Because of my interest in helping people with HR processes, and learning techniques to be a better manager in general, I am frequently attracted to articles about mentoring. I’m also frequently disappointed with those columns that advocate a “one size fits all” closed approach to mentoring.
So colour me surprised when I saw an article on Pocket recently about questions that the best mentors ask, written by Gwen Moran (and originally shared on Fast Company). Some of them are pretty common-place in my view:
- What does success look like to you?
- What do you want to change? (usually as “where do you want to be in 3-5 years?”)
- What options have you identified?
- What are you reading? (not usually as a mentoring question, often more for interviewing)
But she also includes some more interesting open ones:
- What does success look like to you? (a better phrasing than asking about their goals as it often leads to both visioning of ST and LT outcomes)
- What are the obstacles you’re facing? (great starter)
- What can you control? (now that’s getting a little harder-edged, I like it)
However, the one I like the best is asking what outcome the person wants, which is far more immediate than lofty goals. And often gets them out of “managing the situation” towards “managing the result”.
When you start with the specific outcome you want, the best action to take becomes clearer. For example, if you’re having a conflict with a team member, the best solution will be different if you want to try to repair the relationship versus if you think it’s hopeless and just want to get away from that person.
“If [the protégé] is facing a really complicated situation, that is often the best question you can ask to help them lift their head up and start to look at the situation from an entirely new angle”.The Best Mentors Ask These 8 Questions | FastCompany via Pocket
Admittedly, most of my “mentoring” is in the first areas above, but there are a few times where I would have benefited from both asking this of my mentees as well as being asked this by my mentors.