Expert Panel, Forbes Coaches Council
Many great leaders have credited their success to having a strong relationship with their mentor. Mentors, by nature, are there to provide newer—and even more seasoned—professionals with insight and knowledge from their past experiences. However, to really benefit from your mentor-mentee relationship, you’ll have to know what questions to ask them to gain the knowledge and information you seek. The same rule applies when you’re hiring a coach to help you on your leadership journey.
To help steer you in the right direction, we asked a panel of Forbes Coaches Council members to share the most important questions you should be asking your leadership mentor or coach. Their best answers are below.
Forbes Coaches Council members share the key questions everyone should ask to get the most out of their mentoring or coaching relationships.
1. Can you help me identify my blind spots?
We all have them, blind spots. Blind spots can be the behaviors or skills we need to polish in order to be more effective—to have a greater impact on the organizations and people we serve. Sometimes a blind spot is a bad habit or something we should stop doing. In order to have the impact we should as leaders, we need honest people around us to help us identify and overcome those blind spots. - Dr. Teresa Ray, PCC, Dr. Teresa Ray
2. Where are my areas of opportunity?
A great question leaders should always be asking is, "Where are my areas of opportunity?" This shows you know you're not perfect and respect your mentor's ability to spot opportunities for improvement, growth and development. This question is also broad enough that your mentor can tap into both personal and professional areas, which will ensure the great opportunity for change. - Miranda VonFricken, Miranda VonFricken Mastermind Coaching
3. What is holding me back from my next level?
When a leader is "coachable," they are in a space of ongoing curiosity, learning and growth. They are not attached to their ego, having to "know" or be seen as the expert or authority. In this vulnerable but high-growth state, a leader can continue to rocket their development as they regularly explore areas where they might be hijacked by a "weakness," playing small or holding themselves back. - Christy Geiger MCC, CPCC, Synergy Strategies Coaching & Training
4. How can I make better decisions?
Decision making is a core attribute of a successful leader. Decisions depend on a cognitive and emotional process. They are prone to cognitive biases that leaders are often unaware of. Highlighting these biases opens the way for improving future decisions. Together with a coach, a leader can explore the root cause of a bad decision by exploring the underlying belief and feeling to learn from it. - Silke Glaab, SilkCelia
5. Which skill should I focus on?
"What one skill should I focus on to improve my leadership style?" All leaders have shortcomings that could be improved upon. Skills such as communicating the vision and goals, motivating teams through collaboration and trust and developing others vary from company to company and need to be improved upon. - Beverly Harvey, HarveyCareers, LLC
6. How can I help you?
"How can I help you?" is a question that should be asked of a coach or a mentor. Coaching and mentoring relationships need to be dynamic, two-way interactions to be effective. Asking how one can help a coach or a mentor is important because it provides an opportunity for additional reflection and introspection for both parties involved, which can provide perspective unexamined previously. - Dennis Volpe, LRI
7. What's the most important leadership lesson you've learned?
It may seem odd to ask a mentor or coach to share their life lessons, but we teach and guide based on our own experiences. Understanding the perspectives and point-of-view of a coach or mentor is critical to understanding what informs their manner of listening and responding, provoking and leading. It also establishes transparent two-way dialogue, critical to a mutually beneficial relationship. - Joynicole Martinez, The Alchemist Agency
8. Who else should I speak to?
If you have established a strong relationship with your coach or mentor, they likely have a good grasp on what you are trying to achieve. In addition, mentors and coaches frequently have strong professional networks of their own, that include colleagues they consider to be even more knowledgeable than themselves. Ask who else in their network would be ideal to connect with. A hidden gem may await you! - Karan Rhodes, Shockingly Different Leadership
9. What are my end goals?
Asking about the end results or impact of any advice should be a standard question after each piece of advice is received. It can be as simple as, "To what end?" The answer will not only provide clarification, but will also allow the recipient to individualize the steps as well as the motivation needed to implement the advice. Clear goals will lead to better tactical and strategic adjustments as needed. - Kamyar Shah, World Consulting Group
10. When I look in the mirror, how should I react to myself?
It's easy to poke holes in or critique other departments or people. We have to all look in the mirror and take responsibility for our teams, companies and clients. The realization each day that "I should look in the mirror" may be new for leaders or those who have been working on their own independently. The feeling these reflections cause can be hard to address, so ask for help from your mentor. - Joanne Markow, GreenMason
11. Who coaches or mentors you?
“What do you work on with your coach or mentor?” is a question that leaders should ask of those who coach or mentor them. Learning is the fuel for excellence and is critical to staying relevant and adaptable. Coaches and mentors who have coaches and mentors themselves demonstrate they are learners also. The learning mindset the coach or mentor brings to the relationship adds value for the leader. - Jonathan Silk, Bridge 3 LLC
12. What might not work in our coaching relationship?
There are questions clients ask about leadership development. However, there are those about a coach that shed some light on a person who is about to support you in reaching your goals. My favorite is, “What might not work in our coaching relationship?” It indicates the coach’s self-awareness and experience. Moreover, it is the best way to think about obstacles and how to deal with them. - Inga Bielińska, Inga Arianna Bielinska Coaching Consulting Mentoring
13. What would you do if you were me?
It seems so easy to assume that this question is being thought of by those who you are in a mentoring or coaching relationship with, but it is not. Ask this question and listen to the response. Usually the power shifts and responsibility shifts to the coach or mentor in a greater role-playing way. They will give you context to why they think, being you, your next move is crucial or imperative. Listen. - John M. O'Connor, Career Pro Inc.
14. What are you noticing about me?
In order to grow, we need different perspectives on ourselves as leaders. When you ask your mentor or coach, "What are you noticing?" you're likely to get a new view of how you're showing up. Your coaches and mentors, who are invested in your success, can help you understand both what's going well and where you might want to focus your development. - Kate Dixon, Dixon Consulting
15. Ask them your most ‘burning’ question.
All questions are important, and it is true that some are more than others. As a coach, I ask my mentees to start with the most “burning question,” not in the mind but in the spirit. What is really burning inside of you that you must ask and that you must find the answer to? That is a question worth asking. Nothing is more important than answering the questions of the heart. - Adriana Rosales, Adriana & Company™ LLC
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