I prepared a talk on mentoring at my  Toastmaster's club just recently and was looking for techniques to improve my mentoring relationships. I found some really cool questioning techniques in Marilee Adams' book "Change your questions, change your life". If you are mentoring or coaching staff members you might find some of these techniques useful.

 I love the first one because it made me realise that we always have a choice: Marilee Adams explains that when things happen to us, we automatically ask ourselves questions, which lead us either down a "Judger Lane" or a "Learner Lane." When discussing possible difficult situations during mentoring dialogues likely questions your mentee might struggle with could be:

 "Why am I failing?" or

  • "What is wrong with me? or, in relation to others
  • "Who’s blame?" or
  • "Why are the others so frustrating?


The Judger Lane is characterised by automatic reactions, it is blame focused and often has a negative impact on relationships. It can be rather paralysing.

 What is more helpful is encourage your mentee to ask questions such as,

  • “What are the facts?"
  • "What is the big picture?"
  • "What can I learn?"
  • "What am I responsible for, what not?"
  • "What does the other person need, want, feel?”

 As Learners we can make more thoughtful choices, find more creative solutions and we are more likely to work towards win-win relationships.

The way to switch from the negative 'Judger lane' to a more effective 'Learner lane' is by asking "Switching questions":

"Are you in Judger?"

"What assumptions are you making?"

"How else can you think about this?"

 Let me know if these might add value to your mentoring or coaching dialogues.

 And on a different note - here is a picture where I hand over a copy of my book to the librarian of UNAM, Irmela Phohl.