In Mentoring Relationship, What Communication Style Works

mentoringConsider your answer to the following question. This post is meant to help to clarify your preferred communication style within your mentoring relationship.  There is no right or wrong answer. This exercise is meant only as a means to provide an opportunity for you to assert the communication style most comfortable to you.

After reviewing the scenario, indicate how you would respond by selecting option A, B, C, or D.


Scenario: Tran has always had a challenge in managing his time effectively.  It has been an issue that has come up repeatedly in his performance evaluations though he is rated very highly overall. Tran really wants to manage his time better and has made this a priority with his Mentor. How should the Mentor approach this challenge? 

A. Tran comes up with his own solutions and the Mentor encourages him to follow through.

B. Mentor and Tran review the most critical time management challenges and arrive at strategies.

C. Mentor provides suggested approaches and encourages Tran to select one of them.

D. Mentor finds a good time management system and works with Tran in learning how to use it.


If you answered "A", then the communication style you are most comfortable with is Self-Directed. 

The Self-Directed Style is most appropriate in the latter stages of the mentoring relationship when the mentee has gained sufficient knowledge and mastery of the subject.  Moving to this style is a key indicator that the mentoring relationship has achieved its purpose and the mentee is ready to move on to another area of mastery or to end the relationship.

“You have the ability to do this; I’m here if you need me.”


If you answered "B", then the communication style you are most comfortable with is Consulting.

The Consulting Style is most effective when the mentee has achieved knowledge/expertise in the area of focus. As the mentee becomes more independent, the partnership becomes more of a dialogue between peers, reflected by a strong sense of collaboration and consensus building.  The prime mover in the discussion switches back and forth between the mentor and the mentee.  Once the teacher and guiding force in the relationship, the mentor’s primary role now is to encourage and support the mentee.

“Let’s work on this together and come to joint solutions as two heads are better than one and we both have enough expertise in this area.”


If you answered "C", then the communication style you are most comfortable with is Co-Directed.

The Co-Directed Style is more of a dialogue, with the mentor still dominating the exchange of information but allowing for questions and input from the mentee.  The mentor uses more persuasion and reasoning than direction but is still the dominant presence in the relationship.

If the relationship is dominated too long by this style, conflict could occur as the mentee attempts to assume a more active role in the relationship.

The Co-Directed Style is best used when the mentee has some experience or knowledge of the issue or when the mentee is at a point to take some developmental risks and can best benefit from guidance.

“I have the most expertise in this area and you may have some as well but you still need my guidance to further develop your competency in this area.”


If you answered "D", then the communication style you are most comfortable with is Co-Directed.

The Directed Style is most effective at the start of the mentoring relationship when both the mentee and the relationship itself require strong direction.  It is also useful and appropriate to use whenever the mentee ventures into a new area of accomplishment.

In the Directed Style, the communication tends to be one sided, with the mentor “directing” the mentee by: 

  • Sharing personal experience
  • Prescribing a method for success
  • Accessing other resources for the mentee
  • Providing a step-by-step approach

"I have expertise in this area and will give you what you need to know to be successful."



What do you think? Did the style you chose surprise you? Please feel free to post your response on this blog. Also, we will be posting similar questions over the coming weeks. Check to see if you fall into the same communication style or if you fit into more than one style.

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Topics: Mentoring Resources, Mentors & Mentorees