Questioning your career ambitions, goals, and objectives inspires you to think and, perhaps, take action. By asking questions effectively, mentors can inspire their proteges to think in innovative ways. They also can guide their proteges’ decision making while allowing them to discover and learn things for themselves.
Discovering things on your own is often the best way to learn. Sometimes, asking your protege the right question at the right time can be like opening a door for him. To guide your protege effectively, you need to:
- use open-ended questions,
- use an opening statement to set a direction, followed by a provocative question,
- avoid questions that elicit a defensive response, and
- avoid dead-end questions.
Use open-ended questions
Questions requiring more than a few words to answer are more apt to elicit elaboration and emotion than are closed- ended questions. A protege responding to an open-ended question has an opportunity to explain his point of view.
Open-ended questions also work on the premise that there is no right or wrong answer.
Using opening statements
Another technique involves using an opening statement to set a direction for the conversation, followed by a provocative question to get the protege thinking.
A powerful question invites the protege to consider new possibilities, look to the future, and contemplate things in a different way. For example, after pointing out that new technologies are going to require different techniques, you might ask your protege how he sees his team doing things differently in five years time.
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