• James Walton

How to Make the Most of a Mentor

The best way to make the most of a mentor is to ask process-focused questions more than outcome-focused questions. Process focused questions investigate how someone thinks about a business challenge. Outcome focused questions investigate what someone did when faced with a business challenge. Sure, it's helpful to know what steps were taken and what the outcome was. But the chances of being in the exact same situation with the exact same variables where the exact same prescription will result in the exact same outcomes are small. Better to try to understand how the challenge was approached, how the risks were weighted, how the stakeholders were engaged, how the communication plan was rolled out and the how competing priorities were balanced.  Here's a few ways to ask better process-focused questions the next time you connect with a mentor: "It sounds like _______ was a big issue for you. How did you decide to double-down on that priority over the other opportunities?" "You've achieved sustained success in this area, tell me a little more about the characteristics in your daily life that contributed most to that success." "How did you approach _____________? Knowing what you know now, what would you have done differently?" The goal is to learn how to think more clearly, in order to act more appropriately, given the uniqueness of your circumstances. And the best way to reach that goal is to develop mental models based on the insight of trustworthy guides. Asking process-focused questions helps get you there. What process-based questions have you found helpful? I’d love to hear them from you.


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