The Quality of Your Questions

The best mentor-mentee relationships thrive on curiosity and powerful questions. Mentors should resist the urge to “fix” problems and avoid prescribing specific actions. Mentees should focus less on being who they think their mentor wants and more on approaching interactions with a willingness to learn, grow, and discover how to think.

I am always seeking great questions to facilitate these interactions. Recently, I discovered three excellent questions while listening to the audiobook Clear Thinking* by Shane Parrish. Parrish suggests that when seeking advice, your goal should be to understand how the other person thinks, not just what they think. Although his book is not specifically about mentoring, the questions he proposes can be highly beneficial for both mentees and mentors.

Questions Mentees can ask their Mentors
Mentees might ask….

1. What variables would you consider if you were in my shoes?
How do these variables relate to one another?

2. What do you know about this problem that I don’t?
What can you see based on your experience that someone without it cannot?
What do you know that most people don’t?

3. What would your process be for making this decision if you were in my shoes?

Questions Mentors can ask their Mentees
These questions are also valuable for mentors. Instead of offering solutions or suggestions, mentors can prompt their mentees to reflect by asking:

1. What variables in this decision are important to you?
Who else or what else does this decision impact?

2. What are you most worried about in making this decision?
What possibility excites you the most?

3. What have you tried so far?
What do you think is the best process for this decision?

These questions encourage reflection and empower mentees to solve both the current problem they are facing and future problems. They also enable mentees to develop authentic solutions that fit their unique needs, values, and learning styles.

What questions have you used to encourage clear thinking in your mentoring relationships?

*Clear Thinking by Shane Parrish: (Farnam Street, 2023, ISBN: 0593086112)

The quality of your questions

Ikigai and Moai Principles Offer a Transformative Mentoring Approach

Written by: Angela McGuire | January 2024

Over the past year I have had the privilege of participating in the genesis of a Blues Zones city in the southeastern region of the United States. Blue Zones employs evidence-based solutions to help people live better and longer by making healthier choices easier where people live, work, learn, and play ( Ikigai and Moai are two of the tenets intertwined in the Blue Zones model for living a healthier life.  Though these concepts aren’t specific to mentoring, exploring their relevance to mentoring relationships unveils a unique synergy that fosters personal growth and connection.

Ikigai, often described as the intersection of what you love, what you are good at, what the world needs, and what you can be paid for, serves as a compass for individuals seeking purpose. When applied to mentoring, it becomes a guiding principle for both mentors and mentees, encouraging them to align their passions, skills, and contributions within the mentoring dynamic. Mentors, driven by their Ikigai, can provide more meaningful guidance. By identifying their own purpose and values, mentors can inspire and be a guide to their mentees as they explore their own unique intersections. This alignment facilitates a deeper connection and a more authentic mentoring experience. For mentees, understanding their Ikigai helps them set clear goals and expectations. It empowers them to actively seek mentors whose experiences and values resonate with their own Ikigai. This intentional approach contributes to a mentoring relationship that goes beyond skill development, nurturing personal and professional fulfillment.

Moai is a Japanese term for social support groups which emphasizes the importance of community and shared experiences. In mentoring relationships, Moai principles encourage the formation of supportive networks around the mentor-mentee relationship. This collective support system amplifies the impact of mentoring, providing diverse perspectives and shared wisdom. The research of mentoring scholars like Kathy Kram and Belle Rose Ragins shows the power of developmental networks such as these on mentee growth. Kram and Ragins (2007) encourage those in mentoring relationships to not only take part in developmental networks but to strengthen their value through mutual learning and fostering more connections. Mentors and mentees can engage in group discussions, collaborative projects, and shared learning experiences. This not only enriches the mentoring process but also creates a supportive network that extends beyond individual pairings. By intertwining Ikigai and Moai dynamics in mentoring, a collective sense of purpose emerges. Mentoring relationships go beyond individual journeys but also contribute to a broader community with shared values and goals. This interconnectedness enhances the overall impact, creating a ripple effect of positive influence.

In mentoring relationships, the incorporation of Ikigai and Moai principles offers a transformative approach. Mentors and mentees, driven by their unique purpose, find enhanced meaning and fulfillment in their journey together. As the mentoring landscape evolves, embracing these Japanese concepts can pave the way for more purposeful and connected relationships.

Ragins, B. R. and Kram, K. (2007). The Handbook of Mentoring at Work. Sage Publications, Inc.

Strategizing for Success on Social Media

Getting the word out about your vision and mission out to the world is literally at our fingertips, and while that may seem straightforward…it’s not. There are so many strategies out there and it can be so challenging to figure out where to begin or how to pivot one’s social media strategy. CEO for CME, Lisa Fain, chats with Becky Robinson, creator and host of “The Book Marketing Action Podcast,” about the power of social media and the struggles that come along the way. 

