Building Resilience Through Mentoring

We live in a world of change, with different challenges presenting themselves at times, both in our professional and personal lives. Changes and challenges can be stressful, requiring us to review or revise how we do things (i.e., what we did in the past to move through and forward doesn’t work so well anymore).

Al Siebert (in Berrett-Koehler’s book The Resiliency Advantage) wrote, “Highly resilient people are flexible, adapt to new circumstances quickly, and thrive in constant change. Most important, they expect to bounce back and feel confident that they will. They have a knack for creating good luck out of circumstances many others see as bad luck.”

Some people cope with stressful situations better than others, mainly due to being more resilient. Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of stress and adversity. It involves a person’s ability to:

  • Maintain their life balance;
  • Hold on to some sense of control over their environment;
  • Move forward in a focused, positive way.

If we talk about building resilience as a process, we can envisage how mentoring can be a mechanism for assisting someone in this area. I came up with the following model as a process approach to structure a mentoring meeting when the mentor wants to assist the mentee with resilience-building. You may find this model useful for your mentoring meetings. (For those of you who know me, I rate models and frameworks as an excellent way to manage and structure mentoring interactions and activities).


  • Discuss the term ‘resilience’ and find out what it means to the mentee
  • Find out the mentee’s perception of ‘stress’ and ‘significant adversity’. You could:
    • Ask them to define these term
    • Rate a range of events and situations that can cause stress on a scale from 1-10; for example, starting a new job, changing a job role, speaking up at meetings, looking after their health, juggling family commitments, juggling work commitments
  • Ask the mentee to describe a typical response to stress or a perceived/real threat
  • Ask how they have coped with a stressful situation in the past


Work with your mentee to identify strategies that can help them build resilience and successfully navigate their way through a stressful situation or event. Here are some ideas I gleaned from several articles and research literature…..

  • Challenge and change your negative self-talk
  • Eliminate blanket statements from your repertoire, such as “I’ll never get far in my career” or “Everyone will think I’m incompetent
    • A useful strategy for the mentor is to help the mentee establish the evidence of such statements, as they may be based on a past failure or painful experience – which you can then talk through together.
  • See challenges as opportunities to learn, grow, adapt and evolve
  • Look for solutions to problems
    • When exploring a problem that the mentee is facing, encourage them to ask questions like “What is useful here?” “How can I learn from this?” and “What are my available choices?”.
  • Improve how you relate to other people and create meaningful connections (an essential component of resilience)
    • The mentee can be encouraged to examine their relationships at work for example, and how they contribute as a team member, how they build collegial relationships, what they do to create these relationships.
  • Take care of yourself – maintain good health and a regular routine of healthy habits (foundations of mental and emotional resilience)
    • Encourage the mentee to evaluate their work-life balance and identify what they can/need to do to establish a balance between home, family, social, work, leisure and their health.


Encourage the mentee to decide which strategies they think they can use and will best help them manage stress and help them build resilience.