How having a board mentor supports lifelong learning

As told to Karen Loon, IDP-C and IDN Board Member.

“Never hesitate to ask for guidance, empathy, advice and support” – Virginia Brumby Ferreira

Virginia Brumby Ferreira MBA’09J, a recent mentee in the 2020 INSEAD Directors Network (“IDN”) INsights Director Mentoring Programme is a typical INSEAD MBA.  After completing her MBA, she became an entrepreneur, leader, and board director.

“In true INSEAD spirit, I changed absolutely everything post-INSEAD: I moved to a new country, switched sector, and became an entrepreneur for the first time – in fact, the business I set up was my INSEAD MBA project!  A decade later, after the most challenging, fulfilling (and fun!) decade of my life, I am still running that same company. None of it would have been possible without my incredibly supportive INSEAD friends and network”.

As a result of her enthusiasm to give back, she has been an active member and has taken on board and leadership roles with the Singapore NAA, as well as the INSEAD Alumni Fund.

On how she developed her board portfolio, “’Pursue’ is not the right word; my board roles are more a consequence of my chronic inability to say no. Friends call me a ‘serial volunteer’ since I tend to constantly raise my hand and get involved in all kinds of projects, from fundraising to event organisation to helping out aspiring entrepreneurs and businesses with their strategy and communications. After years of involvement, there was a natural evolution into more board and leadership roles”, Virginia shared.

Lifelong learning from director mentors

In 2020, Virginia felt it was time to invest in her board career, and joined the INsights Director Mentor Programme.  She was matched with an experienced female board chair.

“Having been my own boss for many years, as well as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at INSEAD, I was thrilled at the prospect of getting advice and guidance, instead of giving it!”

Virginia met her mentor, who was based in a different country, monthly, via Zoom.  They adopted a relatively informal approach that fit their personalities and goals for the programme, but with action points to follow up on after each discussion.

The range of topics discussed was also broad.  “Some of the subjects I most enjoyed discussing were the most unexpected – such as appreciating the role of serendipity in our personal and professional lives, knowing when it’s time to close a door, and making the ‘highest and best use’ of our most precious resource – time!”

Virginia enjoyed sharing experiences with her mentor.

“Being able to share openly with both my mentor about our respective journeys — including the disastrous moments! — helped me put my own challenges in perspective and find a way forward” – Virginia Brumby Ferreira.

Learning from director peers

Another benefit was having an opportunity to learn from and be supported by other mentees through the monthly mentee sessions.

“I found the group discussions with my fellow mentees both practical and inspiring. They shared a wealth of experience, and the overall atmosphere in the group of acceptance, inclusivity and encouragement was especially important during this roller coaster year”, she remarked.

Leveraging the power of the INSEAD network

Virginia suggests that new directors should seek advice early in their careers.  “Even the leaders we most admire and idolise (the mentors in this programme are excellent examples) didn’t get there on their own. Never hesitate to ask for guidance, empathy, advice and support”.

She highly recommends that a good place to start is to leverage the INSEAD community and in particular, in relation to board experience, other IDN members.

 

To find out more about IDN’s INsights Director Mentoring Programme, visit here.

 

INSEAD Directors Network (“IDN”) – An INSEAD Global Club of International Board Directors

Our Mission is to foster excellent Corporate Governance through networking, communication and self-improvement. IDN has 1,500 members from 80 countries, all Alumni from different INSEAD graduations as MBA, EMBA, GEMBA, and IDP-C. We meet in live IDN webinars and meet-ups arranged by our IDN Ambassadors based in 25 countries. Our IDN website holds valuable corporate governance knowledge in our IDN blog, and we share insights also to our LinkedIn and Twitter  followers. We highlight our member through quarterly sharing of their new board appointments and once a year we give out IDN Awards to prominent board accomplishments. We provide a peer-to-per mentoring and board vacancy service and we come together two times per year at the INSEAD Directors Forum arranged by ICGC. We also engage with ICGC on joint research.

