I recently fielded a call from an international client; my wife and I do marriage coaching for the couple together.* They are on a retainer that’s paid annually. It’s a rather large chunk of money out of their pocket at one shot. This month, when the invoice for the next year arrived, the husband and wife had a discussion about it. What’s the value of paying a big chunk of money to talk with old friends? Of course we keep the discussions focused on them; my wife and I are not burdening them with concerns about the problems in our lives. Like any good coaching conversation we stay focused on what they need to do to maximize their growth and impact in the culture where they serve. It’s much more about them than it is about us. It’s slightly unusual in the sense that they are a little more likely to ask us what’s going on in our lives, but even then we try to keep our sharing abbreviated so we can make sure to focus on them.
So my friend called me. He wanted to acknowledge that it was a lot of money, but then began to highlight a variety of reasons why they were continuing a professional relationship with us, their old friends. 1) The fee holds them accountable to show up. 2) They could have a similar conversation with other old friends, but would they? It would be easy to schedule a call with some other friends, but it would also be easy for one of them to postpone (I almost never postpone a scheduled call. It would have to be an emergency. I show up and do my job!) Once a conversation gets postponed for a month, it’s easy to go three and then six months without talking. 3) We’ve known them a long time and I’ve been to visit them, so I’m one of a very few people who has been alongside them for a week in their cultural context, meeting many of the people who are key players in their life. 4) We worked together a few months back on an issue that was causing a variety of problems in their family life. A certain level of detail is necessary here. The couple is a missionary couple, but they aren’t exclusively attending one congregation for worship every Sunday; they work with leaders from several churches so they move around. Essentially the issue had to do with when they decided which church they would attend: would they decide on Sunday morning where they were going, or earlier, like Friday evening? Deciding at the last minute was causing some friction in their own family. They came up with a solution and decided they’d work at making this weekly decision two days ahead.
Helping people do little things so that their family life runs smoother has broader implications. In this case, after recapping all the reasons they were going to continue working with me for another year, my friend said, “Remember Joe*?” (*name changed)
“Sure, he was the young guy who … ” I recalled what I knew of Joe.
“Yeah, well, Joe has a lot of leadership potential, but we realized he hasn’t been going to church anywhere. Once we disciplined ourselves to make plans on Friday instead of Sunday morning, I began to call Joe and invite him to come with us. He finally responded with ‘Yes!’ and I got to take him with me for the first time in almost a year!”
So a little thing that seemed like it was an internal, family issue, ended up being a major piece of encouraging a young leader … helping them do their job, putting together a piece that helps them fulfill their stated mission.
Stories like that gets me excited about doing what I do.
*The information in this post is shared with permission from the client. Normally my client conversations are confidential; I don’t share anything, even success stories, without permission.