How to Ask Good Questions: Questions Frameworks Every Mentor Should Know

Framework curated by Meghann Coleman, Director at MindFrame Connect

Benji Sucher, the Co-Founder and General Partner of Radical Ventures, summed up the purpose of questioning as “Leading the mentee to see their blind spots (unknown unknowns).”

Questions are a powerful tool in a mentor’s repertoire and though it sounds easy to do, there’s an art to asking them effectively. To start, do some research on different questioning techniques and frameworks and find one that aligns with your approach. Come to a mentor meeting with a couple of questions in mind and allow the mentee to guide the conversation (interjecting with your questions as required).

Five Basic Questions

According to Harvard Business Review, a good place to start with a new mentee is to ask five basic questions that provide a quick snapshot of how the mentee sees themselves, their gaps, and where they could use support. These questions are as follows:

  1. What is it that you really want to be and do?
  2. What are you doing really well that is helping you get there?
  3. What are you not doing well that is preventing you from getting there?
  4. What will you do differently tomorrow to meet those challenges?
  5. How can I support / where do you need the most help?

In subsequent meetings and as you get to know a mentee, you can start to use other frameworks that allow you to dive deeper into a particular issue or topic.

Socratic Questioning

The Socratic questioning framework is designed to challenge accuracy and completeness of thinking in a way that moves a mentee closer towards their goal. Examples of this approach include:

  • Conceptual questions: using basic 'tell me more' questions that get your mentee to go deeper (i.e., Can you give me an example? Tell me more about this)
  • Probing evidence-based questions: when your mentee gives a rationale for their argument, dig into their reasoning rather than assuming it is a given (i.e., What evidence is there to support your thinking?)
  • Probe implications and consequences: the answer that they provide may have logical implications that can be forecasted (i.e., And then what would happen? What else could we assume?)

You can learn more about this style of questioning here.


Young Presidents’ Organization is the gold standard in peer mentorship. Asking good questions is crucial in this type of environment and after years of experience, they have identified seven key elements of an effective question. This is known as the PRAIRIE framework:

  • Personal. Customized questions relating specifically to the mentee might include the mentee’s motives for founding the company.
  • Resonant. Hits you emotionally.
  • Acute. Incisive and gets right to the point.
  • Reverberant. Keeps coming back to haunt you and your understanding of it as the mentee evolves over time.
  • Innocent. Expresses genuine curiosity free from influence and is not a loaded question.
  • Explicit. Short and efficient, aim for under 12 words.

Finding the questioning approach that suits you as a mentor is a big component in honing your craft. Actively listening and curiously asking questions will breed opportunity to learn with each mentee interaction.

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