Mentors who want to get to know their mentees can and should ask a variety of questions which help their mentees to tell their story.
At times, mentors need to ask closed, yes or no, questions. These are often sprinkled throughout our engagement with one another. Have their place, but usually not useful for the objective of facilitating authentic sharing.
Leading questions are more problematic from the standpoint of helping the mentee to authentically share because through them the question asker tends to impute his/her own interpretation or agenda into the person’s story. Avoid them!
For the purpose of really getting to know the mentee and his/her story, open-ended questions are much better. Practice them!
The Best Kind of Open-Ended Question
I’d like to share with you the fruit of a certain kind of open-ended question – those designed to draw out actions that the person loves to do which bring a deep sense of fulfillment. These are called achievement stories using achievement in a broad sense of the word.
My own mission in life as a coach and a consultant and a parent is to help people recognize and develop their unique patterns of motivated gifts so that they can serve others according to them.
When we open up a person’s stories of achievement these unique gifts begin to emerge. Not time for a full-scale treatment of this process but let me share with you some of the many ways that drawing on a mentee’s achievement story enables knowledge of the mentee, blesses the mentee, and enriches the whole mentor relationship.
It engages the person around the memory of action that, ultimately, was full of joy and fulfillment. In recollecting the memory the person in many ways re-presents it and has the opportunity, at least in part, to relive it.
What a gift!
Story, Centered on Deeply Fulfilling Action
Now, the achievement story is deeply personal and subjective, but also is about person being in action where they often forget about themselves. There is often an ecstatic aspect of the action. Thus, the person opens up. Bears his/her soul.
Because the achievement story is about what person did well and enjoyed doing it is often about their unique strengths. So it is incredibly positive and affirming.
This provides insight, incredible insight, into how the person really wants to engage. So, the mentor begins to understand not just the person’s story but how to effectively engage, teach, even manage the person if management is a part of the relationship.
Finally, the very process of people recollecting their activities of joyful action and telling those stories can be hugely revelatory for the person telling the story.
My experience is that actually people seldom are asked to share their achievement stories and that when people respond to the question “tell me about yourself” they don’t often choose to unfold achievement stories.
Thus, many folks have not really taken the time to reflect upon them and what such stories tell about how God has designed them.
A) Think back and tell me about an activity you have deeply enjoyed doing and believe you have done well
B) what exactly did you do?
C) what was so deeply satisfying about it?
When you ask them those simple open ended questions, especially about several different activities, many people experience for the first time a strong sense of a pattern of unique design. As they speak they see the pattern emerge, they feel the contours of their heart oriented in a clear direction, gain a sense of God’s unique design.
Finally, this series of open ended achievement oriented questions, if asked by an attentive and empathic listener is an act of great love for the other, a love oriented toward the flourishing of the person, a love that seeks for the other to be revealed according to God’s design and to fulfill that design.