A mentor can be an extremely valuable source of knowledge and support for both business leaders and specialists. Using mentoring at the right time can easily open new doors to achieving your dream goal and create completely new opportunities for development - both professionally and personally. In order to make the best use of the mentor's support, it is worth knowing what goal we want to achieve. And on the next level, it is worth knowing what questions we can ask our mentor to get the most out of mentoring, which is a very effective method of personal development.
Depending on what goal we want to achieve as a result of the mentor-mentee relationship, the questions asked to the mentor can be radically different. And how good the question is depends on how good the answer can be.
In addition, we do not always have a chance to work with a selected mentor on a permanent basis. But we can take advantage of opportunities and ad hoc meetings with a person we consider a mentor or an experienced and trustworthy person. Take advantage of this situation and ask for advice. Such development support can be called situational mentoring.
In many companies, we also often deal with visits by members of senior management, which usually end with one large meeting of all employees of a given location with guests representing senior or top management of a given company. This opportunity can also be used to ask an interesting question. And benefit not only from the answer obtained but also, if you wish ... to shine against the background of the whole team :-) This will certainly be noticed by the bosses of your location.
In the list below you will find information on various types of questions that can be asked to a mentor - depending on what goal you want to achieve as a mentee in a permanent mentoring relationship, in the so-called mentoring relationship. situational mentoring or team meetings with senior management.
Different types of questions you can ask your Mentor
It doesn't matter if you are a business leader at any level of management, a project leader, or an independent specialist or expert in a given field. You can always learn something from other people. Maybe you're wondering how to take your career to the next level. Or maybe you are facing difficult business problems? Or maybe you are struggling with a difficult co-worker or client, or you suffer from conflicts and difficulties in interpersonal communication. Or maybe you just want to be a better leader? Or do you admire a person and would like to know how they got to where they are now and how they worked on themselves? Or maybe you are bothered by company policy or are afraid of making mistakes that you believe would negatively affect your reputation and future career. Or maybe you would like to develop further, but you don't know which way to go?
These are just examples of topics that you can approach a mentor with. A full list would be long and will undoubtedly depend on your company's organizational culture and level of trust (or hypocrisy) within it.
Here are examples of the different types of questions you can ask your mentor depending on your situation and your needs.
Questions about the Mentor's personal experiences
We all like to talk about ourselves. Especially when it meets the interest of another person who is curious about our experiences and experiences.
One of the main types of questions you can ask a Mentor are questions about his/her personal experiences. You can ask your mentor to talk about a specific situation and explain how they handled it.
Here are some sample questions about Mentorai's personal experience:
What was the most difficult dilemma you faced in your professional career?
What are you most proud of about your professional experience?
Who has influenced your professional development the most? For what reason?
What helped you push your limits and find out how much potential you have?
What was the funniest situation in your professional life that you witnessed or caused?
How did you do with public speaking? How did you prepare for them?
How did you work with someone you didn't like?
What are your most valuable experiences related to multiculturalism and working in an international environment? (if applicable)
What would you do differently if the situation happened again?
If you could write a letter to yourself 10 or 20 years younger than yourself, what would the letter primarily contain? What advice would you like to give yourself?
Questions related to expanding your self-awareness through the Mentor experience
Asking your mentor questions about your self-awareness journey can be an incredibly revealing experience. Many successful business leaders have had to dig deep into their minds to get to where they are right now. By learning from their mistakes, learning how they accepted or overcame their weaknesses, how they worked on themselves, and how they discovered their individual, unique style, you can gain access to invaluable knowledge that you will not get during any training.
Here are some examples of questions for a Mentor that relate to his own journey in expanding his self-awareness:
What have been your greatest successes and failures?
What have you learned from these experiences?
How did you discover your strengths and weaknesses?
Were there any turning points in your professional career? If so, what was it and what changed in you as a result of those moments?
In your professional development, have you focused on strengthening your strengths or on improving your weaknesses? Why?
Have you always taken the so-called constructive feedback?
How did you deal with the dilemma between people's perceptions and their expectations, and being yourself?
How did you choose what you need most for your development at a given stage?
Did you use any specific techniques or rituals to get to know yourself better and expand your self-awareness?
Have you ever had your own Mentor or Coach? If so, what have you learned most about yourself from this collaboration?
How do you identify and remove blind spots in the area of your own self-awareness?
How did you learn to listen so well?
How did you learn to ask good questions?
What was the most important lesson you learned about yourself on your journey of expanding your self-awareness?
In the area of expanding your self-awareness, you can also use the self-coaching method, i.e. the art of asking yourself questions. On our blog, you will find a series of articles on self-coaching and using this method to solve problems, deal with difficult situations, make decisions, analyze your thinking, and discover blind spots or identify cognitive biases.
