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Building Self-Efficacy through Mentoring

By Rani Desai

Albert Bandura, (Bandura, n.d.), a Standford researcher and professor, and a psychologist, through his work established that the individual’s beliefs about their capabilities to produce expected levels of performance is determined on the basis of how the individuals’ feel, think, behave and motivate themselves. The stronger the belief in their capabilities is experienced, stronger are they motivated to undertake tougher challenges, persevere longer and become more resilient in the face of obstacles and failure. This is what he calls as ‘self-efficacy’.

The elements in building self-efficacy are:

a. Where the individuals have no fear of failure and they set for themselves challenging goals and maintain a strong commitment to those goals;

b. Through gaining insights, through observed behaviours of sustained efforts of others’ experience, or role models, or people with similar backgrounds;

c. By way of verbal positive strokes or appreciation on one’s capabilities, affirmation and assurance on their capabilities realistically, and supporting them in building the deficiencies. It also means facilitating self-validation on one’s own capabilities and building self-belief.

Reflecting on the above, the question to be asked is if self-efficacy can be built? If so, how can we build it in the organisation and amongst the employees? How can the organisations benefit from self-efficaciousness of the employees?

When we reflect inwardly in an organisation and look for the levers to leverage upon, amongst others, one such effective lever available is the hierarchy structure where each individual reports to a manager, so to say is mapped to a reporting manager. The hierarchy structure ensures the relation between the reporting managers and their reportees. The expectation from the reporting manager is also that the reporting manager creates and nurtures leaders. Thus, the reporting manager is the mentor to the reportee, and has a scope to play a vital role in building self-efficacy of the individual through mentoring program.

The elements of mentoring are:

a. Building knowledge, skills, confidence of the reportees. Counselling, advising and supporting the journey of experiences. The role is of appreciating and reinforcing self-belief in the strengths and gently nudging from the areas that need attention;

b. Providing opportunities and experiences of successes through small ‘on the job’ wins, as much as supporting them in case of failures;

c. Experiential learning by facilitating initiatives or projects to be designed and implemented ensuring ‘small wins’ of these initiatives, if not support failures, further facilitate the analysis of the failure and how to overcome it in future, without impacting the self-belief of the individual. As Bandura calls it as ‘mastery experiences’;

d. Facilitating the process to arrive at, take and execute decisions without the fear of failure, creating an attitude of self-empowerment where the mentee take ownership of the actions, work, and outcomes.

Some of the tools used in this process are:

a. Art of Crucial Conversation, through continuous dialogue, feedback and discussion, understanding different perspectives in analysing situations and the solutions reviewing its impact holistically benefits the mentoring process mutually;

b. Art of Dialogue where the mentor can and should challenge the belief and stereotypes of the mentee and bring awareness of such stereotypical behaviours to conscious level. The success of the mentoring process comes in by facilitating those ‘aha’ moments and creating new wires and by discarding the hard wiring in the brain;

c. Art of Story, one of the influential methods for driving learnings is when the mentor shares experiences and the lessons learnt, the sharing of personal success and failure stories of the mentors, prove to be a catalyst in starting the ‘thinking’ and ‘reflection’ process for the mentee;

d. Similarly stories of some of the leaders, or from the social circle also successfully draw insights as these learnings are of equally immense value to the mentee, triggering in revisiting some of the existing beliefs and reinventing newer ones;

e. Art of Feedback, sharing areas where the individual needs to build and focus upon, analysing the failures and learnings out of it;

f. Art of Appreciation and Recognition, publicly acknowledging the achievements or small wins of the individual;

g. Lastly, the Exposure through different forums, interactions with leaders, group learning and others.

Several research work and study of literature establish the benefit of mentoring program in organisations. In the paper written by Dr. Chris Holland (2009) Workplace Mentoring: A Literature Review; he has quoted (Clutterbuck & Lane, et al., n.d.) that mentoring is a powerful tool which can accelerate the development of talent, improve staff retention and create a high performance culture that offers a real competitive advantage. However, mentoring can be beneficial when it is supported by employees who are high on self-efficacy; higher the self-efficacy, higher is the positive productivity of the individual and is beneficial to the organisation.

However, the process of mentoring will change from mentee to mentee and there is no one-size-fits-all approach.

All of the above can be achieved only with the organisation’s support in preparing the mentors; to be the mentors with requisite skills in the art and science of mentoring.

Finally, the mentors should have themselves gone through the experience of ‘being mentored’ effectively themselves, before getting into those shoes.

Lastly, the self-efficaciousness of the mentors themselves has to be at very high degree!!


Rani Desai

A graduate in Social Work from Mumbai University, completed post-graduation in Personnel Management & Industrial Relations from TISS. She is a graduate and post-graduate in Law from Mumbai University, has over 25 years of work experience across varied industries in Human Resource management. She is passionate about driving people transformation programs, leadership development, coaching & mentoring leaders and women professionals.


Bandura, A. (1994). Self-efficacy. In V. S. Ramachaudran (Ed.), Encyclopedia of human
behavior (Vol. 4, pp. 71-81). New York: Academic Press. (Reprinted in H. Friedman
[Ed.], Encyclopedia of mental health. San Diego: Academic Press, 1998).
Clutterbuck & Lane, 2004; Ragins & Kram, 2007; Connor & Pakora, 2007; Blake-Beard et al., 2007

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