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.


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