Questions to Mentor that develop your skills and competencies
Skill-based questions can help you identify areas where you need to improve or find the best solutions to achieve your goals. Your Mentor may have faced the same challenges throughout their career. Asking how he or she has overcome possible obstacles with specific skills, or asking how the Mentor perceives your current level of specific skills, can provide you with valuable information.
Below are some examples of questions you can ask your Mentor. They are part of the skill development question type:
What specific skills should I develop to achieve my goals?
In what order should you develop individual skills? Is there any important relationship between them?
How to choose methods of developing selected skills? Is participation in training always a good solution?
Which of my current skills are good enough that further polishing won't be worth the effort?
What is your opinion on the importance of soft skills and technical skills? What is the main success factor in today's business environment?
What skills have you found most useful in achieving your goals?
How have your needs for specific skill development changed as your career progressed?
What skills have proven universal at every stage of your career?
What is the most important thing about learning new skills?
Questions for the Mentor about the art of management and leadership
If you are a leader, manager, manager, or even a director or head, a good Mentor can be very helpful in developing your leadership and management skills, as well as support you in creating your unique, authentic style of effective leadership.
Importantly, when you, as a leader, ask a Mentor about the role and responsibilities related to project management, a good Mentor can help you match your style to the needs of the project and the project team you manage.
By working with a good Mentor, you can also learn a situational leadership style. Extensive information on Ken Blanchard's situational leadership model can be found on our subpage. It explains, among others, the four stages of employee readiness and the rules for choosing the right leadership style depending on the diagnosed situation:
One of the most important assets of an authentic and effective leader is understanding when to micromanage and when to let go and hand over responsibility to team members. Therefore, do not hesitate to ask the Mentor about micromanagement, as it is often necessary in the early stages of a project, in the process of building a new team, and in all those situations where the team faces great uncertainty and the situation changes frequently.
Below you will find questions for the Mentor, which are of the type related to leadership and management:
What is the most important thing about being a good leader?
How would you describe your leadership style?
What behaviors does a good business leader demonstrate?
What makes your team members want to follow you?
What should I pay special attention to in order to become an authentic and effective leader?
How do you best choose your team members? What criteria to follow?
I have this situation in the team... How can I best deal with it?
How can I help employees feel comfortable and safe in the workplace?
How do I make people on my team trust each other? How to build trust?
How can I create an environment where employees feel comfortable talking about their workplace challenges?
What specific steps can I take to build team engagement?
What's the best way to encourage team members to collaborate?
How do you communicate difficult news to people?
How to set good business goals?
What is the key to an objective assessment of the employee's work, which will be accepted by him with understanding?
What is the best way to provide constructive feedback to individual team members?
Are there differences in the approach to people from different generations? What?
How to learn how to best deal with people from the selected national culture?
How to create a good team consisting of representatives of different nationalities?
How does hybrid or remote working affect leadership?
Do adults really need to be motivated?
What role does the leader's focus on their professional development play in motivating team members?
What's the best way to negotiate a salary increase?
How to deal with a toxic employee?
How to make a decision to dismiss an employee and how best to implement it?
What challenges should I anticipate when taking on a new role?
How can I best prepare myself for a new, larger professional role?
What are the signs that I'm micromanaging too much?
How do I know when is the right time to step back and let others take responsibility?
How do I know when micromanagement is absolutely necessary?
How can I manage the team flexibly without hampering the innovative spirit of those involved?
How to take care of yourself wisely to be full of energy and commitment as a leader?
Questions to Mentor that develop your interpersonal communication
Approx. 80% of all business problems stem from poor communication. Therefore, as a leader, do not hesitate to ask the Mentor for advice on how to develop good interpersonal communication. Both between you and your team, as well as between you and your boss, your main stakeholders, and your team members. In this way, you will avoid awkward misunderstandings, conflicts, or arguments that negatively affect you and your team.
One of the underestimated aspects of interpersonal communication is the influence of national culture. If you work in an international or multicultural environment, becoming aware of how the culture of a particular nation or language affects communication between people can be fundamental.
More information on the influence of national culture on relations between people can be found in a comprehensive study entitled "Cultural Types - Lewis Model":
Here are examples of questions for the Mentor in the field of interpersonal communication:
What is the key to effective interpersonal communication?
What does "listen to hear, not to respond" mean?
How can I learn to listen well to others?
What are "I" and "you" messages? Could you show me a specific example?
Why are open questions better than closed questions? Does this rule always apply?
Could we practice asking open-ended questions?
What is the importance of non-verbal communication in interpersonal communication? Could you show me specific examples?
How would you rate my communication skills? What should I pay attention to?
What's the best way to ask for constructive feedback?
What is the best way to encourage honest and open communication among my team members?
What are the barriers to interpersonal communication resulting from cultural differences? (if applicable)
How to learn to recognize upcoming conflicts in the team?
