If you are a mentor, what is the client paying for?

“Why should I pay you just to sit down and listen to me”?

It is the question that all mentors face from time-to-time. And I coped it at the end of last week.

At least I did not have to deal with: “How can you guarantee me success?” This is just another version of “why should I waste my money on you?”.

Alon Gal is one of Israel’s most well-known mentors. Like him or not, he is effective. His television show has resulted in many marriages saved and floundering businesses being turned around.

In a recent newspaper, even he admitted that he cannot work his “magic” every time. He gave some examples of cases, where he had not succeeded, and that included his own marriage.

What has brought all this together is a very cool article, written by Rob Weatherill, titled “What does the patient pay for?” While specifically aimed at the analyst – patient scenario, it is easy to draw comparisons with mentoring.

Would it be true to say that the patient is paying for the genuine professional help that the analyst gives, for the reliable support that the patient experiences in living and being able to continue to live amidst considerable suffering? Yes, this is definitely true, and it often not appreciated just how valuable this long term support really is,……. But this support is ambiguous, because the analyst is not especially helpful in the ordinary sense, and he is only supportive again in quite an unobvious way.  

 Weatherill concludes that the patient is paying for “presence” of the analyst. He feels that even in a silent manner, this presence can be evocative.

I have to agree. Last week, I sat in on a staff meeting between a CEO and a senior employee. I was given a free hand to ask questions. The CEO had set up the company himself and is knowledgable about what goes on, but even he learnt about hands-on issues that he had not reckoned with.

By the end, I took on the silent role. I let the two of them work through the issue together. 48 hours later, duties had been reallocated with smiles on faces. I am waiting to hear of higher output.

Take another client. They run a small theatrical company. I have encouraged them for weeks to start calling, making their own bookings. After a while, our meetings came to a halt. At the beginning of June, I phoned them up to check on the state of play.

The client was apologetic and thrilled in one. They had no time to catch up with me, because they have been rolling in bookings. And when I asked how they were planning for the next month, they explained how they had already factored in my question. I felt like a conscience, sitting on their shoulder, supervising.

Along with Gal, I have my own cases, which did not work out. However, I can be proud of those times, when everything goes right; sales rise, companies are opened, efficiency is driven thorugh an organisation, etc. And if I can do that by “silently” guiding the client to understand their own problems, I am a happy person.

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