In 1979 I was in London on the day that Bjorn Borg won his fourth Wimbledon title. A friend and I went to a restaurant and at around 11 o’clock Borg arrived with his entourage, including his coach, Lennart Bergelin. When I saw his coach I had something of an epiphany. If the best player in the world needed a coach what about the rest of us mortals?
I adjusted my management style to being more of a coach than a manager, but still maintaining the appropriate authority. Since retiring from active business, I have been a mentor and coach for the past 16 years.
I take the view that my mentees know a great deal more than I do about their businesses – Borg’s coach could never have been as good as he was. I seldom give direct advice. I see my function as listening intently and directing the mentees to write down every aspect of their issues. They then create possible action plans. I draw on my own extensive personal and business experience to shine a light in corners that they may not have seen. Asking insightful questions enables the mentees to realise that they usually know the answers. After every session they are animated and energised. They feel accountable to me and are diligent in doing their ‘homework’.
The mentorship is action oriented. The question is always ‘What are you going to do now?’ The mentees are ‘forced’ to take an active decision – the status quo is acceptable only if it’s the best considered course of action.
The space is one of safety and confidentiality. I have the utmost respect for my mentees, and they know that they can say anything without fear of being judged. I share my own stories of successes and failures, even the ones that make me vulnerable.
In my retirement, mentoring is my way of giving back to the community.
What mentees say
‘From the first engagement at a speed mentoring session, I knew that if paired with Arnie Witkin, I’d have the benefit of gentle wisdom guiding me. As a late thirties professional, wife and mother of 2 children asking myself “what’s next?”, Arnie has been very instrumental in asking the pertinent questions that have helped to steer my steps. Arnie has a keenness in my progress that isn’t coddling yet does not stop him from initiating engagements. I’ve benefited from Arnie’s nuggets that impact me on a day-to-day basis as well as those helping shape the bigger picture. His availability is second to none. It’s up to me to use it.‘
– Palesa Mzolo, National Empowerment Fund
‘At my first mentoring session Arnie listened with intense concentration for 45 minutes and then quietly and gently said: “You’ve done well; you are 75% of the way there”. I was emotionally in a deep black hole and felt about 5% “of the way there”. His words put a spring in my step for the first time in many months. Every session with Arnie was one of him listening and then relating a relevant story and pearls of wisdom – a moral from each story relevant to my obstacle. After every session I was stimulated and energised. I felt that he really cared. I went home with my ‘homework’ of writing things down and being accountable to him. Arnie’s attributes of excellent listener, patience, consistent reliability, encouragement, belief in me, and his quiet and powerful observations took me from the 5% faith to 100%. The rest was my writing everything down, making plans and implementing them. Without a doubt this was the key.’
– Doryce Sher, Director/Founder The Relief Company
‘Arnie is a most wonderful listener and is always open to give his thoughts and opinions. He has a knack to direct you where you should be going in a manner that it feels as if the answers are coming from within yourself. The greatest advice he ever gave me was to take my problems and write them down and just keep writing until the plan just emerges. Boy does this work!’
– Jason Sandler, Stress Management Consultant
‘Arnie was my mentor for several years while my business was just gathering momentum in the UK. His wisdom and lessons not only helped me scale my business swiftly, but also taught me to be a better leader at work, and more importantly a better father and husband at home. Many years later, I still value all I learnt from Arnie and use his teachings in my everyday life. Arnie was my mentor but today, he is a good friend whom I value and cherish very much.’
– Rajan Gill, CEO Rajan Trading Co LLC
‘Arnie mentored me for two years and I very much enjoyed our mentoring sessions. He has a huge amount of experience and accumulated wisdom. He shared this wisdom and guided me with generosity, understanding and, importantly, a sense of humour. He also put me in contact with relevant people, which led to me securing new clients. Between meetings I occasionally called on him for input on issues I was having. As with our other interactions, this support was given with patience, thoroughness and consideration.‘
– Michael Walker, Managing Director The Language Boss
‘I had the great opportunity to work with Arnie for three years in what was a tricky time in my business career. Arnie was a wise and gracious mentor, supportive in just the right way to encourage me to be the best version of me. He helped to shine a light on the options before me, evaluate the pro’s and con’s balancing the life-cycle of my business with the wants and needs of my investors.‘
– Julia Langkraehr, CEO, Founder & Certified EOS Implementer®
‘Arnie mentored me at a time when I really needed someone in my corner. He helped restore my confidence in my ability, which had somehow gotten lost when I emigrated back to South Africa after many years away. He attended a seminar I was holding and told me that he was genuinely impressed. His belief in me restored my self-belief to get back onto the “world stage” once again. I am now powering forward with leading multinational clients. He encouraged me to write everything down and make plans. Arnie is inspirational.’
– Tessa Plen, Total Potential
‘It is a rare privilege to be able to sit down and really pick the mind of such a successful businessperson as Arnie. He first mentored me over ten years ago early in my career, but the lessons he taught me have been (and still are) invaluable in my rise as a successful entrepreneur. Even more than that, his incredible life – full of highs and lows – showed me how our careers will be intertwined with complex stories, and his reflections on these have been particularly inspirational. He is an amazing person to learn from.’
– Juliana Camargo, Social Selling Strategist. LinkedIn Specialist