INSEAD Corporate Governance Centre (“ICGC”)

Established in 2010, the INSEAD Corporate Governance Centre (ICGC) has been actively engaged in making a distinctive contribution to the knowledge and practice of corporate governance. The ICGC harnesses faculty expertise across multiple disciplines to teach and research on the challenges of boards of directors in an international context and to foster a global dialogue on governance issues with the ultimate goal to develop boards for high-performance governance. Visit ICGC website: https://www.insead.edu/centres/corporate-governance

 

Why every aspiring director should consider a mentor

IDN’s INsights Director Mentoring Programme pairs aspiring INSEAD alumni directors who are early in their board careers with some of INSEAD’s most senior alumni and influential business leaders.  Here they share the lessons that go both ways.

By Karen Loon IDP-C, IDN Board Member

The IDN INsights Director Mentoring Programme (the “Programme”) is a structured six-month programme offered by the INSEAD Director Network (“IDN”) that is aimed at IDN members who are early in their board careers and are seeking support from a highly experienced mentor based on a specific set of goals.  These goals will be related to their current board roles and/or may be designed to further develop their board career.  The Programme, facilitated by a professional mentor and an experienced board director encompasses one-on-one mentoring by an experienced mentor, peer learning with fellow mentees, as well as optional single mentoring sessions on a specific topic.

Mentor and mentee

Naji Majdalani considers himself extremely fortunate to have been mentored by Sreekumar Puthen Thermedam.

Sreekumar Puthen Thermedam

Non-Executive Director, Mentor, Advisor, IDP-C based in Singapore

 

 

 

 

I decided to become a mentor as I have been fortunate to gain good experience with well-respected organisations and also with some very credible professionals who are industry leaders in their own rights.

One of my ambitions in life always has been to contribute back to society.  I have found that mentoring is a wonderful way to share my knowledge, learning, experience, commitment, drive with professionals and to support in their development. INSEAD is a respectful organisation where both mentors and mentees share their knowledge – in fact, the mentor equally learns and develops his skills also.  Mentoring also forced me to update myself on many aspects of business requirements as a result of the ever-changing dynamics.

When we started our mentoring relationship, Naji sent me his CV and clearly stated his goals. We then had a face-to-face introductory session. I found Naji to be genuine, honest, committed and has a lot of passion and drive to excel.

“Being a mentor has been a wonderful experience and gives me a great feeling of sharing and contribution”.

In our discussion over what we would cover over the 6 months, I clearly understood the challenges and expectations of Naji, and I programmed the session accordingly. Care was taken to ensure there was clear reflection after every session and application of learning. We also spent time sharing each other’s experiences and how we could address specific support to Naji. The normal session was supposed to be for 1 hour, but we invariably far exceeded the timing since our objective was value add with flexibility on timing.

After the initial understanding of the objectives and goals, we addressed a wide range of areas over the 6 months covering a broad range of areas such as types of organisations and how they impacted leadership styles, governance styles and board structures; the future of company boards, and the skills required; CEO success factors and succession; strategy; as well as governance and management best practices in family businesses. In between, we spent time on meditation, pranayama, and yoga to ensure mental calmness and balancing.

Being a mentor has personally helped me in progressing in my life as a part of my continuous learning. It also gave me a feel of joy and satisfaction that I could impart my skills and knowledge to develop next generation leaders.

The only unfortunate part is that we could not meet face to face (other than Zoom) and share a cup of coffee.  Now that the programme has formally ended, I plan to interact with Naji at least once in two months over email or phone till such time when we have an opportunity to meet up in person when time allows.  I have given my commitment to Naji to be available for his support during his journey forward. I am looking forward to continuing my informal interaction with Naji and understand his progress his life.

Naji has been a great mentee and in fact I must say our learning has been mutual. Naji has got a wealth of experience and is a very committed and passionate young professional with a strong will to succeed.

Naji Majdalani

CEO, Wings of Lebanon, MBA’07 based in Beirut

 

 

 

 

I decided to become a mentee as 2020 was a year of reflection and survival for me, and I needed to reach out to individuals with experience and knowledge to bounce off ideas, learn more about the board position and be able to discuss new topics which would give me a new and fresh “mindset”.

