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When mentors don't agree

I recently took on a new role as head of my department. The role is complex and demanding, so I took Wendy Murphy’s advice and developed a network of mentors to help me deal with the challenges I was facing. But a problem quickly arose. My mentors didn’t always agree.

At first, I felt caught in the middle between people I respected, but research from Elana Feldman and William Kahn helped me learn how to turn divergent advice to my advantage. When mentors disagree, it may be tempting to ignore some of the advice and withdraw from the anxiety that conflict can cause. However, if protégés are willing and able to grapple with divergent advice, they experience better outcomes and stronger relationships. By asking mentors clarifying questions and reflecting on potential paths forward, protégés may be able to determine which advice is best for them or even come up with a creative new approach that blends elements of the advice from multiple mentors.

So as you create your own network of mentors, I encourage you to seek out divergent advice. Grappling with diverse perspectives may require more work on your part, but in the end, you will likely learn more about yourself and how to effectively face your challenges.

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