Mentorship Mastery

“The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves.” 1

– Steven Spielberg

Institutions employ people in order to pursue their mission and vision. The need to consistently achieve goals in a dynamic environment necessitates their continual growth and development. This statement rings more true as one ascends the hierarchy of accountability, particularly at the executive levels.

The job role of the Group Business Head, Supervisory Council member, or the Director on the Board at the sixth stratum of the organization is a nurturing one. The mandate is to facilitate the successful conduct of the business. This includes helping the Chief Executive Officer that actually runs the business organization to succeed in his or her role. Directors cede all direct, hands-on involvement in the running of the enterprise to the CEO and the executive team. 

Divisionalbusiness executives are required to continually imbibe new knowledge, learn new skills, and also appreciate diverse perspectives in order to handle the varied challenges of the Business Head role. A very effective method of executive development is the establishment of mentoring relationships between the organizational executives and the Governing Board members or Directors of an enterprise. 

Mentorship is a supportive relationship between a caring individual who is ready to share knowledge, experience, and wisdom with another who is willing to benefit from this exchange. This accountability rests at the penultimate rung of the organization’s hierarchy of accountability. 

Mentorship is a structured, sustained and trustworthy mutualrelationship that facilitates accelerated maturity in the personal, professionalas well as social dimensions of existence. Itentails a series of supportive interventionsthat arefounded upon a spirit of openness, empathy, and respect.

Mentors possess a definite area or degree of expertise of their own. They provide guidance towards the acquisition of the requisite contextual knowledge, skills, time applications and work values that are necessary for the successful fulfillment of executive responsibilities.The mentor is a guide who helps the executive to learn more quickly or develop at a faster pace.

Mentorship is a holistic developmental process that facilitates the informal transmission of knowledge, social capital, and the psychosocial support. At the heart of this partnership lies an interpersonal dialogue that allows for collaborative reflection, planning, and feedback toward the attainment of the mentee’s desires, goals and objectives. 

Mentors help to develop executive capability,confidence as well as character. Their mandate is akin to that of the guru, who plays an instrumental role in helping the pupil to transcend the perceived limitations of the personality. In this manner, mentorship is instrumental in helping to build a cadre of capable executives who can actively contribute to the realization of the institutional mission and vision.

It is not necessary that the Directors must mentor the executives directly under their charge. Mentees may be cross-selected from among the entire executive population across the conglomerate entity.

Sponsorship versus Developmental mentoring

In the sponsorship school of mentoring, the mentor is regarded as an experienced sounding board with the power to influence at least some of the organizational events that impact the executive. The relationship thus revolves around the mentor’s influence within the organization.

In the developmental paradigm of mentorship, executives are enabled to make better decisions and grow in wisdom as a result of deeper self-awareness. As the mentor provides support, guidance and wise counsel in addition to sharing the knowledge and perspectives that have been acquired over many years of experience, the executive becomes the agent of her own growth.

The Benefits of Mentorship

Mentorship is a win-win process for all concerned. The benefits for the mentorare as follows:

  • Significant learning in the realm of self-awareness, arising from the frequent need to explain one’s own intuitive reasoning to another person
  • Satisfaction of knowing that one has made a positive difference to another individual’s life.
  • Widening of one’s perspective, by listening to views that arise from another frame of reference.
  • Meeting the intellectual challenge of helping to resolve unfamiliar issues, without the exercise of power or direct influence.
  • Gaining a constructive and people-friendly reputation within the organization or community

The Discipline of Mentorship

Mentorship is about creating a legitimate and sacred professional space, wherein talented people can authentically reflect upon their past experience and fine-tune the direction for the future. 2

The relationship begins with a contact between the mentor and the executive- often on account of a simple desire for a sounding board for ideas, but sometimes also to resolve a problem being faced. The next stage is that of exploring the degree of mutuality and compatibility between the individuals at a personal level, and to know more about the other person’s intents, values, attitudes, and behaviour. 3

As the mentor and the executiveprogressively grow in comfort and understanding, they arrive at a mutually accepted “protocol” for their partnership. This informal code of conduct serves to clarify the boundaries and expectations within which the relationship may function. These are clearly articulated, so as to eliminate the possibility of misinterpretation.

