“How do you define Mentoring”? It is a question I am often asked because there is a lot of confusion between mentoring and coaching, which this article will clarify.

Let’s start with our definition. We see mentoring as a combination of coaching, shared experiences and connections. Coaching to us, is the ability to ask great questions and to actively listen to stretch the person to come up with their own solutions. The sharing of lived experience, allows the mentee to learn from others’ mistakes and expand their thinking beyond what they know. Connections allows the mentee to leverage or benefit from the network of the mentor, often helping them achieve promotions or meet key people for their success. A powerful cocktail for change.

Why the confusion? Over the last thirty years, most individual professional development that was paid used to be described as coaching. This was in a time when loyalty was valued and people stayed in a company for life. At this stage, Mentors were unpaid colleagues or senior leaders who took an interest. Things have evolved with the movement of the workforce across companies and the need to gain support when you need it. Many companies have formal mentoring programs and access to external paid mentors. Today mentoring is much sought after; it’s an essential part of career progression and business education helping people move beyond roadblocks.

To further expand on the definition of mentoring, we asked a number of the mentors who support Business in Heels, how they define mentoring.

Mentoring to me is guiding; sharing experiences; and assisting a person achieve their goals and to think of things differently. Kimberley Downes, CEO, Australian Gynaecological Cancer Foundation.


To listen with empathy and understanding, and to share mutual knowledge, experience and wisdom to assist in career development. Kathryn Harper, Partner at Amrop Carmichael Fisher

Mentoring is a mutually beneficial relationship between a more experienced person (mentor) and a less experienced person (mentee) where the mentor shares their relevant experience and know-how to help the mentee make better decisions, avoid common pitfalls and achieve their goals faster.  Linley Watson, CEO Peak Performance & Reidar

Mentoring is a two way exchange of sharing experiences, goals, knowledge and reflections that enable the mentee to accelerate their learning and achieve their career goals through tapping in to the lived experience of the mentor. Leesa Tongoulidis, Career Reimagined Coach

Mentoring for me is about listening to the mentee, understanding what are the things they are really grappling with in their career or a current situation at work and offering my perspective on what they can do next to help themselves. A current example with a mentee is helping them decide if they want to become a people leader based on a past experience that didn’t go well at another organization. We talk, share and strip away the layers to get to the underlying factors contributing to this uncertainty. I aim to connect with them and show vulnerability as this is so powerful in establishing a trusting platform for ongoing conversations. Nicola Wojcik, Worksafe, A/ Director Research

Mentoring is listening with an open heart and mind.
Ask thought provoking questions to help cement understandings and clarify ideas.
Share experiences to demonstrate a point. Lyly Greca, Co-Founder & Creative Director at Miei

Mentoring for me is sharing of ones knowledge to help others grow & succeed. The more knowledge we share, the more we learn & upgrade. As Franics Bacon quotes “Knowledge is Power”. The power grows by mentoring.

Every second, every minute, every day we learn from everything and everyone around us. But we bear the fruit from it only if we spread the knowledge we gained, this helps in community & humanity to grow. Sheetal Pillai, Group Executive VP, Option 1 Events and BIH Branch Director.

I love how mentoring was seen in Greek mythology, where Mentors represented both possibility and the path towards it. So, for me mentoring is about deeply listening to mentees (to understand what they want), sharing what is possible (based on mentor’s experience and knowledge), and guiding them towards their goals. Olga Hogan, Adjunct Associate Professor, Faculty of Health, Deakin

Mentoring is enabling others to learn from your own experience of the good, the bad and the ugly in the hope that women after us have more positive career experiences and fulfilling achievements. Ana Marinkovic, Executive General Manager, Business Direct, Small Business and Medfin at NAB