Two-Way Mentoring

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Many successful companies encourage senior executives to mentor junior executives for these reasons: A) To accelerate the younger execs' careers, B) To let them know senior management cares about them, and C) To give the mentors perspective on issues and opportunities they and their senior management might be missing.

In today's rapidly transforming world, Point C above is critically important for both mentors and their mentees … because the mentors need to be open to being mentored by their mentees about what the young execs know that the mentors and senior execs might not know … or do not know but need to know.

I have personal experience trying to make Point C happen in the mid 1990's, but I was unsuccessful. As the first diversity officer of the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A's), I tried to create this pilot project of two-way mentoring with several large New York agencies:

Please identify several mid 30's execs who are agency difference makers, not just rising stars and have them mentor newly hired diverse execs, Blacks and Latinos to deliver Points A and B above.

The young Blacks and Latinos would mentor the 30-something agency difference makers on:

A) The diverse mentees community problems and opportunities.

B) How their communities perceive the products and services of the agencies clients and prospective clients.


Delivery of Point C above.

There are several reasons why the timing of my two-way mentoring initiative caused it to fail. That said, there is no better time than currently for companies to try my idea.

Why? Because all companies, both agencies and their clients, are getting positive results from their Purpose Branding programs.

Two-way mentoring of junior diverse execs has the potential of being highly successful, especially with Millennials and Generation Z who will perceive it as a great example of Purpose Branding by marketers and agencies who execute diverse two-way mentoring.


Millennials and Generation Z believe strongly in Purpose Branding ... and they account for over 70% of the U.S. population. That means two-way mentoring can deliver positive financial results to complement its positive societal results.

My Wish:

Companies will make my common sense idea into a common practice.

This article was written by Michael Donahue, who was a highly respected and successful multi-purpose executive at Saatchi & Saatchi and Dancer Fitzgerald Sample Agency which Saatchi acquired in 1986. When Michael left Saatchi in April 1994 to join the American Association of Advertising Agencies as No. 2 executive, he was a member of Saatchi's Board and Executive Committee. Michael joined 4A's to run multiple divisions and initiatives. Three Divisions: Diversity, Conferences, Innovation of all kinds especially digital innovation. Senior Director ANA member relations 2018 thru 2020 following his role as ANA Digital Advisor from the time he left 4A's in April 2015 thru the end of 2017.

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