Reciprocal Mentoring for Inclusion programme


The Reciprocal Mentoring for Inclusion programme is based on reverse mentoring, with the addition of the relationship between the mentor and mentee being reciprocal in nature; enabling allies and equal partnerships designed to create systemic transformational change.

The Reciprocal Mentoring for Inclusion programme will provide opportunities for individuals from under-represented groups (BAME, gender, LGBT+ and disabled staff) across the NHS, to mentor senior NHS executives, create a powerful alliance where knowledge and understanding of their lived experience is used to shift awareness and action at board level. The impact will directly contribute towards creating a diverse and inclusive NHS where staff from under-represented groups can progress into the ‘hard to reach’ senior leadership roles and thrive personally and professionally.

Reverse mentoring is described as, “A reversal of the traditional mentoring model whereby the more senior and more experienced mentor has the expertise and insight to support the less experienced and less senior mentee with specific challenges they would like to address. In the reverse mentoring context, the more senior individual takes on the mentee role to gain fresh insight, perspectives and benefit from the lived experience and learning of the less senior individual”, (Wingard, 2018).

This programme is a powerful enabler that can change organisational norms and individual behaviour; by changing and equalising the balance of power, challenging the traditional culture which goes with hierarchy one conversation at a time.

Programme benefits:

What are we trying to achieve?

Our ambition is to create a culture where every executive director in the NHS enters into a reciprocal mentoring partnership with someone from an under-represented group within their or another organisation. By doing this, we can enable a social change where those from under-represented groups are able to take the opportunity and become ‘change agents’ in the NHS.

Through personal insight, we expect to see changing behaviours in those at board level. This will shift the underlying culture to one where the power of difference is respected and valued, and where prejudice and unconscious biases are challenged to benefit the system.

Mentor benefits:

  • Building a partnership with someone at board level and working in alliance to change the system for the better
  • Opportunity to tap into the mentee’s experience eg. career advice, lessons learned, development opportunities (networking and shadowing) in order to progress their leadership development, raise their profile and accelerate their career aspirations
  • Ability to directly contribute to the critical work required within the system to enable greater levels of inclusion and diverse representation from marginalised groups within senior leadership teams 
  • Observing and discussing board activities and the ways in which politics and power works
  • Better understanding of the ways in which power works at a conscious and unconscious level
  • Greater awareness of self and systems through the relationship that is formed
  • Confidence in talking to and challenging power
  • Learn from other organisations as each cohort will be partnered with another organisation to support and learn together

Mentee benefits:

  • Challenge from a different perspective
  • Evidence of a high standard of leadership – role modelling leadership behaviours
  • Enhanced ability to be a more effective agent of change
  • Increased understanding of the ways in which their behaviours, beliefs, policies and practices impacts upon the lived experience of people in their organisation
  • Helping challenge beliefs and behaviours with peers and influence decision making
  • Motivating peers to take action that really makes a change for underrepresented groups
  • Learn from other organisations as each cohort will be partnered with another organisation to support and learn together

System benefits:

  • Improved retention of our talented staff from under-represented groups and breaking down barriers for them to progress into the hard to reach senior leadership roles
  • Attracting more diverse talent to join the NHS
  • Contributes to delivery of:
    • NHS People Plan
    • Building Leadership For Inclusion strategy
    • Workforce Race Equality Standard
    • NHS Leadership Academy Coaching and Mentoring strategy
  • Developing strategies that more effectively counteract the ‘invisible’ and ‘unconscious’ ways in which the exercise (and abuse) of power negatively impacts groups of people in the NHS.
  • Uncovering ‘hidden’ needs and using power in ways that practically generate greater equity
  • Developing allies that work collaboratively for change
  • Leadership behaviours that reflect commitments for greater equality, diversity and inclusion
  • Encouraging a culture where people feel able to take the initiative and speak to power in ways that are productive and effectively transformational
  • Learning from other organisations as each cohort will be partnered with another organisation to support and learn together adding to a richer learning experience