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Why You Need a Team of Mentors + How to Find Them

Earlier this week in London, I had the privilege of attending Thinkers50, a biennial conference and awards for leading management and business thinkers. Drawing nearly 600 academics, executives, and business coaches, many of whom are also best-selling authors, my mind was blown by all the great conversations at Thinkers50. It was like two days back at college! Getting to meet some of my heroes––check out the list of winners––was an added bonus! In a series of posts, I’ll be sharing highlights from my favorite talks.

thinkers50 2023
Ruth Gotian at Thinkers50 in London

Why You Need a Team of Mentors

Yes, we’ve all heard mentors help us succeed, but at Thinkers50, Professor Ruth Gotian, offered a fresh take–YOU NEED A TEAM OF MENTORS. Ruth is the author of The Success Factor and Chief Learning Officer and Associate Professor of Education, Weill Cornell Medicine, and has spent her career studying high-achievers–CEOs, Olympic level athletes, award-winning musicians and actors. She realized they all had one common thread––they took advice not from one mentor, but MANY.

the success factor ruth gotian

Ruth explained the two main functions of a mentor:

  • Career function: to show you the possible paths in your chosen field.

  • Psychosocial support: to be a cheerleader!

According to her research, people with mentors outperform and out earn those who do not have mentors. One of the main reasons is mentors give their mentees not just self confidence, but self efficacy. Self efficacy means “I think I can do it even though I have not done this before.” Beyond better performance, her research shows that people with mentors have lower burnout and longer tenure at companies.

“People like to work with those they know, like, and trust. So don’t think of what you’d like from someone, but of what you can give to someone.” ––Ruth Gotian

Practical Tips: How to Find Your Team of Mentors

Wherever there are people there are potential mentors! The ideal mix of mentors is not just from your company or organization, but also people you meet organically. Her tips on building your team of mentor relationships.

  • Mentoring is a two-way street. Think about what you can give to someone. Not what you can get from someone.

  • Have a commonality, but make sure the person has a complimentary skill set. “When we see how we are the same, we can learn about our differences.”

  • Find people you know, like and trust. You want to be able to receive unfiltered guidance (even when it hurts), so you need to be comfortable with the person.

  • Invite introduction. Cultivate a community by thinking of people who can introduce you to other people, but also that you can provide introductions to as well.

  • Try to find mentors at all levels. Be open to mentors of all ages. Peers rise together, look to colleagues and connections at your same level. You will help each other grow. Also, find people junior to you for “reverse mentoring” and ask retirees, many have a lot of knowledge, time and want to give back.

  • Look for mentors outside your industry. You will be surprised, most people will not turn you down and are happy to share their expertise.

You can read more from Ruth, "How to Find the Perfect Mentor to Boost Your Career," in Forbes.

Ruth ended with a quote (that she attributed to someone, but I didn't catch who),

“Knowledge-- the more you give it away, the more you get it back.” LOVE IT!

“Knowledge--the more you give it away, the more you get it back.”


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