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You Can Lead a Horse to Water, But You Can't Make It Drink

Recent interactions with a couple of clients got me thinking about my past experiences in Professor Lee Igel’s Consulting Strategies class at NYU – not as a student, as a guest lecturer.  Think he invited me back a few times, as I recall, and I always really enjoyed it because he was such an outstanding teacher.  I also appreciated him because he let me be me – that doesn’t happen often!  “Just do your thing,” he would tell me…and so I did.

you can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink meme

At the end of each class, Professor Igel (who today is Clinical Professor – NYU’s Tisch Center for Global Sports) would open the floor for a Q & A…and inevitably  I’d get the same question from his grad students from semester to semester, “ Do you ever get used to clients not taking your advice or recommendations, when they have hired you for your expertise?”  

“Oh boy…great question!” I remember thinking to myself, as I searched for the best way to respond.

Their frustration was palpable given that, as part of their course work, the students worked as external consultants to an industry partner who provided them with a question or challenge. Working in teams they would conduct significant consulting projects, from contracting to presentation of results, with appropriate clients under the guidance of Professor Igel.  Talk about real-world experience!  

hertelier nancy mendelson

“NO!  I never get used to it,“ I told them. “But I do look for ways to respond professionally...I work hard to let go and put my own ego aside.” Admittedly, some situations are easier than others, and this continues to be a work in progress for me.

But let’s be real here!  Dealing with clients or colleagues or anyone who doesn’t value your expertise seriously sucks...and takes all the energy and focus I can muster up to keep from exploding!  But that’s life, and it doesn’t stop me from having their best interest at heart and speaking up about what I perceive to be sound advice.  If they don’t take it, well ... you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink.


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