Mentoring Tips: Communicating Expectations


Effective communication is the key ingredient of a successful mentoring relationship. We've discussed active listening vs. passive listening, which is essential. Now, let's provide some mentoring tips for effectively communicating expectations—a skill that mentors, mentees, and program managers need to master. Communicating mentoring expectations

1. Clarify Assumptions

Never assume anything. Always explicitly state any assumption and ask the other person if your assumption is correct. If it isn't, ask the person to clarify.

Here's an example:

  • Speaker #1: I'm sensing you're frustrated with your manager's response to your request. Is that a fair assessment?
  • Speaker #2: Frustrated might not be the best word. I was disappointed because I didn't feel my manager cared about why I was making the request.
  • Speaker #1: Dealing with disappointment can be a tough emotion to navigate, especially at work. Let's discuss ways for you to deal with this emotion and let's develop a strategy for how you want to approach your manager moving forward.

2. Explicitly State Your Needs/Wants

You've likely heard the expression that "direct is always best." This old saw is true, especially in the workplace. There's no reason to be coy, to beat around the bush, or to drop hints, hoping the other person will "get it." We shouldn't expect people to be mind readers.


  • Mentor: Please send me the agenda for our next meeting by end of business Wednesday.
  • mentee: Will you be able to review this document by next Thursday? If not, what's a reasonable timeline?

Also read: Tips for Mentoring Women

3. Be Tactful

Being explicit doesn't mean you should ignore tact. Tact takes practice, and it involves learning how to read people and situations. Here's a good article from Psychology Today called Three Techniques to Read People.

4. Follow up in Writing

You don't need to follow up every communication with an email, but for meatier conversations where you've discussed several topics, it can make sense to send a follow-up electronic communication that recaps your discussion. This helps everyone stay on the proverbial same page. And, of course, it can help to further clarify any assumptions.


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Topics: Mentoring Resources, Mentoring Tips, Communicating Expectations in Mentoring