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The Art of Mentorship

1 min
mentoring  ✺  leadership  ✺  career  ✺  management

My all-time favorite question to ask as a mentor is...

"What makes you think that?"


1. Non-Judgmental Inquiry: Unlike the more direct "why," this question is non-judgmental and seeks to understand the mentee's perspective. It opens a safe space for honest dialogue, encouraging the mentee to share their thoughts freely.

2. Data vs. Interpretation: This question helps differentiate between raw data and personal interpretations. It prompts the mentee to provide specific instances that are driving their beliefs or conclusions, leading to more data-driven reasoning.

3. Understanding Mental Models: By asking this question, you get a glimpse into the mentee's mental model - how they interpret and make sense of what's happening around them. This insight allows for tailored guidance to both adjust it as well as engage in a way that resonates with the mentee's way of thinking.

4. Identifying the Real Challenge: Often, the issue a mentee brings up is just the tip of the iceberg. This question helps dig deeper, uncovering the actual challenge that needs addressing, which might be different from the initially presented problem.

5. Encourages Self-Reflection: This question encourages mentees to engage in self-reflection, a vital skill for personal and professional growth. It prompts them to examine their thought processes and assumptions, leading to greater self-awareness.


Suppose a mentee comes to you and states: "My team doesn't value my inputs and I am considering switching roles."

As their mentor you can use this question "What makes you think that?" to prompt them to share instances that led to this perception.

It might turn out that the issue is not about the value of their ideas but rather about how they are communicating them or the non-inclusive approach they are using to develop them.

This realization can lead to a focus on developing more effective communication and influencing skills.

What's your favorite question to ask as a mentor?

PS: Remember the question is just as effective as the active listening you employ once you ask it.