An important issue to be clarified is the very meaning of being a mentor or a mentee, and the respective perceptions with regard to the two roles. Once a common understanding is reached on these aspects, the relationship is placed on a sound footing before the actual work of mentorship commences.

Mentorship unfolds as an iterative process of three phases. These phases are as follows:

a)Esteem– Discovery and articulation of the positive core of the mentee.

b) Envision– Formulating a meaningful, engaging and convincing picture of one’s own future.

c) Evoke– Creating a supporting structure for translating the mentee’s vision into reality

The Mentorship Process Framework

The mentorship journey proceeds iteratively, through three phases. At each stage, there are certain goalposts to be crossed and objectives to be achieved. 

In the Esteem phase, the salient talents,as well as aspirationsof the executive, are identified and articulated. The constructive nature of this process facilitates the development of self-awareness. It also provides encouragement and selfconfidenceto the mentee. 

The Envision phase helps to crystallize the key aspirations of the Executive into a cherished “dream” of the future. Talents are honed and organized into clusters of capability, just like the different flowers that are arranged into a beautiful bouquet. The self-confidence developed in the previous stage now matures into a sense of conviction

The Evoke phase is where the elements of the Dream are translated into inspired action. Blueprint acts as the guide map for the activity that lies ahead. With the deployment of personal capability in line with the plan, an authentic sense of personal engagement is achieved. The amalgam of conviction and engagement give rise to the white heat of devotion that burns up the impeding constraints. The executive begins to transcend the limitations that were holding her back so far.

The work of mentorship commences with the crystallization of the executive’s aspirations. These act as the central reference point all along the mentorship journey. The focal point of the endeavour is the building of executive capability. The entire mentorship effort is a developmental one, such that the executive becomes progressively more capable of realizing her own aspirations. The fruit that ensues from the exercise of mentorship is the development of the capacity to gradually transcend the perceived limitations or constraints that were restricting the progress of the mentee.

The Esteem Phase

Esteem may be defined as the perceived value, quality, importance, magnitude or worth of someone or something. Esteem represents the universal human need for people to feel accepted and valued by others around them. 

The Esteem Phase is concerned with the discovery and articulation of the salient aspirationsand talentsthat characterize the executive.Reflection upon critical incidents and high point experiences from the past provides the individual with an opportunity to see oneself in a new light. The recognition of talents, aspirations, and strengths of character yields personal clarity and helps to impart greater confidence.


Aspiration refers to an ardent desire, longing, or ambition to achieve something. It reflects the hope and wish towards the fulfillment of something that often pertains to higher values or ideals. Aspiration is accompanied by a strong will to succeed.

Aspirations are powerful human yearnings that cry out for satisfaction in the course of an individual’s life. They influence the person’s behavior, and encourage the application of one’s strengths and talents. The pursuit of aspirations allows people to introduce a new sense of direction into their lives.

Intrinsic aspirations(such as affiliation, personal growth, and community contribution) facilitate well being to a greater degree, as compared to extrinsic aspirations (such as wealth, fame, and image). The latter is more related to obtaining some of the external signs of worth. People who value intrinsic aspirations tend to pursue these with relatively greater zest and vigour, whereas the ones who chase extrinsic aspirations tend to be more deliberate and calculative.4


Talent is defined as any recurring pattern of thought, feeling, or behavior that can be productively applied.5 Page 42It comprises of the personal abilities and attributes that lead to excellent performance. 

Talent represents a natural aptitude to excel at something, especially without being taught. Although talent may be applied to a specific job, it usually functions independently of any particular work context.

