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2 Questions Every Mentor Should Ask Up Front

16 Nov

What if there was a way to quickly identify passion, strengths, and personality for purposes of mentoring?

English: Apprentice. Man and boy making shoes.

English: Apprentice. Man and boy making shoes. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you’ve been a mentor, you know there is nothing more frustrating than pouring time and energy into someone who simply isn’t “getting it.”  Not only is this frustrating, it can cause you to question your ability to mentor and make you wonder why you even bother trying.

But what if they’re just mis-matched to what you’re trying to teach them?  How do we create a good alignment of passion to productivity?

The formal solution might involve gift inventories or personality profiles to determine what areas and styles would be best suited to an individual.  And that’s great… if you have the time and money.  But in many of today’s non-profit, volunteer settings time and money are scarce.

What if there was a way to quickly identify passion, strengths, and personality for purposes of mentoring?

Try asking just two questions up front:

1.  What is it that you “can’t NOT do?”

The heart of this question is passion.  What is it that you can’t refrain from doing?  What is that thing you can do for hours at a time and not even notice time has passed?

The astute mentor will realize that you don’t often have to encourage people to pursue their passions (unless they are recovering from burnout or trauma).

But an astute mentor can encourage people to find a productive outlet for their passions.  Here are some examples:

  • One who loves to learn – could they be encouraged to share what they learn with others?  If so, you’ve just found a teacher
  • One who loves to build things – could they be encouraged to build things for organizations that work on a low-budget?  Or Habitat for Humanity, etc?
  • One who loves to run – could they be selective on races they enter and support good causes?  Or, if they also have an organizational talent, could they organize or sponsor a run for charity?

If you can identify what draws them like a moth to the light, you can tap into and endless stream of activity.  But if you can find a productive outlet for it, you can tap into an endless stream of productivity!

2.  What have other people repeatedly told you that you do well?

The heart of this question is OUTSIDE identification of sustained excellence.  Let’s unpack this question for a more complete understanding of what we’re after as we ask.

Other people:  As in “not the individual.”  People can have skewed views of their talents and abilities.  Look for outside references and don’t just take someone’s word for it.  I don’t think they’re evil, I think they just have a warped view of themselves.  I know this, because I’m human too!

Repeatedly:  Anyone can get lucky once.  But excellent performance over time is worth noting.  Look for trends and you will find someone who will make a difference.

DO: Notice we’re not asking what other people think about this person… we’re asking what they have observed this person doing.  Results rarely come from talking a good game.  Look for what is actually delivered.

Is this highly scientific?  Perhaps not.

But no one says you have to stop at these two questions.  You can still pursue more thorough means of identifying strengths, personality types, and all the normal tools.

If you’re ever looking to cut to the chase, these two simple questions can get you out of the blocks quickly and help you align passion to productivity.

What other questions or techniques do you use to quickly identify strengths and passions in others?  How do you align passion to productivity?

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Posted by on November 16, 2012 in Leadership

 

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