear from our team enabling them to bring new perspectives to the table in a relaxed environment.

Gurpreet: For me, it’s been hugely motivating to regularly speak to a senior leader like Nick. When you discover how down to earth and approachable they are, and hear the challenges they’ve faced in their career as well as how they overcame them, it makes the end goal of getting into a senior position seem much more attainable. Also, if I meet a new grad on the team for example, I’ll always let Nick know when they’re around so he can say hello in person. I’ve noticed a few of them have followed up and requested one on one meetings with him – and I’m sure they’ll find having those chats with Nick just as motivating as I do!