We’ve all heard that there are no dumb questions. That may or may not be true, but there are certainly some questions that are much better than others.
Every once in awhile, I get the opportunity to talk on the phone or possibly even in person with someone I greatly admire. It’s often a pastor I look up to or a leader who I want to learn from and when I get my window of time with them, I want to make sure I take full advantage of it.
If you want to grow in knowledge, skills, and leadership you’ve got to learn to make the most of these incredible opportunities.
Here are a few guidelines I use to make sure I capitalize on the opportunity and ensure they know their time wasn’t wasted with me:
1) Don’t ask them a question that can be answered on their website.
For instance, if you get 30 minutes with a pastor who you really admire, don’t ask him or her how many campuses they have or where the campuses are located. All you have to do is go to their church website for that information. You’re wasting their time (and yours) with questions like that. Do your homework in advance and make sure you’re asking them questions that can’t be easily accessed elsewhere.
2) Don’t spend the majority of your time telling them your story.
As much as we all love talking about ourselves, this is not necessarily the time and place. Here’s a measurement I use: spend 20% of your time asking questions and sharing and the other 80% of your time listening. Remember this isn’t an opportunity for you to tell them about all the incredible stuff you feel like you’re doing. This is your moment to learn from someone who’s willing to download to you the experience they’ve accumulated over time. Take advantage of every second and if you utilize that conversation to its maximum potential and hit it off, the likeliness that the relationship will continue increases (which will likely lend itself to those more personal conversations).
3) Don’t waste time asking questions that someone else on their staff is better suited to answer.
If your meeting with a CEO, don’t ask them questions about development. If you want to learn more about development, meet with the VP of Development. Tap into the relevant space they operate and lead in- this is where they will have the most useful advice to offer.
4) Respect their time.
Some advisors and leaders may take your occasional phone call, but this doesn’t mean he or she can talk to you on a monthly basis. Be appreciative and respectful for the time you received and don’t waste it by using it to try to get more time out of them in the future. If they have additional time to offer, I promise you they’ll graciously offer it.
5) Don’t ask them questions about someone else.
If you’re talking with Leader A, don’t ask him or her questions about Leader B. Ask questions about their life, their leadership, and their influence. This will make them feel valued and appreciated for their time with you.
If you want to be a good leader, you’ve got to be a great learner. If you want to be a great learner you’ve got to be an exceptional listener. Make the most of these opportunities to sit down with a mentor because they can become foundational to the future of your leadership.