I had an energising mentoring session this week with a CEO whom I have worked with for a number of years – with challenging thinking for us both around organisations they partner with. It was an intense hour and a half, during which we shone light on 2 or 3 key issues to be addressed and worked out a way forwards.
For me, mentoring seeks to clarify the current situation – its impact on the person, their team, their organisation or a partnership before moving forwards into options and potential solutions. We need to get all parts of the “story” together.
As I asked questions, the picture became clearer, both to me and the CEO. As I am not part of the organisation’s dynamics, I am able to engage in a process outside their usual ways of looking at issues and of doing things. Mentoring is like shining a light on an issue or concern because the mentor comes with a fresh set of eyes.
My role is to ask questions to understand all aspects of any situation – not seeking at this early stage to focus on a solution. Questions might relate to internal and external impacts, or staff and roles, or funding and expectations – or whether the person has faced situations like this before and can draw on that experience and use strategies that are transferrable to this situation. Open questions are best – those that begin with Who, What, When, Where, Why and How. I also use the ‘One Thing’ question – if there was one thing that you could do differently/have an impact on/create change with, what would it be? These questions often open up not previously thought of possibilities.
In mentoring sessions, I summarize what I have understood and then ask the person being mentored what they now see as the options open to them – what steps they might take next to address the situation that we are discussing. I will add in options for us to consider together. I believe that we arrive at the solutions and/or strategies jointly, having shone a light on both the issues and the possibilities. People often say they no longer feel ‘stuck’, and have clarity, a new way of considering the situation and a way forwards. The CEO now has an additional suite of options and strategies around some exciting potential partnership options.