A person comes to you because they’d like to be mentored. You want to be helpful. What do you do the first time you meet?
You ask a particular set of questions and then give them an assignment.
I find this pattern works well with a mentee:
Question #1: “What brought you to this point where you’ve recognized this need?”
What you’re listening for: Their story, their history, how they define their gap, connections, their level of emotional maturity, signs that they are willing to work hard.
Question #2: “Why do you think I can help you get to where you want to go?”
What you’re listening for: Their perception of your strengths, experiences, and abilities – including how they think you’ll work with them.
Question #3: “Are you a reader or a listener?”
What you’re listening for: Insights about how they learn, their preferences, and whether they’ve recognized their learning style/preferences.
See how this works? Three simple, mostly open-ended questions that give you insights into how best to mentor them. Bonus: They learn early that a primary way you mentor people is by asking them questions.
Now it’s time to give them an assignment: One or more specific follow-up actions. Some examples:
- Email me tomorrow with 3 times you’d be available to meet with me in the next 2 weeks
- Listen to the Manager Tools podcast on delegation and be prepared to discuss it with me next time we meet.
- I’m going to send you an article about XYZ. Please email me your thoughts when you’ve read it.
A few others things to start watching for:
- Are they on time, and do they respond to deadlines?
- How nervous are they?
- Do they laugh and smile, or are they grim?
- Are they polite?
- Do they express gratitude for your help?
- What drives their ambition to improve?