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A Platform for Connecting Across 40 Industries

A Platform for Connecting Across 40 Industries

Celebrated social entrepreneur and founder of Ten Thousand Coffees Dave Wilkin knows networking inside and out, with Ten Thousand Coffees now being the world’s largest peer-to-peer mentoring service. His deep experience working with prominent brands, organizations, non-profits, and government entities, makes him a go-to speaker for those looking to build more diverse relationships and create high performing teams.

In a recent Forbes article, Wilkin chats about the background of starting up a mentoring service and why networking is important for companies, not just individuals. Here are some highlights:


Pauleanna Reid: Let’s talk about the powerful number, Ten Thousand. Can you tell me about how many interactions and hours it takes to build a strong and mutually beneficial relationship with another person?

Dave Wilkin: We created Ten Thousand Coffees because we knew that the leaders wanted to become experts to the next generation and the most quantifiable metric for that was Malcolm Gladwell. Within organizations or within industries, we asked ourselves how we can connect ten thousand leaders with ten thousand more leaders over ten thousand coffees. You’ll always be learning and you’ll always be a student of what is next whether from talent, products or your industry. Every single person has to continue to stay connected if they want to be relevant.

Reid: You have worked with business leaders from many industries and cited that they often ask you how to better connect with millennials. Do you think leaders need to make a more deliberate effort?

Wilkin: We see two major challenges from a leadership perspective. The first and arguably the most important is the permission asset. From the highest levels of an organization small and large, there needs to be a permission asset set by leaders that it’s encouraged for people managers of all levels to connect and engage with talent outside of their day-to-day. Believe it or not, that permission is actually helpful and important for the company to be innovative. Most people don’t think it’s allowed. So, the first step is helping the top leaders create that permission asset and encouragement. The second aspect for leaders is actually providing them with the tools so they can proactively be connected with the next generation; knowing that the top three reasons they go to work are to connect with leaders, learn from leaders and have an impact with them. So if leaders are not connecting with next-generation talent, not only are these leaders going to be unproductive and ineffective managers, but millennials will have no reason to stick around in that organization.

Reid: What does it mean to flip mentorship upside down?

Wilkin: For the first time ever, everybody can learn and everybody can teach inside an organization in various ways, so there is no such thing as a one-way mentorship relationship anymore. It’s always two ways and there’s always an opportunity and expectation that the next generation will help leaders in addition to educating and mentoring them. And leaders are helping millennials navigate their careers.

Reid: What advice do you have for millennials who lack confidence when meeting new people?

Wilkin: There’s a lot of value in having a conversation with someone who is different from you. Try to remember the difference between the leader and yourself is actually the most important part of that conversation. This is and always has been the way people have uncovered the best ideas and the way people become inspired in their careers. The conversation you may feel you aren’t qualified for is actually a conversation that will help that leader make better decisions, feel better connected – the more different you are from them, the better the conversation is despite how nervous you may be.

Read the full interview here.