Career advice from Goldman’s star execs

May 20, 2009, 8:42 PM UTC

Goldman Sachs’ top women execs hosted a breakfast this morning for the 32 mentees who are participating in this year’s Fortune/U.S. State Department Global Women Leaders Mentoring Partnership. Dina Powell, Goldman’s managing director who heads corporate outreach, was front and center — appropriately since this mentoring program was her idea. Back in 2005, when she was an assistant Secretary of State working for Condoleezza Rice, she and I hatched the mentoring partnership in her office.

Five years later, participants of Fortune‘s annual Most Powerful Women Summit — including CEOs Andrea Jung of Avon , Anne Mulcahy of Xerox , Pat Woertz of ADM, Ann Moore of Time Inc. , and the top women at Fortune 500 companies such as ExxonMobil and American Express — have mentored the best and brightest young women leaders across the developing world.

And now that she’s at Goldman, Dina Powell is a mentor in the program too. Last year she and Goldman exec Edie Hunt hosted a bold and brilliant financial-services entrepreneur, Maali Qasem, from Jordan. This year, Powell is mentoring Femi Olayebi, a Nigerian entrepreneur who is also a graduate of Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Women program (which Powell oversees). Powell and Hunt (sounds like a law firm, doesn’t it?) were joined at this morning’s breakfast by other top women at the firm — including three who shared the best advice they’ve ever received from a mentor:

Stacey Bash-Polley, co-head of fixed-income sales at Goldman: “Follow the 24-hour rule.” If passion or anger rises over an email, she said, hold off replying until the next day. Be thoughtful. You’ll be thankful the next day.

Kathy Elsesser, head of the consumer retail group in investment banking: “Form a personal board of directors.” On her board: friends, colleagues, clients and competitors. “I force myself to use my board for advice,” she says. “So I have to slow down, be more thoughtful and make better decisions.”

Lisa Shalett, COO, Global Compliance: “Stop pulling the plant from its roots.” If you regularly pull a plant to look at its roots — to check how it’s growing, to ask ‘Am I doing this right?’ — the plant is going to die. Shalett catches herself getting in her own way, she says. “You have to free yourself to let plants grow.”

All good advice. What’s your good advice for managing your life and career?