Even Incredibly Simple Questions Lead to Mentoring (especially when you're changing the world)

Forbes published an article in August 2012 entitled "Three Incredibly Simple Questions the Most Successful People Use to Change the World" written by Mike Maddock.

Of course I was intrigued. In this day of 140-character tweets, drive-through windows, and instant text messages, I knew the answer would be brilliant in its robust simplicity. And I was not disappointed.

3 Simple Questions to Change the World:

Question Number 1: What's the outcome I want?

Question Number 2: What stands in my way?

Questions Number 3: Who has figured it out already?

Followers vs. Leaders

The first two summarize the basic formula for success. Where do you want to go and what's stopping you?

But the third question is my favorite – not only is it the secret ingredient to leadership, it screams mentoring.

In essence, the best leaders slow down before executing, knowing that if they learn from someone else's execution efforts, they can forge ahead.

Followers, on the other hand, jump into action. They dive head first into the weeds to address every obstacle identified in Question Number 2.

Leaders stop before tackling those weeds. They look around to see who else has already overcome those similar obstacles. Then they learn from their mistakes instead of making identical ones.

3 Ways to Answer Question Number 3

So, how do you answer Question Number 3? How can we best determine who has figured it out already?

By engaging in 3 types of mentoring:

1. Role Model Mentoring

This is mentoring from afar. In Role Model Mentoring, we look to examples, idols, and protagonists to model for us how to conquer those obstacles. By observing from afar, we gain the mentoring we need to move forward.

Look for people who have gone where we want to go. We don't even need to engage in a conversation with them - we just need to observe from afar. Just watch what they have done or have not done, what they are doing or not doing. And take copious notes. People don't even have to be alive to serve as our role models! There are a plethora of protagonists throughout history who have already forged paths for us.

2. Opportunity Mentoring

This is mentoring in moments. In Opportunity Mentoring, we seek mentoring for a specific opportunity or situation. We have a decision to make, a quick problem to solve, or a challenge to tackle, and we need quick feedback, missing information, or a new perspective. A mentoring conversation will help us move forward more wisely.

Ask peers, friends, and colleagues to share their connections and resources. Explain the opportunity or situation and request a connection to someone who has been-there-dealt-with-that. Call that connection immediately and reference the referral. Ask permission for a quick mentoring conversation to fill the gap you have for advice, perspective, and wisdom. Be sure to express appreciation before parting ways and send a thank you card or email to the connection and to the connector. Then make your next move on that opportunity or situation.

3. Intentional Mentoring

This is mentoring through relationships. In Intentional Mentoring, we identify people who have been-there-done-that and we deliberately engage them in a relationship to learn from their experiences and consciously absorb their advice. It is purposeful conversations resulting from a cultivated and ongoing relationship. This type of mentoring sprouts from role model mentoring and opportunity mentoring.
Identify people who have accomplished what you want to accomplish and have gone where you want to go. Initiate a conversation, establish a relationship, build trust, offer value, and request advice and wisdom. What do Mentors gain? Plenty. An ego-rush, an altruism-kick, relationship, friendship, ideas, fresh perspectives, and a reinforcement of lessons learned.

Change the World Leaders

We can succinctly encapsulate Mike Maddock's winning formula for changing the world with this simple formula: Vision + Obstacles + Mentoring. And at the end of the article, Mike unwittingly underscores the importance of mentoring in his own formula when he declares, "intelligence is learning from your own mistakes; wisdom is learning from the mistakes of

In other words, leaders progress on the shoulders of others.

That's how mentoring mobilizes leaders.

The SHRM Blog does not accept solicitation for guest posts.

Add new comment

Please enter the text you see in the image below: