Q.I have an extremely talented, bright subordinate in my department. He is extremely good at both the details of the job and at grasping the big picture -- two traits that are rare in the same person.

I would like to be the mentor for this employee because I am convinced that he could be a tremendous asset to the company, but I sense that he is not overly ambitious. How can I motivate him to further his career?

A.Nobody can motivate another person. An individual can only motivate himself. Given this principle, try to find out what makes your employee tick, his expectations and desires for himself. He surely has some, even if they aren't what you think they ought to be.

Accept his desires for himself without trying to argue with them. Then, with that as your starting point, work with your employee on how he can achieve his goals faster and better.

Readers respond:

"Can you stand another response to your reply to the woman who objected to an interviewer asking her whether she had children?

"A good way to let the interviewer know a question is inappropriate without becoming combative is to answer a question with another question, always with a friendly smile, like: 'Why do you ask?' or 'I'm curious: How does that relate to my qualifications?'

"If the interviewer was merely making a clumsy attempt to be sociable, the response probably would be something like, 'Oops, I guess I shouldn't have asked that,' and then the interviewer would move on. However, a truly sexist interviewer will continue to pressure the candidate to answer the question. This will provide the applicant with valuable information about the company.

"If a company would regard me as overly aggressive for handling an interview this way, then I would never fit into that company's working environment anyway. And I would rather know it now, not after I had turned down other job offers to take this one."

"You and your readers who have responded on this issue need to lighten up some! If I were still young enough to be of childbearing age and were asked in a job interview if I had children, I'd respond with a chuckle -- then I would ask if having children were necessary for the job.

"You know, some dumb interviewers are really just trying to be friendly when they ask questions like that. And if they are not, just listen to how they explain themselves."

Andrew Grove is chief executive of Intel Corp. of Santa Clara, Calif. Send questions to him in care of the San Jose Mercury News, Business News Department, 750 Ridder Park Drive, San Jose, Calif. 95190.