Managing Expectations When You’re Mentoring Someone Else

Mentoring always creates expectations for both parties involved, and it is important as both a mentor to understand which of those expectations you should reasonably expect to fulfil. While many believe that having a strong mentoring program within your business is most beneficial in improving workplace culture, how can you be sure there are no misunderstandings or disappointment, when it is felt by either party that expectations are not being met? 

We look at some tips to help you work out what is reasonable or unreasonable and how to set boundaries.

In the beginning

Before clarifying your mentor relationship with the person you’re mentoring, you should seek to answer some basic questions yourself. Entering into the initial mutual discussion understanding your own expectations and what you hope to achieve, as well as defining what you expect to be offered from the mentoring relationship will give you a good starting point. Once done you will be better placed to have the critical mentor meeting as you embark on the program. 

Understanding Expectations

Seek to answer these questions:

  • What do I expect of the other party?
  • What do I think they expect of me?
  • What are my expectations of the mentoring program?
  • What should the mentor expect of the mentored person’s immediate manager to support them to succeed in the program?

Once you have the answers, you have made progress to understand your own expectations. You should then seek to align these with your counterpart.

At the outset of the mentoring process sit down with the person you’re mentoring and discuss the expectations you have from the relationship, before you progress any further.  As the mentor you should lead the conversation, but you must allow space for the other person to articulate their needs and expectations.

Following these three steps will help you cover some of the key areas you need to clarify:

  1. As the mentor, state your expectations, and allow the other person to ask questions and clarify what is offered and what your expectation means.
  2. As a mentor you are seeking agreement on the expectation. Agreeing a common definition and understanding for every aspect of the mentoring partnership in advance will avoid potential confusion or feelings of resentment later through the mentoring program.
  3. If you cannot agree on any of the expectations or feel that they are not realistic at this time or are not appropriate, you can mutually decide to put them to one side to be revisited at a future time. As the program moves forward there may be a chance for agreement later on or for a mutually agreed adjustment.

As the mentor you are there to guide the person you’re mentoring through the targets and make progress as expected. This role is often used to foster career development, which is of benefit to both parties enabling them to grow within the business and as a person. However, sometimes employees may not progress in as short a time as you think they should, which could cause anxiety on both sides.  Understanding how to mentor an anxious employee is a useful skill to have, allowing you to manage their expectations and your own, so that things do not become problematic.  

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