A New Man

When I went with a client for the second time to get their hair cut, they asked for a short back and sides, then chatted with the barber and spoke about the weather. It was the end of September and about to pour with rain, and they enjoyed a typically British conversation of small talk.

This was a stark contrast to the first time we’d been, some months previously, where we had prepared for it for several weeks. He had told me that a family member had always cut his hair before, so he’d never been to a barber. He didn’t know what to say, or what to ask for, and he was so anxious about this that he’d not been able to do it before, and his hair was consequently rather longer than he wanted it, as we were also working towards an interview for a voluntary job and he wanted a haircut for that.

That first time, he’d agreed to the visit to the barber only if I prepped him on exactly what to say and what to do. He was a nervous wreck, but made it to the chair. It took quite a while for the barber to lop off his locks to a length my client was happy with, while he sat with his shoulders hunched in silence. Then she asked him, “Do you want me to trim your eyebrows while I’m here?”

He paused, and politely answered, “I don’t know – do you think I should have them trimmed?” The barber had laughed and suggested it would be tidier, and so he agreed. At the end, after we’d joked about how thrown he was by the eyebrow thing, he was a new man, full of new-found confidence for his upcoming interview and very happy with the result.

So the second time we went was for a similar reason – a new role, more customer-facing. “I need another haircut”, he said. “Will you come with me?” Of course I said yes. This time he was less nervous, and we discussed it less beforehand. He had his haircut, chatted with the barber, and to be honest I needn’t have been there this time at all. That is, in some ways, one of the best outcomes of mentoring someone, if you do it properly – they stop needing you.

I was going to say that next time, he’s going alone, but I think that next time, he won’t even ask me.