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Many Many Many Mentors

Updated: Jan 11, 2022

May is Mentor Month at SOS, and I don’t need a lot of prompting to start ruminating on a topic and how my own business and personal life have been touched by mentorship and its variants.

Just as people have different relationship styles in their personal lives, mentorship configurations abound. They are probably changing radically too, as the speed of life accelerates. The person who mentors you in your 20s (when you're first starting your career) may not be the same one who advises you about a move from corporate life to entrepreneurship or whether or not to scale your business.

Let’s think about love and marriage...

You may be a serial monogamist, poly, or a committed long-term relationship person. Or, you might switch from one style to another, based on your needs and stage.

Business relationships are similar (without the sex -- usually).

Each person who touches your life, brain, soul, and career has the potential to make you better. The best relationships are two-way streets, where each party evolves, learns, and grows.

When I think about my own mentors, many people come to mind…

  • Loren Smith, my supervisor at Citibank, who once growled at me (literally) in a meeting because I wasn’t setting aggressive goals for new checking accounts. He also promoted me to Chief of Staff when my younger daughter was 8 weeks old. He saw things in me that I didn’t even see in myself at that stage and pushed me to achieve more. I needed his visionary brand of tough love and business insights.

  • My long-time friend, colleague, and sometimes independent contractor Jim Desrosier has a totally different work style and perspective than my own, but he questions everything and prompts me to think bigger. He’s known me since I was 22 and provides a terrific point of view on my own growth -- and missteps.

  • My own daughter (the one mentioned above) is never afraid to call me out on my “stuff” and give me a life view from the eyes of a (very wise) 20-something. Sarah, my business wing woman (who is three decades younger than I am), also offers me unique perspectives and won’t hesitate to call BS when I need it.

Throughout the years, I’ve also had more formal mentor/mentee relationships, with coaches, supervisors, and others. The common thread is that they see things in me that I may not even see, open my ears and brain to new thinking, and enrich my life and work.

I’d like to think that I do the same for them.

So, when you think about mentors, you don’t necessarily need to limit yourself to one person more senior than you (in age or experience). Don't look just at gender or background. But you should:

  • Pick wisely. You don’t need a bobblehead. You need a person who will open your eyes and ears to new perspectives. Make the time for meetings and conversations.

  • Resist the urge to be defensive when pushed or questioned. After all, you’re looking to change and grow. If you’re looking for just a fan club, try Insta.

  • Be open to changing up or adding mentors as your own needs change and you get to new stages of your life and career.

  • Give as much as you get. Ask how you can help your mentor(s).

I can never answer the question, “Who was the best mentor you’ve ever had?” Each one made my life richer and helped me grow a thicker skin.

Don’t have a mentor yet? Just start with one and you may ultimately wind up with 100. And, if you choose wisely, each one will give you the gift of wisdom. That’s a whole lot of insight!

Many (or just a few) things to think about:

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