4 ways to breathe new life into your mentorship
Thursday, October 22, 2015
Posted by: Barbara Francella
By Jo Miller
Have conversations with your mentor gotten a bit repetitive
Perhaps you approached someone you admire and bravely asked that person
to become your mentor. And they said "Yes." But a year into the
relationship, those monthly mentoring meet-ups don't seem to invigorate you
like they used to, and they aren't quite as energizing for them, either.
In short, you suspect the mentorship may have run its course.
The fact is, sometimes it's not the relationship that's stale — you just need
some fresh material to discuss. So why not reinvigorate those mentoring
sessions by preparing a thoughtful, diverse slate of questions ahead of time?
Here are four types of questions to prepare ahead of every
mentoring conversation that will keep things interesting — and valuable — for
you and your mentor:
1. Stories. Hey, everybody likes to
talk about themselves! Ask your mentor to tell a story from his or her own
career. For example, you could ask, "How did you get to where you are
today?" or "Was there a time you messed up and felt like you'd
failed? What did you do to recover?" or "What do you wish you had
known before your first management role?"
2. Situations. Bring a situation that you'd
like your mentor's help navigating. For example, "I tried to delegate a
task last week and it did not go as well as I'd expected. Can you help me think
through what to do differently next time?" or "I have these two very
different career path options and would like your help making a decision"
or "How can I let my boss know that I don't need to be micromanaged?"
3. Self-awareness. One of the greatest gifts
you can give yourself is the gift of self-awareness, meaning the ability to see
yourself as others perceive you. That way, if you like how you're perceived,
you can embrace it and take steps to strengthen that positive perception. If
you don't like how you are currently perceived, you can take steps to change
that perception to a more positive one.
Your mentor can help by "holding up the mirror" and
giving you feedback on how your actions and communication are impacting the way
others see you. Ask a question, such as, "When I presented in that meeting
last week, how did I do?" or "Could you give me feedback on ways to
improve my leadership presence?" or "Am I coming across as
high-maintenance when I send my boss weekly status updates?"
4. Skill-building. Is there a skill you're
currently working to enhance, such as project management, long-term strategic planning, delegating or public
peaking? Ask your mentor for advice and resources that will help you polish
By preparing a new variation of each one of these four questions
before every mentoring conversation, you can all but guarantee that you'll have
interesting conversations for years to come.
Bonus: Share this list with those you mentor and encourage them
to prep ahead of time. You'll never sit through another mentoring conversation
wondering if the other person is finding the relationship useful.
Jo Miller, CEO of Women's Leadership Coaching Inc. and founding editor of BeLeaderly.com, facilitates the NEW Leadership Academy webinars designed to help emerging leaders build core
skills and prepare for top management roles in their organizations.
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