Dismantling Racism: How Mentors Can Create Change Through Allyship: Part 3, Create Space for Feedback

In mentoring, it is essential that we bridge differences between individuals to form more meaningful connections. This can be beneficial for networking, job satisfaction, upward mobility, and general well-being. As a mentor or mentee, you may be different from your mentee in race, religious affiliation, gender, sex, or any other element of your identity. White mentors can develop antiracist behaviors in their personal and professional lives by having an allyship partner on their allyship journey. 

Photo of books stacked on top of each other

For more on how to create an allyship partner, see our last blog post. Today, we add another component to your allyship journey. Much of the work you have done up to this point has probably been internal. You have taken the time to think about your interactions and experiences from your perspective. A good ally seeks and is receptive to feedback from others about their behavior. 

You aren’t growing unless you are receiving feedback. Life experiences, perspective-taking, and feedback have taught me some of the greatest (and hardest lessons). A few years ago, I attended an event on white fragility with a group of friends. Nearly all of us are White, as was most of the audience. One of my Black friends, we’ll call her Makayla, also joined. We were waiting in line for entry to the auditorium when a White man from the crowd began questioning several group members about the premise of white fragility. In initially a curious tone, he did so but started to get more aggressive with his questions. Quickly, all of his questions became targeted towards Makayla. We were all uncomfortable with his line of questioning, yet no one stepped in to assist Makayla as she fielded all of his questions. 

Makayla later told me that this had upset and disappointed her (looking back, it’s pretty apparent why she felt that way). The irony that I was in line for a white fragility talk, and I felt uncomfortable stepping in to assist my friend as she talked to a persistently ignorant white man is not lost on me. What’s more, I didn’t learn about, nor did I realize, how much this had bothered her until nearly a year later. Not only had I failed to practice what I preach, but I had also failed a friend in several ways. I did not help her when she needed help, and I had not opened myself up for feedback from her. Sure, I could talk about racial injustice research, but could I walk the walk when it mattered? If it weren’t for her sharing this story, I would not have realized that I needed to become a more active ally. While I’m glad Makayla was able to share the story, I wished that I would have a.) made myself open for feedback from her sooner, and b.) realized my mistake on my own.  

This story has multiple components we can use to talk about allyship for mentors. How do you know when to step up to support a person of color? How do you ensure that you are open to feedback? How do you seek feedback? How do you respond to feedback?  

Inviting Feedback  

Feedback. Is it me, or does that word suck the life out of you? I’m a person that thrives off of receiving feedback, and I still hate the phrase, “Can I give you some feedback?” In her book, Feedback (and Other Dirty Words), Tamra Chandler reminds us that we are conditioned to automatically tense when we become aware of the potential for receiving feedback. Although negative feedback may not feel good, it can indeed be a gift. When Makayla reminded me of that incident, I drove home with nothing but that event re-playing in my mind. I cringed at the memory, but I needed that feedback to grow. 

Receiving feedback when it comes to your allyship performance is especially difficult. It’s a direct hit to your ego and values, making it some of the most challenging feedback you will ever receive. I encourage you to seek feedback regarding your antiracist behaviors from a trusted allyship partner. By this point, you have spent time building trust, creating boundaries, and getting to know each other. Thus, feedback will feel less harmful from someone you know has your best interest at heart. You may even seek feedback about how you are receiving feedback from their feedback!  

Below are some tips that you can use to prepare yourself for feedback. Practice and discuss these techniques and others with your allyship partner in your next meeting. You may choose to start with general feedback about how the mentoring relationship progresses before addressing allyship behaviors. Practicing receiving and giving feedback with your allyship partner will prepare you for other professional encounters and mentoring relationships.  

As I listened to Makayla’s feedback, I had to remind myself not to plead my case or apologize, listen actively, and plan to reflect and do better next time. Try to pay attention to this as you and your partner give each other feedback.  

When I got home from the conversation with Makayla, I called my allyship partner, another White woman on her own allyship journey. I told her how terrible I felt for hurting my friend, not walking the walk, and not being mindful of my mistake. She listened, and we collaborated on ways for both of us to identify moments when we can amplify voices of color and step into conversations for support.  Your allyship partner will serve as a neutral agent that can help you process the event to extract the most developmental opportunities. 

 Use the feedback as momentum to propel you and your allyship to do better next time. 

The combination of practicing and seeking feedback from like-minded folks will also give you momentum through your allyship journey. Lastly, remember that you are not alone on this journey. By now, you have your allyship partner, continue to use this relationship as a tool for reflection, practice, and discussion. 

Next Post:Amplify Voices of Color 

CME is honored to be named a Top 10 Mentoring Blog  by Feedspot