Meeting Sreekumar was a true pleasure and a fantastic learning experience. His approach is very subtle, calm yet structured, substantial and generous with personal and professional experience which I believe was the necessary dose of the right ingredients to make him a super mentor.

Sreekumar asked me to prepare my goals and objectives for the INsights programme which I did and shared back. He then laid-out during a pre-start session the plan for the next 3 months with a tentative 6-month plan which we would review as we progressed over time.

Over the 6 months, we spoke about the future of company boards, skills required to be a successful and effective board member, family board setup along with the family council and the necessary structure to make it work. We also looked at best practices for owners/board members within a family business and the relationship with the non-family CEO within the company. Finally, we reviewed scorecards to improve management best practices. During the sessions we always spoke on a personal level and even had a yoga session!

“Sreekumar had great insights from his previous experiences which were very helpful, and I leveraged some of the learnings to get through”.

Being a mentee during this critical period had a positive impact on me personally and professionally as I was able to learn about family boards and try to implement the learnings in my family business, specifically the mechanics and structure of family council, board, etc. and we often spoke about the challenges I faced related to the family setup, culture, and reluctance to change. The learning experience was very enjoyable because Sreekumar made it interesting and fun and it was also something I could relate to in my day-to-day life. It also helped me get through the difficult period when I had to suspend the operations of my airline and let go of 55 employees. Sreekumar had great insights from his previous experiences which were very helpful, and I leveraged some of the learnings to get through.

I consider Sreekumar a friend and a mentor and I will make sure to stay in touch going forward and I hope to meet him in person in the near future to share that cup of coffee!

My advice is to go into the mentoring programme wanting to learn and discover new perspectives. It is also important to take it seriously and be committed to the sessions and the work. Ensuring the mentee and mentor are aligned on the outcome and expectations is crucial to avoid losing steam over the period and having the mentee feel he is working towards a personal target.

 

To find out more about the IDN Insights Director Mentoring Programme, read more here.

 

INSEAD Directors Network (“IDN”) – An INSEAD Global Club of International Board Directors

Our Mission is to foster excellent Corporate Governance through networking, communication, and self-improvement. IDN has 1500 members from 80 countries, all Alumni from different INSEAD graduations as MBA, EMBA, GEMBA, and IDP-C. We meet in live IDN webinars and meet-ups arranged by our IDN Ambassadors based in 25 countries. Our IDN website holds valuable corporate governance knowledge in our IDN blog, and we share insights also to our LinkedIn and Twitter  followers. We highlight our member through quarterly sharing of their new board appointments and once a year we give out IDN Awards to prominent board accomplishments. We provide a peer-to-per mentoring and board vacancy service and we come together two times per year at the INSEAD Directors Forum arranged by ICGC. We also engage with ICGC on joint research.

 

How can IDN’s mentoring programme help your board career

How can IDN’s INsights 2021 Director Mentoring Programme support your director journey?

By Karen Loon IDP-C, IDN Board Member

Starting out on a board career is not easy, even for the most seasoned C-suite executives.  In fact, many people would argue that being a board director is not an extension of your career, but an entirely new one!

To support our INSEAD Directors’ Network (“IDN”) members, our INsights Director Mentoring Programme (‘the “Programme”) which is now in its third year supports IDN members to achieve their specific goals.

This unique programme encompasses one-on-one mentoring by an experienced mentor, peer learning with fellow mentees, as well as optional single mentoring sessions on a specific topic.

We recently asked Helen Wiseman, IDN Board Member, professional mentor and an experienced board director who facilitates the programme to share more.

Can you share a bit about the Programme?

The INsights Director Mentoring Programme is a structured six-month programme offered by IDN that is aimed at members of the IDN who are early in their board careers and who are seeking support from a highly experienced mentor based on a specific set of goals. These goals will be related to their current board roles and/or may be designed to further develop their board career.

