A Good Mentor-Coach Asks Right Questions by Kurt Wright

Kurt WrightExplore the four influence factors found in the background of every high achiever What Is a Mentor-Coach? Many years ago we began using the term “mentor-coach” to describe the behaviors that must be present for someone to be consistently on a roll. The reason we combined the words in this way is because most people imagine a mentor to be a giver of good advice, just as most people look outside themselves for answers.

Instead of rewarding this behavior, however, a good mentor-coach must be skilled at asking questions that help us look deep inside ourselves for answers.

And, since no amount of good advice could ever enable someone to be consistently on a roll, a good mentor-coach never gives advice. Another factor that supports being on roll is to have your locus of control based internally rather than externally. NULL

Having an internal locus of control means having a habit of looking deep within ourselves for the answers needed to guide our own lives.

It also makes it clear why we don’t need an advice-giving mentor. Whenever we allow someone to give us “good advice,” we inadvertently allow them to reinforce an unhealthy dependency on looking outside ourselves for answers. An easy way to spot advice givers, by the way, is listen for their use of the word “should,” whether directly or by implication. Another is to note their eagerness to offer opinions. Influence Factors We’ll begin by examining the four influence factors found in the background of every effortless high performer we have studied. These four factors provide a preliminary definition of the ideal mentor-coach. These factors, stated as outcomes, are simply:

  1. Feeling believed in.
  2. Being asked right questions.
  3. Learning to fully trust ourselves.
  4. Developing our own validation framework.

Feeling Believed In Comes from Being Asked the Right Questions

The ideal mentor-coach operates from the belief that the other person already possesses every answer they will ever need for guiding their own life. It certainly doesn’t feed our ego to operate in this manner, but it is the truth. We must also remind ourselves that advice is the very last thing any of us needs. The second influence factor is so closely tied to the first that we need to expand on it a bit before going into more detail on the first. Just because we already possess all the answers we ever need for guiding our own lives, doesn’t mean we have full conscious access to them.

Gaining access to our inner knowing needs an outside supply of right questions.

Therefore, we must have good questions which help us to gain access to those answers rather than giving advice. Remember, the desired outcome of all four influence factors is a locus of control firmly rooted inside of us, rather than outside. It seems that the best way to assure this result is through a special verbal communication process with someone who truly honors the strength of our inner knowing. In this way we can become deeply connected to the feeling that we are trusted, honored and believed in as a human being. Yet, while feeling honored and believed in is profoundly empowering, it can only sustain itself if we are also being asked right questions. Only in this way can our answers from within be drawn out and brought up into our conscious awareness. Once we are consciously aware of these answers, we can then choose to act on them and have them validated through life’s experiences. The longer we are exposed to the potent combination of having our feelings truly honored, and then being asked properly framed questions that help us put those feelings into words, the more self-sustaining the entire process becomes. Learning to Fully Trust Ourselves The third set of influence factors relates to self-trust. It has to do with the special support we need from another person in order for our conscious, rational self to become truly trusting of our inner, intuitive self. The easiest way to do this is to develop a mentor-coaching relationship in which we can be completely open with our innermost feelings. In other words, we need to experience a communication relationship in which we can be as open and vulnerable as needed without feeling threatened in any way. The principle at work here is this:

We can only trust that part of ourselves which we have revealed to another person and had validated instead of violated.

This prompts our next question. How much of ourselves do we wish to be able to trust? Ultimately, we need to be able to fully trust ourselves both alone and in the presence of others, and this is exactly what happens when this third set of influence factors is present. Most importantly, the more of ourselves we can trust, the better our chances for getting on and staying on a roll. Developing a Validation Framework The fourth set of influence factors is the development of a “validation framework,” and must occur if we are to be able to validate our own insights and inner knowing—without being dependent on others for either permission or approval.

The most effective validation framework is an ever-evolving vision of an ideal “something.”

This is simply a matter of choosing to wonder what an ideal (something) might look like. The item we decide to wonder about is most effective if it fully captures our imagination and takes years to completely fall into place. As you can probably see, it is technically possible to complete this step of establishing a validation framework on our own. In most cases, however, it will require the support of a good mentor-coach to make it happen. Once it is in place, we will feel amazingly free to move forward and take what others may see as huge risks without being unduly concerned over any apparent lack of support from others around us. Putting Questions in Context Before we offer guidelines for asking right questions, we must point out there are many different domains within which questions can serve us. In addition, to succeed in the world of asking intuition-engaging questions, we must learn to see our questions as “gifts” given freely and without strings to others. For some of us, this will take some adjustment. For most of us, it will be paradoxical. Mentor-Coaching Questions Access the Intuition Since the primary processing language of our intuition is feelings, mentor-coaching questions work best when we feel totally free to put our most deeply felt feelings into words—without the slightest concern over having those feelings analyzed or judged. Our most valuable insights are most effectively drawn out and put into words in response to the following types of questions:

  • What are you feeling right now?
  • What does that feel like?
  • Talk more about what you are feeling.
  • What are you feeling about _____?
  • What were you feeling at the time?
  • When have you ever felt that way before?
  • What did it feel like then?

From these questions, we can quickly see that the goal of an effective mentor-coach is to patiently ask feeling questions and then listen… listen… and listen some more. We can also make it easier for others to continue putting their feelings into words when we disclose some of our own feelings in a non-judging manner. Silence, too, is a wonderful gift that can often allow others to finish feeling their most deeply felt feelings. Finally, we can consider it a high compliment to our mentor-coaching skill when we allow others to purge their feelings of discomfort by verbalizing those feelings and crying in our presence. Value-Finding Questions

The most effective mentor-coaching question is one which allows the person responding to it to feel m
ore valued while searching their innermost feelings to find new value.

It is therefore useful to think of them as “value-finding” in nature. It is next to impossible to process a value-finding question with our analytical mind. Value-finding questions must, by definition, be processed in our intuitive mind.

This means we can count on them to generate fresh supplies of creative energy every time they spark new insights.

This is how they produce the creative energy we must have in abundance to put ourselves on a roll. The more skill we develop in asking value-finding questions of others, the more we strengthen our own internal habits of asking value-finding questions of ourselves.


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