This subject (and not wine or anything that has to do with being a sommelier) is probably the most important in my eyes. It’s crucial to team and individual success.
Mentorship is rare but simple when it comes down to it. It’s not easy to do all the time, but it’s a simple concept to grasp, and we should be doing it with our team in some capacity every day. Mentorship came in many forms and fashions through my time in clubs and restaurants. Even through the Court of Master Sommeliers, mentorship has been critical to me in many forms and fashions. I have experience being mentored by some of the best, and now I am in the process of being a mentor today to my staff along with individuals going for their intro exam and certified exam in the Court.
We are not built to be independent. Our ancestors lived in tribes and villages, and we learned our way of living through the elders in that tribe. Mentorship is how we have come so far as a species, and it will become harder as the younger generations come up through the ranks. I was lucky enough to have some amazing mentors in my life. Mentors in different ways were tough and unforgiving, and while they would let me fail plenty of times, they were there to pick me up and tell me what not to do next time. They all taught me to have standards and expectations for myself and others I would mentor in the future and push people to be better than they were yesterday. It’s okay to be tough with your team, we are resilient. The team or person can understand the bigger picture if there is support and a “why” behind those teaching moments.
When specifically working for Rick Bayliss, Ryan Barry and George Miliotes I realized that it all came down to me and what kind of discretionary effort I decided to put in. I couldn’t wait for them to come to me, I had to go to them and let them know I wanted to learn and that I was invested! I also watched them and observed as well which I took away many lessons as well. They all showed me that to be a great leader and mentor, I will have to work on my own to understand my leadership and mentor style in the future.
Broadly speaking on mentorship, I believe it’s so important when working with so many team members at a club that you give everything you can back to your team so they can benefit from the knowledge and lessons you have already experienced. I will always give the team members at my club all the base knowledge of not just wine, spirits, cocktails, and beer, but everything and anything that I have learned at other clubs. That is where mentorship begins for me because you will always have the team members who take the base knowledge and leadership skills for what it is and are happy. Others will want more, and that’s great because we can all see potential in others. I have also learned you only give what you get back from that other team member. In other words, just because someone wants more doesn’t mean they should automatically be entitled to it. They must show me they want it just like my mentors did for me. They also must discover their potential and help themselves. As leaders, we discover and uncover, but it’s up to the individual to meet you halfway so you and they understand how bad they want something.
I see myself as nothing more than a vehicle to better my team if they want it. So many of our team members are full of infinite potential. It’s up to us as leaders to at the very least take a moment out of the day to stop and talk to one of our team members and give them a piece of knowledge they didn’t have before. We are doing our team members, ourselves, and the club we work for a disservice if we don’t take their potential and at least try and expose and bring it forward. As leaders, we want to leave our legacy behind in some form or fashion, yet very few are looking out instead of in. Giving back to your team any way will strengthen the bond between you and the team. It makes them better and makes everyone stronger to give back to your membership.
Individually mentoring is so different for me. It will always come down to speaking with the individual for a while, and before I do any type of one-on-one mentoring or in-depth teaching I need to know that individual is just as invested in the process as I would be. You can ask yourself some questions after a couple of weeks of speaking with them about the subject, what you expect from each other, what is practical, and what the groundwork is to start such a process. Since speaking with him or her about the whole process do you feel the individual “bought-in” to the process and groundwork that you have laid out for them? Has this individual come to you several times in the few weeks of speaking/laying the groundwork about how THEY are restructuring their life to make sure time will be made for the long-term goals, and maybe coming to you with new ideas of how they would like to contribute to the process? Have you seen follow-up with individuals with initial tasks given to them to start and lay the learning foundation? They NEED to meet you halfway in the process, and they have to “buy-in.” If they don’t and you do not see this, you have to step away and let them know that maybe they might not be ready for such a big step. Some think this is harsh, but it will save time and energy for both parties until they have done enough individual work to 100% be ready for such mentorship and the hard work that comes with it.
With all of that said, even though you might be or could be mentoring/teaching your team as a whole or individuals on your team, you should also always be looking to be mentored yourself as long as you have the time, resources, and you are willing to do the work that your mentee lies down for you. We will never be done learning as leaders, and we should seek out the people and groups that know more than us to learn from so we can one day pass those lessons on. In my current role and job, I am being mentored, and that individual doesn’t even know they are doing it. Some people are uncomfortable or feel a lot of pressure if they are asked to do such a task, and so if you want to be mentored and learn from one or more individuals I will recommend this: Ask a lot of questions and make sure you get the answers. Observe them to understand their process, routine, actions and how they conduct daily operations. Learn how to really listen, and be the last to speak when conversations are being had by people who are speaking on subjects you want to learn more about. Lastly, put in the time yourself to get better, understand, and become a little bit better today then you were yesterday.
Not many things will be handed to you in the club industry on a silver platter. You will need to grind and work for what you want. Once you get all the knowledge you want or have set out to gain the only job you have from that point is to use it to make your team/operation better and give it all right back to your team to help them become better if they want it. Never withhold important or useful information for self-gain. You hurt your team, your trust with your team, and your character.
Finally, promote the best in people and remember that nothing well done is insignificant. Pursue what is meaningful and not what is expedient. Make at least one thing better every single place you go. Compare yourself to who you were yesterday and not to who someone else is today. What you do not know is more important than what you already know. Most importantly, greatness or success is not a measure of your greatness but how great others came to be because of you.