Deepening connections with clients through reverse mentoring
As part of a new joint venture with clients of Clifford Chance, Expatriate & Employment Taxes Senior Manager Kalela Mwenya is a reverse mentor on the topic of ethnicity to Victoria Jones, Head of EMEA Sales & Trading Compliance at Morgan Stanley.
As a reverse mentor on ethnicity to Clifford Chance’s CFO Patrick Glydon, I had already seen how effective reverse mentoring can be at helping our senior leaders make more inclusive business decisions. It seemed natural to take this further and see how we could work together with our clients, to make a positive difference in the wider business world, too. Our initiative with Morgan Stanley is a good example of an equal partnership between two organisations, with reverse mentoring programmes happening in both directions.
For me, it is the opportunity for mutual learning that makes reverse mentoring so worthwhile. One of the most interesting aspects of my conversations with Victoria, and specifically being paired with a white female, is discussing our similarities and the common aspects of our experiences as women, as well as the differences that result from being from different ethnicities. I also believe that being paired with someone outside the firm helps to provide a healthy comparison in terms of what other organisations are doing, forcing me to be more objective in my thinking. Both of our organisations are responding to the external environment with a common focus – the wellbeing of our people – and these conversations with Victoria have helped us consider many new ideas together.
What I find particularly effective about this partnership are the similarities we enjoy in our approaches – namely being very action-oriented – so the time we spend together feels well invested. We both want to help make a difference at our organisations and more broadly. I have enjoyed discussing my personal and professional experiences with Victoria – describing my lived experiences and sharing ideas, such as having a recurring Diversity & Inclusion agenda item in all leadership meetings. I have also outlined some of the bigger steps we have taken at Clifford Chance, such as our global and regional inclusion targets while learning about Morgan Stanley’s global Institute for Inclusion, whose 13-person advisory board leads a diversity, equity and inclusion strategy to drive meaningful change within the bank and in support of underserved communities.
2020, of course, was a challenging one. We explored uncomfortable conversations around race, such as the killing of George Floyd and how companies are responding to the Black Lives Matter movement. We have also not been able to meet in person due to COVID-19, which can make it more difficult to offer the level of emotional intelligence we would find natural in person.
However, at the same time, we are both very open to this experience, and we have not tried to define what it should or shouldn’t be. We have progressed from phone calls to video chats to help build rapport and fall into a more natural rhythm, where every conversation is as open and honest as it can be. We both offer important discussion points, which has triggered uncomfortable feelings, but that’s okay, as this is how we broaden perspectives.
I truly believe these conversations are drawing us closer to our clients, with many positives resulting from the desire to work together to make progress. While I am privileged to take part, this initiative is about much more than me or Victoria, and I think this is what keeps us going. I am very optimistic about how this energy will continue to inspire others to do the same.