Want to Be a Better Mentor?

Want to be a Better Mentor

Feel Free to ASK!

Seeking to be a better mentor? Just ASK! This tiny acrostic represents three tips for improving inquiry skills.

 

A – Avoid Easy Answers

Don’t ask yes or no questions. That’s one of the first tips of advice a newbie hears about improving question-asking skills. Easy to say, but how do you actually do it?

Most experts will tell you that listening intently and asking great questions are the backbone of any mentoring relationship. Caring for someone in this way is powerful! Intentional…deep change…whole life…transformational mentoring truly makes an impact. I know because I was mentored well when I needed it most. My mentor sat across the coffee shop table gazing intently into my eyes and peppering me with questions about every aspect of my life. Some queries haunted me for weeks as I pondered her potent questions.

I wanted to learn to mentor like that – so that lives would truly be changed. Fortunately for me, Wes Roberts came to my church that spring to lead a Circle of Life Mentoring Workshop. Reflecting back, I realized that my mentor boldly asked about finances, family relationships, work, books I was reading, my relaxation techniques, how I handled emotions, friendships, and hobbies … She definitely covered all 8 Dimensions. Even more valuable was her careful probing of my core belief system by examining my convictions, doctrines, discipline, and character. All of these were critical areas to examine as I grew in my desire and ability to serve Christ.

Naturally, as I began mentoring others, I found the Whole-life Mentoring Model a vital tool. By listening intently to my mentoree, I could easily assess which dimensions she discussed freely and where inquiries were needed to draw out the other dimensions. I quickly realized, however, that I needed help. In order to be more effective, I would need to improve my question asking ability.

Let’s just say asking powerful questions was not a skill that came easily. It takes practice! I began challenging myself to take “ineffective” questions and turn them into better questions. (OK, maybe no question is totally “ineffective”, but many can certainly become better!) For instance, if I asked, “Are you satisfied in your workplace?” I might get a quick yes or no answer, but I was not likely to experience a revelation into the depths of her working soul. If, however, I changed the question to, “What brings you the greatest satisfaction in your workplace?” the specific details that poured forth about the workplace experience opened the door for numerous follow-up possibilities. By avoiding the easy answers, new worlds opened up to explore with my mentoree.

Now it’s your turn. We’ve already done Vocational, so try adapting these questions to help your mentoree dig deeply into each of the other 8 Dimensions.

Dimensions
Ineffective Questions
Family
Is your family life OK?
Social
Do you have friends?
Physical
Are you taking care of your body?
Emotional
Do you worry?
Financial
Are your finances in order?
Creative
Do you have a creative outlet?
Intellectual
Are you growing intellectually?

What questions might be more effective in mining the depths of a mentoree’s Dimensions?

Dimensions
Better Questions
Family

Social

Physical

Emotional

Financial

Creative

Intellectual

How did you do? We invite you to encourage others by including some of your “better questions” in the comments to this post. This skill only improves with practice, so keep at it!

S – Seek Deeper Layers

I am not a good cook, and I especially dislike chopping onions! However, an important lesson can be learned from those delicate layers and the tears rolling down my cheeks as I cut into them. The tough outer portion of the onion doesn’t look at all like the tender inner layers. That can be true with our mentorees, too. Rough, surface issues that are easy to talk about may need to be stripped away before the hidden layers underneath can be revealed. The discovery often leads to tears, but that’s OK. Those tears can be cleansing and healing. Maybe an angry exterior conceals layers of fear and insecurity. Or perhaps a confident attitude hides anxiety and self-doubt that even the mentoree doesn’t know is there. Allowing space to explore those emotions can be painful, but also surprisingly freeing. Don’t be afraid to go deep – even if it gets messy.

 

K – Know It’s About the Mentoree

Stay out of the way! Mentoring is for the benefit of the mentoree – it’s not about me. Rather than trying to satisfy my own curiosity, I really want to assist her, so my questions should be geared to help her think for herself. I have to be careful that I don’t lead her in the direction I want her to go. Only the Holy Spirit should be doing that work! It’s above my pay grade!

Maybe she just needs to understand situations in new ways. Perhaps my questions can help expand her thinking by taking away assumed barriers. “What if money wasn’t an issue in this situation?” or “What if you had plenty of time available, what would you pursue?” Once a dream is uncovered, often those self-imposed limitations disappear. She will do the work herself if you keep the focus on her, but …

often that means waiting …

in silence …

without talking or asking additional questions …

for what feels like a long, long time!

Don’t be impatient! Quietly take time to pray, careful to maintain eye contact and body language that demonstrates you not going anywhere. She can take all the time she needs.

So feel free to ASK as you draw out your mentoree.

A – Avoid Easy Answers

S – Seek Deeper Layers

K – Know It’s About the Mentoree

Intentional…Deep Change…Whole-Life…Transformational Mentoring is worth the time and effort!

Written by

Carol is uniquely designed to encourage women and children to live fully for God. An answered childhood prayer convinced her that God is not only real and powerful, but that he cares for her personally. Based on that core belief system Carol passionately motivates others to grow in all 8 dimensions of their precious lives. Carol exercises her unique personality to mentor women. For over 20 years she taught 4th grade at a Christian school. Now partially retired, she relishes the extra time available for her church’s mentoring ministry. Believing in the power of prayer, Carol enjoys discovering creative ways to pray scripture.

2 thoughts on “Want to Be a Better Mentor?

  1. Good word, Carol! I don’t mentor people, but I’ve always had a heart for people, and a good listening ear. I heard a few years ago that as I interact with people, “to be interesting, be interested.” I’ve tried to use that when interacting with people, finding that I get much better conversation if I ask more than the yes/no questions. It’s recently an especially large challenge for my family gatherings, where there’s much tension, and it seems that most are in their own world, and actually don’t know how to have an interactive conversation, but would rather spew their “always right” opinion, and end the conversation there. People want someone to listen to them, and often that is a rare commodity.

    I guess I’m headed off on a bit of a tangent away from mentoring, but I appreciated what you had to say anyway. Thanks!

    • Thanks for your insightful comments, Rich. You are right that being interested in people promotes interaction, and I’m often surprised by how willingly people open up when given the chance. You nailed it when you said, “People want someone to listen to them, and often that is a rare commodity.”

      So why is it that family gatherings often carry the most tension? I remember hearing once that we usually treat strangers better than we treat the family members we supposedly love the most. We can’t always change those habit patterns in others, but we can try opening up communication with new questions. Great questions are powerful. I’d love to hear some of the ones that work especially well for you, especially in family situations. Anyone have some suggestions to share?

      With your heart for people and your good listening ear, Rich, maybe mentoring people is in your future!

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