Being a parent is full of leadership lessons. I was reminded of a lesson about mentoring as we potty trained our youngest. Typically the training of toddlers is more a command and control approach that you should try to avoid in mentoring. However, potty training is different. I’m going to spare you the details because the lesson is in the approach. The approach is centered around asking them a question. Questions are a powerful tool for mentoring and training. By asking rather than telling, the other person has to think through each of their statements. Although they may doing all of the talking, you still have control of the discussion.
As a leader, mentoring is one of your greatest responsibilities. Inc’s article on 5 Qualities of a Remarkable Boss had the first quality as “develop all of your employees”. You aren’t going to develop others by just telling them what you know or what to do. You have to help them walk through the alternatives with questions so that they learn during the discovery process. Michael Hyatt touched on the importance of asking questions in his 7 Suggestions For Asking More Powerful Questions post. The key with questions is you want to use questions to keep pushing the discussion deeper into the issue.
Digging deeper through questions is done in three simple steps:
- Ask a question
- Listen to their response (note taking can be very helpful here)
- Ask another question about their response
It’s not rocket science, but not every mentoring relationship works this way. When you are working with others, how much of the time are you talking versus listening? Do you have a favorite question that seems to really help peel back the layers of the issue for the other person?