Coaching and mentoring business relationship success are activities fundamentally based in driving personal and professional growth. Mentees might be focused on performing their best in their current role or aspiring to reach the next role. In either case, the focus is on increasing an individual’s capacity to identify, nurture and capitalize on their relationships by developing the skills, knowledge, and behavior required to succeed in the face of challenges, existing or new.
To focus my mentees on the specific relationship-development skills, knowledge or behaviors they desire to enhance or change, I use a set of questions for pre-call planning and a post-call recap. Whether we meet in person or online, we use these two sets of questions to both make our time together more efficient and focused, and to allow us to monitor and measure the relationship-development growth as it is taking place. Jim Rodgers inspired these questions:
In the Pre-Call plan, I ask mentees to reflect:
- An example of a recent relationship success? I start my mentees’ preparations for our call with a relationship-centric victory because we all need to recognize our wins when working with or through others. Many of us are very critical of ourselves, and tend to focus on the balls we dropped in working with others rather than what we’re proud of having accomplished together. I want to hear what you are proud of in your portfolio of relationships, what you have accomplished, since we spoke last.
- What did I intend to do with or for a relationship but didn’t? When it comes to changing your relationship-development behavior, the first step is paying attention. With this question, I’m looking for how my mentees are thinking about their goals for our work together. Are you moving in the right direction? Is there something holding you back? Do you have some self-limiting beliefs? Bandwidth issues? Are you failing to prioritize a goal? Do you lack key information? I’m looking not for incidents, but patterns.
- What relationship-centric challenges am I working on? This question is driven by the fundamental insight that “relationship priorities get focus, relationship focus gets funded, and relationships that are funded (time, effort, capital) get results.” So what relationship-centric challenges and priorities is this mentee focused on?
- What relationship skills, knowledge or behavior growing-edges have I uncovered? What we stop doing is as important as what we undertake; with this question I’m hoping to develop my mentee’s insight about that. Can you describe an “Aha!” moment in the way you interact with your relationships? Have you made discoveries that you are failing to take advantage of?
- What will I do differently with or for my relationships in the next period? This is a deceptively simple question. As a mentor, I’m interested in not just what you say you will do, but how you choose to invest in your most valuable asset: your portfolio of relationships.
- What do I want to be held accountable for when it comes to my business relationships? We all appreciate having clear “measuring sticks.” With this question I’m looking for my mentees to establish metrics that together, we can use to specifically quantify progress toward their relationship-centric goals.
- What is my intent for this call? I want the call to begin with my mentee clear on what will be the best use of time with a mentor.
Notice that these questions are outcome-driven. The point of this pre-call plan is to help you as a mentee to drive specificity about the relationship-centric outcomes you want to focus on, prioritize, be held accountable for, and be measured on.
Specificity drives credibility. It’s easy to allow ourselves to be generic, to be vague, unless we hold ourselves to a higher standard. The more specific your focus on learning from your mentor, the more impactful that work will be. Your future will be dramatically transformed—but only if you are disciplined about focus. Reflect on these pre-call questions to achieve that focus. Next time, I’ll discuss the post-call recap of what key action items and insights did you take away and particularly the ones you will aim to internalize and implement.
- Mentees are more successful at attaining new skills, knowledge and behaviors when they make time for introspection on specific questions, both before the mentoring session and after.
- Before a mentoring session, balance reflection on your accomplishments with thought given to the discoveries and intentions you should have acted on, but for whatever reason, did not.
- After a mentoring session, reflect on what insights emerged during the call, what accountabilities you will set for the next period, and what feedback you can give to your mentor. In this way, with every session, you make this relationship more strategic for both of you.