Mentee Skills Critical to Direction Setting

Phase 2: Direction Setting

In phase 1, the partners were establishing a sense of purpose; here they are determining what each of them should achieve through this relationship. However, since the relationship is primarily for the mentee's benefit, being able to ask for what you want, need, and are curious about is an important skill for mentees. Knowing what you want phrased in high quality questions can help you get what you really want from your mentor and make the best use of the time you spend with him or her.

Two key competencies for the mentee to have in this phase are those of goal identification and asking productive questions.

Goal Identification

In a mentoring relationship, both the mentee and mentor should have individual goals. Because the individuals are at different stages of their careers, the goals will probably be different. They will, however, share the common goal of a successful mentoring experience.

As a mentee, it is essential that you be able to crystallize, clarify, and set realistic goals. Understanding and using the principles of goal setting will help you in this endeavor. For now, we will simply enumerate the key steps in the process. Our mentee training will discuss the systematic approach in greater depth under the section Developing the Mentoring Action Plan and complete a brainstorming activity to help formulate their goals.

For purposes of providing a refresher for you, our mentee, we will enumerate the key steps in the process:

•  Review or develop a personal mission statement.

•  Establish specific and realistic goals. (SMART)

•  Set deadlines

•  Develop a mentoring action plan.

•  Review goals from time to time; revise as necessary.






- specific, significant, stretching
M - measurable, meaningful, motivational
A - agreed upon, attainable, achievable, acceptable, action-oriented
R - realistic, relevant, reasonable, rewarding, results-oriented
T - time-based, timely, tangible, trackable


Click here to read "Writing Effective Goals," an article on the SMART method of writing effective goals.

Ask Effective, Productive Questions

Asking effective questions can be helpful to foster communication and learn the information you are seeking. They are are questions that are powerful and thought provoking. Who, what, when, where, and how questions are helpful starting points for gathering information. Remember to ask open-ended questions like “How would you handle this situation if you were me?” instead of “did I handle this situation right?” You may also want to refrain from asking why questions as they appear to be interrogative or intimidating. Asking exploratory questions not only causes the speaker to open up and tell you more, it makes him or her feel smarter. When asking effective questions, it is important to wait for the answer and not provide the answer.

What makes questions effective?

How do you ask a question effectively?

•  Is stated clearly/easily understood
•  Are short and to the point
•  Inspire thinking
•  Motivate action and reflection


•  State the question clearly and concisely
•  Pause
•  Listen to the answer
•  Repeat the answer for emphasis

When working with people to solve a problem, it is not enough to tell them what the problem is. They need to find out or understand it for themselves. You help them do this by asking them thought provoking questions. Rather than make assumptions, find out what the person you are talking to knows about the problem.

For example: "What do you think the problem is?"

Behind effective questioning is also the ability to listen to the answer and suspend judgment. This means being intent on understanding what the person who is talking is really saying. What is behind their words? Let go of your opinions so that they don't block you from learning more information. Pay attention to your gut for additional information.

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