Whilst in an ideal world, mentors and mentees come from the same geography, our mentors and mentees “meet” at a distance in keeping with INSEAD’s global positioning. What is key that the mentee can access mentoring support that will help them achieve their goals for the Programme.

The Programme structure is designed to ensure that mentees get the maximum out of the Programme and are not left to “drift”. The Programme is also in line with best practice mentoring programmes, whilst being delivered remotely.

Our mentors, who are experienced board directors volunteer their time and expertise in a way that maximises the value of their contribution and respects their time.  They have the opportunity to expand their networks and get exposure to a potential talent pool.

The role of the Programme Facilitator is to ensure that the programme is on-track through a series of monthly facilitated group sessions (“INsights Peer Mentee Calls”).

What is the time commitment of the Programme?

The INsights 2021 Mentoring Programme will be offered online.  It comprises:

  • Mentee and mentor applications and onboarding
  • Six monthly INsights Peer Mentee Calls (via Zoom)
  • Programme exit – Personal Development Programme, Survey/Feedback/testimonials
  • Programme follow-up, gather 2021 mentee/mentor referrals – “Pay it forward.”

A unique feature of the Programme is that mentees are part of a cohort of peer mentees who go through the programme together and share their insights and learnings with each other on monthly (facilitated) basis.  Subject to preserving confidentiality of mentees and mentors, the mentees get the benefit of a much wider set of insights compared with one-on-one mentoring.

What are some of the benefits to mentees?

Our mentees from the 2020 Programme have shared that they have benefited immensely from the programme in a broad range of areas including:

  • Opportunity to network with similar minded professionals, enhance personal brand and director style
  • Gaining fresh perspective, new ideas and different ways of thinking
  • Providing feedback on practical challenges in the area of board dynamics
  • Knowledge sharing

One of our mentees has shared that “Normally it takes years to come up the NED learning curve…and a few mistakes along the way. My mentor saved me a year or two easily”.

“Board roles can be lonely: you can’t always turn to the other board members to discuss your ambitions, hopes, challenges and doubts. Who provides you with the necessary diversity in perspective? This IDN programme answers that question, with a mentor, and with a community of peers from all over the world” IDN 2020 INsights Director Mentoring Programme mentee

Can you share a bit more about the profile of the mentors?  Why should I volunteer as a mentor for the Programme?

We draw upon our pool of highly experienced IDN members to be mentors.  Some of them are willing to be a one-on-one mentor for the programme duration and some are happy to be called upon for single-session mentoring based on their specific expertise or experiences. This ensures that there is a wide pool of mentors and who are able to share a broad range of experiences with mentees.

In addition to broadening their networks, many of our mentors have shared that they have learnt a lot as mentors, and that they have found the experience of supporting the lifelong learning enjoyable.

“I always find the mentoring process incredibly rewarding and enlightening. It’s wonderful to feel that I am contributing to someone’s development and there are myriad opportunities to see my own development needs mirrored in the conversations that we have” – IDN 2020 INsights Director Mentoring Programme mentor

I am interested in the joining Programme as a mentor or mentee.  What are the next steps?

Our application process for the IDN INsights 2021 Director Mentoring Programme will open shortly.  Potential mentees should note that selection is based, inter alia, on clarity of their goals and commitment to completing the programme – including joining monthly Peer Mentee calls.

INSEAD Directors Network, IDN – An INSEAD Global Club of International Board Directors.
Our Mission is to foster excellent Corporate Governance through networking, communication and self-improvement. IDN has 1500 members from 80 countries, all Alumni from different INSEAD graduations as MBA, EMBA, GEMBA, and IDP-C. We meet in live IDN webinars and meet-ups arranged by our IDN Ambassadors based in 25 countries. Our IDN website holds valuable corporate governance knowledge in our IDN blog, and we share insights also to our LinkedIn and Twitter  followers. We highlight our member through quarterly sharing of their new board appointments and once a year we give out IDN Awards to prominent board accomplishments. We provide a peer-to-per mentoring and board vacancy service and we come together two times per year at the INSEAD Directors Forum arranged by ICGC. We also engage with ICGC on joint research.