3 Key Questions to Ask as a Mentor

Mentorship has been a vital part of my leadership journey. Serving as a mentor is an excellent way to pass on what you've learned and help someone else be successful as a leader. Here's how I start a new mentor-mentee relationship.

How do you begin a mentorship? I like to follow Stephen Covey’s advice: “Seek first to understand…” When I begin mentoring an emerging leader, it’s essential for me to get a clear picture of their current circumstances, their strengths, and the challenges they’re facing. Here are the three essential areas I explore through questions I ask as a mentor:

1. Tell me about your role and your team.

Let’s start by understanding the current situation.

  • What are you responsible for?
  • How do you measure it? And what does success look like?
  • Who are the key members on your team?
  • How cohesive and effective is your team?
  • What have you noticed about their strengths and weaknesses?

When you understand someone’s core responsibilities and the dynamics of their team, you have important context for your conversations.

2. What are your strengths?

Every leader shines somewhere. Next, let’s get a sense of where a mentee is confident and comfortable.

  • Where do you feel successful?
  • What areas of work feel effortless? Energizing?
  • What positive feedback do you hear from others?
  • What traits and skills set you apart?

A self-aware leader can leverage their strengths, identify gaps (opportunities to delegate or partner), and gain perspective for making sound decisions.

In our Manager Development Program, participants use tools like the DiSC Assessment to gain more self-awareness. The CliftonStrengths Assessment is another helpful tool.

3. What Challenges Are You Facing?

Finally, we’ll diving into the issues.

  • What is your team’s biggest challenge?
  • What are you struggling with right now?
  • Where do feel uncomfortable or lack confidence?
  • What do you think is holding you back?

From delegation to difficult conversations, leadership brings many challenges and opportunities for growth. When you understand the issues that impact your mentee the most, you’ll know where to focus as you provide support and guidance.

Mapping out the journey

These types of questions tell me what kind of leader a mentee is and what kind of leader they aspire to be. We’ll discover where my mentoring can best serve them as they grow professionally and personally. Together, we’ll create the roadmap for their leadership journey.

When you think of your own mentorship experiences, what were the questions and topics that mattered most? Share your thoughts with us over on LinkedIn.

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