Personal talents may be identified by monitoring one’s spontaneous top-of-the-mind reactions to the situations encountered in daily life. 5 Page 59Additional clues to an individual’s talents include:

  1. Yearnings that are felt early in life, 
  2. Rapid learning during the acquisition of a new skill or ability, and 
  3. An experience of satisfaction during the performance of an activity 5 Page 61-64


Confidence is the state of certitude about something. It reflects a belief in one’s ability to mobilize the cognitive, affective and conative resources towards obtaining specific outcomes. 

Confidence also refers to the placement of trust in people, plans, or even the process of life in general. It indicates an assurance that someone is good, or that the person has the ability to succeed at something.

Confidence is concerned with the quantum of faith and belief that a person has in oneself. It arises out of a combination of self-efficacy and optimism, and is marked by freedom from doubt, uncertainty, diffidence, or embarrassment. 

Confidence implies a certain openness to challenge, and the keenness to expend effort in the pursuit of a valued outcome. It is characterized by the willingness to take risks and try new things. 

Confidence is boosted by the act of going beyond one’s comfort zone. It is also enhanced by the encouragement that may be received from the mentor or another esteemed person. 6

The Envision Phase

To envision is to foresee what a situation will be like, going forward. The term “envision” refers to an individual’s ability to select a desirable destination towards which she may head, or a circumstance that the person may wish to actualize in the future. 

In the Envision stage, the mentor assists in the creation of a “dream” that encompasses the executive’s significant aspirations. Articulating the dreamrequires the executive to courageously stretch her imagination.

Next, the requisite capabilitydomains that can help translate the dream into reality are visualized and enunciated. Existing talents are woven together, in order to develop new capacity and competencies.

Once the dream has been articulated and the requisite capability is built, the executive requires emotional support in developing convictiontowards the actualization of the dream.


A dream is a process of conceiving, devising, thinking over or forming something in one’s imagination. It refers to a visionary creation that stretches the person beyond the limits of the present, and helps to formulate an inspirational picture of the future. The former President of India Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam defined a dream as “not that which you see in sleep, but that which keeps you awake at night!” 7

Even as a dream may span multiple years into the future, its formulation begins with an exploration of the past. The person reflects back upon her cherished experiences in life, and also the factors that helped to make these as high points. This reveals themes and patterns that indicate what one is likely to find compelling in the future. As these creative expressions start to come together into an intelligible whole, the person gradually comes to believe that it is within her power to bring the dream to fruition. 


Capability is the natural ability, skill, or power that enables a person to accomplish something, especially of a difficult kind. It refers to the capacity to leverage an inter-related set of knowledge, skill and value parameters in a functionally useful way.

Capability is a measure of the ability of an organization, person, or system to achieve its objectives, particularly in relation to its overall mission. 8It is the wherewithal of a person to accomplish things.

Capability is a function of the individual’s ability (what one is able to do), the opportunity (the options available), and the matching of capacity with opportunity. Being capable means having the “power” to do something, while the possession of capability translates into knowing how to do something.


A conviction is a condition of being certain about something. It is an emotional representation of an attitude that is strongly oriented towards holding something to be true. 

Conviction is reflective of a strong persuasion or firm opinion. It is a state in which the person considers something to be the case, with or without the presence of empirical evidence or a verifiable foundation to prove its factual certainty. 

Conviction consists of an evaluation based upon the “perception” of right and wrong. It is an emotional state, as opposed to an intellectual one. 

Conviction manifests as the determination to do one’s best, and an unwillingness to give up in the face of obstacles. It provides a sense of direction and the positive energy or motive force to make things happen. Conviction is usually not shaken by the force of argument.

A conviction is true and authentic only when it is consistent with the fundamental values held by the individual. Henry Ford is once reported to have quipped, “Whether you believe you can or you can’t, you are right.” That is a succinct illustration of the phenomenon of conviction.

The Evoke Phase

The literal meaning of the term “evoke” is to call forth an emotion, feeling, response, memory, or picture into the mind.  It refers to causing an outcome to occur, or a result to appear.

