Cultivate Many Mini-Mentors

Rebecca Morgan quote
Photo: Rebecca Morgan, Taj Mahal, Agra, India


What is a mini-mentor? Someone who advises you in one area of their expertise.

Cultivate many of them. Why?

If you don’t know someone well, most people will be reticent to say yes to your request to be your mentor. They are concerned about the time and emotional energy it might take.

However, if you ask if they would provide guidance in one finite area of their expertise, most will say yes.

For example, early in my career I had so much to learn. How can I secure speaking or training engagements? How do I get articles published? How do I get my book published? How do I improve my slides? How can I tell better stories in my presentation? The list was long.

One mentor would have been overwhelmed educating me on so many areas. Although a few people offered to mentor me, I consulted them judiciously as I didn’t want to inundate them with my many questions.

Instead, I asked those more senior to me if I may ask them a few questions on a specific area where I knew they were accomplished. Every one said yes.

Before I reached out to see if s/he would be willing to answer a few questions on the topic, I researched their experience in that topic. I then prepared my questions in advance, set up a phone call or coffee, and began with what I knew of their expertise in that area.

I could tell they were pleased I had taken the time to examine their work in that area, and wasn’t just asking broad questions. I also didn’t start by talking about me. I’d explain how I’d used their work as a model, but was stuck and would welcome their advice.

I never asked for anything other than advice — not introductions to their contacts, a quote for a book, a critique of my demo video. I didn’t want anyone feeling I was taking advantage of my connection with them.

After our conversation, I’d send a handwritten thank-you card acknowledging their generous advice and time. I would also follow up with updates on my results of using their advice so they knew their words were taken seriously.

Some mini-mentors became full-on mentors, taking a broader interest in my career and accomplishments. Some initiated congratulations on my achievements, or to see how they might provide more help.

None asked for a cent, even when I offered to pay for their sending me their latest book or other resource materia.

Few people are eager to take on the responsibility of mentoring someone they don’t know well. But if you develop relationships with mini-mentors, your growth will take less time, and you’ll have many people cheering you on.