Updated: Apr 11
It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, no mentor is perfect and because of that, it often causes despondency in the mentee. Here's what can help. While mentor's aren't perfect, what is perfect is the constellation of mentors you can have over the course of life. Each mentor in the constellation will provide a certain lens or perspective. Each mentor will have a certain set of skills that serves the form of mentoring they provide. This is why the constellation is perfect.
But.....and this is a BIG but...as cute as sloths are, you and I can't be one.
Instead, we have to get into the driver's seat, put our foot on the gas pedal and be deeply intentional. This happens when we learn to grow our mentee skill set. Otherwise, mentors won't enjoy mentoring us. And if their enjoyment wanes, so too does our constellation of mentors. That would stink for you and that would stink for me.
In this and each post in this series, I will focus on ONE mentee skill or quality necessary to live a more fruitful mentored life.
Asking Questions That Lead Somewhere
When you seek guidance from a mentor in your area of work or simply engage a friend mentor to discuss life challenges with, you often need to intentionally pick that mentor's brain. In this situation, you must learn to ask good questions. This skill is especially important with certain mentoring forms. Good questions from YOU will help you get to the root of an issue and give you the answers (or additional questions) you need to move forward. Asking good questions is also essential in creating an open and heartfelt dialogue with your mentor; the kind of dialogue that builds trust.
Here are some tips for asking good questions in a mentoring relationship.
1. Start by asking open-ended questions. Open-ended questions allow your mentor to provide more detailed answers and give you a better understanding of the topic. Examples of open-ended questions include "What was your experience like?" and "What options do you think I have in this situation?". Closed-ended questions often invite yes/no answers. That's just boring!
2. If you ask open-ended questions, you will ask questions that require reflection. Good questions should allow your mentor to provide thoughtful insights. Examples of reflective questions include: "What are the benefits of focusing on this solution instead of the other one?" and "What would do want to see happen in my character as I proceed?".
3. Ask questions that are relevant to the situation and to the topic at hand. Remember, your mentor's time is valuable, so don't waste it by asking questions that don't add value. Focus on the question that will help you find total solutions. This can help you create a plan of action. Examples of questions that help you move forward include: "What resources can help me?" and "What do you think I should avoid?".
4. Follow up with clarifying questions. After your mentor has answered your initial question, it is important to follow up with clarifying questions. This will help you gain a deeper understanding of the issue and will also show your mentor that you are actively engaged in the conversation. Examples of clarifying questions include: "Can you give me more detail on that?" and "In what way have you seen your advice not heeded and how did that play out?".
There is more I could share on this topic. But that's enough for now! Besides, I encourage self-directed learning. There are many great resources on asking a good question.
To sum things up, mentoring relationships can be incredibly beneficial, but it is important to ask the right questions to get the most out of the experience. Remember, you are in the driver’s seat. Practice intentionality. By following these tips, you can ensure that your questions are thoughtful and on topic. This will help you maximize the value of your mentoring relationship and help you move forward on whatever challenge you are facing.