Building Critical Mentoring Skills
One of the most common (and vexing) experiences for any parent with a young child is when the child asks why…incessantly. And while just thinking about this type of scenario can bring on an eye twitch, it actually provides a great example of how children embrace a wonderful curiosity for and openness to learning—something people seem to outgrow as they age.
Mentors are uniquely positioned to help mentees by asking questions and having the mentees ask questions in return. For example, understanding why an idea failed or why a hypothesis proved true can help a mentee address a similar situation in the future, which is more useful than just having a mentor give the mentee an answer. If we just give people the answer, what happens the next time a similar problem comes up? How will the person solve the problem that time? They need to gain the skills to ask the questions and solve the problems on their own so that they can understand the factors at play and adapt to different scenarios in the future.
- What are the interrelationships between elements in [fill in the blank with the topic or area being discussed]?
- What are the core assumptions that make up this practice area?
- What are some of the critical implications of applying principles related to this topic?
- What are the various points of view that come into play?
- What are some of the core areas of logic or reason that support this practice or thought area?
- How relevant are these concepts?
- How much consistency, accuracy, and precision can be gained from deploying this practice?
By asking questions such as these, people can begin to move beyond just remembering something they’ve already done or gaining new levels of understanding about a topic. Instead, they can begin to apply new understandings in a practical way, analyze the impact of that application, evaluate the larger implications of the application and analyses that occurred, and create new processes or practices as a result. These questions will drive your mentees and mentors to higher levels of thinking, a skill that they will be able to transfer to all areas of their daily work activities. And at the end of the day, having a highly intelligent, adaptable, inquisitive, and innovative workforce is what will push us forward to our next great invention, idea, or service.