Enactus is driven by the adage ‘Dedicated to making the world a better place’. To move closer to this vision, it is imperative that the student teams in Enactus work on projects supported by sustainable and tangible business models.
At the same time, it is difficult to imagine a group of students taking over the world solely armed by their drive to do good. Enactus inspires purpose, embodies collaboration by students on projects that support a worthy cause, and maintains their spark of enthusiasm. The student needs to reinforce his /her desire to do ‘good’ over time, and we can enhance their experience of the joy of giving. At times this desire to do ‘good’ alone is adequate to see them through the completion of these social projects, but many a times students can lose their will to sustain. Feelings of inadequacy can seep in or they may feel overwhelmed by the social cause, which may eventually lead them to give up.
A critical factor can sustain the project team and the business model they are working on through this roller coaster ride — the relationship between the mentor and mentee. This relationship can be the glue that holds the project together. The mentor likened to an able sculptor at times, shapes or kneads the thoughts and ideas of a mentee. This helps to form and strengthen his/her resolution to fulfill the initial purpose which got the team together on this journey. Based on my experience with mentoring, I have put together four areas that a mentor and mentee can work on to ensure continuity of business models that bring sustainability of social impact.
Commitment — It can be interpreted ‘as staying loyal to what you said you will do, long after the mood you said it in has gone’. Commitment is also the not the only cause of success if one has it, and not the only cause of failure if one lacks it. This is where a mentor can test the strength of the mentee’s resolve in executing the action plan which they set out to do. Mentor can gently structure the engagement process with the Mentee and provide words of wisdom which can help strengthen the commitment and resolve of the mentee. This can be done through reinforcing reminders on the purpose for the team to embark on this project in the first place. These gentle reminders can work wonders when mentees lose their spark or lose belief in the joy of giving their time. Commitment for a mentee is to keep showing up and being candid about his/her progress with the mentor. The mentee’s willingness to accept feedback and the open mindedness to try new ways demonstrates his/her commitment.
Accountability — This forms a key agreement between the mentor and the mentee, and it sets the basic discipline towards achieving mentor/mentee’s goals from the mentoring engagement. The structure could be a simple one: mentor and mentee can hold each other accountable to key elements to be monitored, which are decided upfront. This can include project progress, the attitude that each brings in and so on. By deciding this before the project take off, it helps in times of ambiguity and when testing times emerge. While people do not want to be confronted on non- performance, avoidance of it may lead to killing the spirit of entrepreneurship. The mentor needs to ensure that accountability is a two way process and both mentor and the mentee are just as accountable. As a result, embedding this discipline into the DNA of the Enactus programme helps the student teams tread greater heights.
Objectivity — While one can get attached to the cause they are working towards, it’s important for the mentor and mentee to maintain objectivity when setting clear goals. This helps to maintain a clear structure to discuss concrete steps to achieve those goals. Even though the mentor/mentee relationship may involve support through non-tangible or emotional ways, it should be tested on how this relationship leads to the creation of tangible value for the student and its project. Measurability of the objectives is vital and can provide the necessary framework to visualize goals and identify the next step to success in the mentor-mentee relationship. After the first goals have been achieved, a mentor should make time to celebrate successes while the mentee should take this opportunity to give feedback, which can help in achieving the next milestone.
Investment — Investments in this context are mostly time and effort, and have direct correlation to the results. Even though this is not a business transaction, it does involve a certain thought process to take into account their investments in time and effort, and the results produced. Being open about how much each is willing to invest, helps the mentor/mentee to plan their work in a structured manner and measure results accordingly. The investment can pay itself back, as when the mentor invests time and effort in encouraging the right attitude from the mentee. This attitude also helps the mentee to invest his/her time meaningfully into the projects.
These four principles make the DNA of the mentor/mentee’s relationship, and set a strong foundation for Enactus’ model to create greater impact. Their vision for the world to be a better place through student entrepreneurial actions will become a reality. Strong mentor and mentee relationships can provide the smooth ride on the road paved by Enactus, and realise this vision with accelerated success.
Vishal Kapoor is a Senior Vice President in the Group Audit Department of DBS Bank. His expertise lies in the area of Group Finance, Group Risk, ICAAP, Model and Model validation. Vishal is an active member at the Responsible Leaders Programme of Enactus and represents DBS Bank at Enactus partnership initiatives.