How much and when should the leader be involved in solving conflicts in the team?
What's the best way to give clear instructions to my team members to reduce the need for micromanagement later on?
How do I make sure I am well-understood by my team members?
How do I know if my messages are accepted by the recipients?
Is it better to use e-mail or direct conversation to communicate with my team, key clients, and key stakeholders?
Do individual departments of our company have any preferences regarding the way of communication?
What are good written communication practices?
What is the key to a good business presentation?
Is storytelling just a fad or a good tool to be used in specific situations? In which?
What's the best way to design a presentation for senior management? What do these senior leaders pay special attention to?
How to deal with a difficult boss?
How to recognize what communication style my boss prefers?
How do I set healthy boundaries in my relationship with my boss?
How to wisely give constructive feedback to your boss?
How to learn company diplomacy and deal with company politics?
How to recognize when to be soft in written communication and when to be assertive or to specify your expectations hard?
How is assertiveness different from arrogance or aggressiveness?
Can my level of proficiency in English (or another language) affect how I am perceived by foreigners (if applicable)
Questions You Can Ask Your Mentor in Situational Mentoring
Situational mentoring can take place in very different situations. You can run into a person you respect in the office kitchen or relax room, you can meet them in the company canteen for lunch or during a business dinner in a restaurant. If you work in a very tall office building, you can also find yourself in an elevator with such a person :-) It's good if you are in such a situation just the two of you, because it will be conducive to openness and honesty of the conversation.
But it may also happen that there is a person in your company whom you trust and who you value as more experienced. And such a mentor does not have to be from your department. And you don't have to belong to his department for the Mentor to be willing to spend a moment with you and give you a valuable answer. Smart bosses or mentor bosses don't divide people in this way and are genuinely interested in the development of other people - regardless of their affiliation.
In that case (and in the case of your company's open-door culture), you can simply drop into the boss-mentor's room and ask for a few minutes of time and advice on solving the problem you're facing. Please note that everyone, including you, when wisely asked for advice - your first instinct is to give it.
What all these situations have in common is the limited amount of time you have for each other. So you have to be concise, specific, and at the same time authentic and determined.
Below you will find a list of sample questions for the Mentor, which belong to the type of situational questions:
I greatly value your experience in X and have long wanted to ask you for your opinion on Y. This meeting is an unexpected opportunity for me and I would very much like to take advantage of it. Could you share your opinion with me?
Many people have advised me to turn to you for advice, mainly because of your experience and openness to other people. Now I've plucked up the courage to ask you for 5 minutes of your time and advice on a problem I'm facing.
I remember your presentation X or your words/behavior that made an impression on me (of course you have to refer to a real and specific situation). I now have a unique opportunity to ask you directly for your advice, and I would very much like to take it.
I am very happy about this unexpected meeting. Would you like to advise me on one thing? I would be very grateful for your opinion, and I value your opinion very much.
Questions to use when meeting senior executives
At the beginning of this column, we mentioned that we can treat the visit of senior management as an opportunity to take advantage of it. If you feel comfortable asking questions in a public forum and at the same time there is someone among the representatives of senior management who you sincerely admire or are curious about - I encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity.
This can apply both to meetings in the online videoconference mode (where you can submit a question via chat or even anonymously), as well as meetings of the whole team in a large conference room or another capacious auditorium. The latter form of meeting is, of course, the biggest challenge, because you have to get up, show yourself to everyone, and ask a question in public, often using a microphone.
It's worth doing it at least once in your life to experience it yourself, see that "the wolf is not so scary" and thanks to this experience you can also learn something new about yourself.
The difficulty of such meetings and such questions lies mainly in the fear of making a fool of ourselves. That we will be ridiculed by others (mainly those who are afraid to take such a step themselves). We also enter into a dialogue with someone we usually perceive as smarter or more important than us. And that takes courage.
So the question should be smart enough on the one hand, neutral enough on the other, but true enough on the third. Otherwise, participants will sense falsehood or a desire to promote themselves.
Therefore, I encourage you to make your curiosity the main criterion for asking a question in such a situation. If you are genuinely curious about the person or topic you want to ask about - the opportunity will be used to your advantage.
Here are some examples of questions you can ask in a meeting with senior management:
What gives you the greatest satisfaction in your job?
What makes you smile when you get up in the morning for work? (asked with a smile)
What is your typical day or week at work like?
What was one of the most valuable professional pieces of advice you've heard during your professional career?
Who inspires you and why?
If you had an unlimited choice, from all over the world (living or dead), who would you like to have dinner with and why?
What do you think is the biggest challenge facing business leaders today?
What do you think about the new trend X?
What kind of job would you be totally unsuited to and why? (that's obviously a half-joking, half-serious question)