Good Mentor Questions

Good mentors are important. The best workplaces have formal programs to develop mentoring relationships. LinkedIn has even launched a feature to help you find one. And how to be a good mentor is a topic of perennial interest.

“For mentors, the most important thing, really, is to ask questions, to be this guide on the side, rather than the sage on the stage” – Lisa Z. Fain, The Center for Mentoring Excellence

Here are eight questions good mentors ask:

What Does Success Look Like to You?

Asking what success looks like can refer to long-term goals and planning. However, when applied to a specific situation, it can help determine what the immediate priorities are for a project or situation.

What is the Outcome You Want?

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.

What Do You Want to Be Different in Three to Five Years?

Since the business world changes at such a fast pace today, focusing on a shorter window—perhaps three years—still allows enough time for creative, aspirational thinking without the distraction of how different the workplace might be at that time. The answers may reveal how the protégé wants to grow, or fundamental changes they need to make in order to achieve their goals.

What are the Obstacles You’re Facing?

Protégés may be reluctant to share the challenges they are facing or may not have really thought them through. Asking about them outright allows the mentor to explore the challenges with which the protégé is struggling, and also discuss the individual’s strengths and weaknesses in addressing them. Most of us do know where we are weaker, and yet we haven’t been able to address it. Identifying what the obstacles are is a great place to start. 

What Can You Control?

Shift the focus from ruminating about factors that are beyond the protégé’s control and onto what they can actually do about the situation. You might not be able to change an unfair corporate policy immediately, but you may be able to find short-term answers to help you deal with it while you work on longer-term solutions.

What are the Options You’ve Come with so Far?

Even if the protégé is struggling with what the right answers are, having at least a few ideas ensures that the individual has given the matter some thought. Facilitate a conversation where you allow them to explore options in a safe space. Your conversation may trigger another thought or explore another path to a better solution.

Tell Me More

This statement prompts the protégé for more detail about what led them to form their opinions or helped them reach a conclusion. That can help reveal biases or blind spots that are affecting their judgment. With the benefit of some objectivity and another degree of separation from the situation, you can help them expand their thinking and possibly find new ways of looking at a situation.

What are You Reading?

Asks about interests, hobbies, reading habits, and other similar questions to get to know the protégés on a more personal level. Doing so helps give you a more holistic understanding of who they are as people which can be important in helping to guide them to the right answers and insight.

Resource: Moran, Gwen. The Best Mentors Ask These 8 Questions. March 16, 2018. Fact Company.