Reflections on … Learning from Others

One of my first workshops when I started consulting on my own was on the topic of the intergenerational workplace. I found and used a book called The Remix: How to Lead and Succeed in the Multigenerational Workplace by Lindsey Pollack (2019). I’ve written about it in the newsletter before. She has a chapter on the importance of mentoring in general and specifically in a diverse workplace. She’s writing about mentoring related to age and generations, but as is true of so much of her book’s information, much of what she says applies to diversity beyond age difference.

What particularly caught my attention was what then General Electric CEO Jack Welch called reverse mentoring. In 1999, he required 500 of his senior leaders to pair up with junior employees to learn how to use the internet. The book quotes a Wall Street Journal article telling of one pairing where the senior leader “knew it (the internet) was there.” The junior employee, who was half his age, enjoyed finding that she knew things the more senior staff member didn’t know. She could teach him things. She became more comfortable “hobnobbing with her boss”. In addition, she was learning “the skills a manager needs to run a big operation, such as the ability to communicate with different people.”

Pollack also introduced me to the concept of micro-mentoring. With a limited amount of time, “people tend to cut to the chase with their questions and guidance.” In that workshop of 300-plus staff members who cut across five generations, it was one of the best parts. People had fifteen minutes to find someone from a different generation and ask questions and answer their partners’ questions.

Additionally, the author created a version of the Proust Questionnaire ( ) that she suggests is useful for cross-generational learning. She says she has “used these with clients, vendors, my daughter’s babysitters, people standing next to me in the kitchen of my coworking space, Uber drivers, people who follow me on Twitter and more.”

I’ve included the entire thing here for your reflection. What are your answers to these questions? Who in your workplace or family would you like to talk with and ask one or more of these questions?

  • “What are you currently reading that you recommend: books, blogs, newsletters, magazines, etc.?
  • What are you currently listening to that you recommend: music, podcasts, audiobooks, etc.?
  • What are your favorite apps and tech tools and why?
  • What are your favorite brands and why?
  • What companies do you think are the best employers and why?
  • What people do you most admire and why?
  • How do you think people view your generation?
  • What is the biggest myth or misconception about your generation?
  • What do you most wonder about other generations?
  • Have you ever had a notable cross-generational experience at work? Tell me about it.”

Maybe most importantly, what other questions does this list suggest to you? My grandmother lived to be 102, she entered Oklahoma during the second land run and as far as I know, none of us ever asked her about that or any other of her experiences at the turn of the century. Such a missed opportunity! Who in your family should you be talking more with. What questions do you want to know about their life before you were born? We have the opportunity to interact with and learn from people who cross multiple generations, multiple time periods and who grew up or have lived in multiple places across the country and the globe. What a shame it would be if we decide we have nothing to learn from someone because they were born in a different time or a different place.

I hope you’ll look around you and see who you might invite into a conversation. You never know what you might learn.

Take care,


PS: If you, like me, used to enjoy watching Inside the Actors’ Studio, you may have thought of James Lipton using the questionnaire of Bernard Pivot when I mentioned The Proust Questionnaire. Here’s a link to that one – very different, but fun.

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