The task in the Evoke stage is to prepare a supporting structure for translating the dream into reality. Adetailed scheme or blueprintis crafted for leveraging the identified strengths, and also addressing the areas of development. Employment of the talents, strengths, hopes, dreams, and aspirations of the executive leads to a state of positive engagement. When accompanied by a deep sense of conviction, the executive works like a dynamo to neutralize the impediments and transcendany limitations that may come in the way. 


A blueprint is an original design, pattern or prototype that may be followed as a guide for making or building something. 9It is a model that shows the possibilities for achievement, and a detailed plan for doing something in order to bring about the accomplishment.

In the context of mentoring, blueprint represents a design for action that can help turn a dream into reality. It enables the executive to figure out how to gain the relevant knowledge, acquire the needed skills, and imbibe the requisite values and perspectives. The mentor and the executive jointly identify the suitable ways and means for facilitating such development.


Engagement is a state of emotional involvement or binding commitment.  It is a dynamic process, wherein the person is attentive, connected, focused, and integrated. 

When people are engaged, they are seen to employ and express themselves physically, emotionally, mentally and intellectually in varied role performances. The engaged person remains curious, interested, motivated, and persistent in the face of challenges. 

Engaged individuals pursue goals with determination and vitality. They are found to yield higher performance, productivity, safety and good health. In turn, the investment of energy and attention leads to the building of skills and resources that yield an increase in capability. 


Transcendence is the phenomenon of exceeding one’s apparent limitations, in order to reach a superior state. It is the act of surpassing usual limits, and exceeding the normal in degree or excellence.8

To transcend means to significantly extend the limits of ordinary experience by climbing over previously assumed boundaries. It is an evolutionary process that involves moving beyond prior conceptual, presumptive, or behavioral limitations. Transcendence takes the form of a cognitive leap, from the distinct and the particular to the complete and the whole.

Transcendence involves a triumph over the restrictive aspects of a situation, in order to go beyond a stated or implied limit, measure, or degree. It requires the capacity to take a panoramic view, and see oneself as well as the world from a broader perspective. 

The capacity for transcendence is related to one’s level or state of consciousness. The lower levels of consciousness relate to instinct, magic, and impulse. The middle levels are concerned with conformity to societal rules, understanding of natural laws, and freely establishing connections with others. The highest levels of consciousness relate to the development of an integrative understanding of phenomena.

With a progressive increase in the capacity for transcendence, the person’s reasoning steadily becomes more complex and exhaustive. The individual solves problems more effectively, on account of being more objective in one’s analysis. The person is better able to perceive the interdependencies in a situation. She can leverage the interplay between intuition, thought and action in a more effective manner too.

As individuals move to higher levels of consciousness, their worldviews become more inclusive. The ability to take other things, people and places into account increases too. This enables superior processing of complexity.


  1. Steven Spielberg Quotes [Internet]. BrainyQuote. [cited 28 June 2018]. Available from:
  2. Brewer A. Positive Mentoring: Learning to Shape and Nurture Talent and Confidence. Mentoring from a Positive Psychology Perspective: Learning for Mentors and Mentees. 1st ed. Switzerland: Springer; 2016.
  3. Clutterbuck D. Everyone needs a mentor. London: Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development; 2010.
  4. Rijavec M, Brdar I, Miljković D. Extrinsic vs. intrinsic life goals, psychological needs and life satisfaction. In: Fave A, Angeli F, ed. by. Dimensions of Well-Being Research and Intervention,. Milano: Franco Angeli; 2006. p. 91-104.
  5. Buckingham M, Clifton D. Now, Discover Your Strengths. New York: Simon & Schuster; 2005.
  6. Ibarra H, Ely R, Kolb D. Women Rising: The Unseen Barriers. Harvard Business Review. 2013;91(9):60-+.
  7. MEMORIES: INCREDIBLE KALAM [Internet]. 2016 [cited 21 May 2016]. Available from:
  8. Robbins J. What is the Matter with Transcendence? On the Place of Religion in the New Anthropology of Ethics. Lecture presented at; 2016; Cambridge.

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