For many longtime bartenders, their current big-picture goals
center on something much deeper than crafting another hit-making cocktail:
building up the next generation.
Sean Kenyon of Denver’sWilliams &
this often means taking on the role of teacher and, more importantly, mentor
when the opportunity comes along.
Kenyon’s experiences in mentoring versus
training, bar leadership and the give-and-take nature of these relationships are
key pieces of advice for both aspiring mentors and mentees.
1. Don’t self-label
as a mentor.
“I was sitting with Jim Meehan almost five
years ago in France
at a lunch, and I had received an email from a guy I would consider a mentor.
He said to me, ‘Well, who are you bringing up right now? Who’s behind you? Are
you building a team or just working on your own?’ His question really was: ‘Who
are you mentoring?’
I read the email and
talked to Jim about it, and Jim said, ‘You can’t be a mentor until somebody calls
you one.’ And I agree with that, and it’s stuck with me. You don’t just call
yourself a mentor.Mentoris
a big word. You just can’t grab somebody and be like, ‘I’m going to be your
2. Learn from
everyone, not just mentors.
“If you despise working for someone, they’re
not going to be a mentor to you. They may teach you some things, though, good
and bad. You can learn from anybody; you can learn what not to do as much as
what to do. I learned as much from my terrible managers as my great ones. But
mentoring is a connection.”
teaching versus training.
“A mentor is someone who teaches life
lessons. A mentor doesn’t just train you to do specific things. There’s a
difference between training and teaching; there’s a lot of sharing involved in
it. I’m not just working from a textbook, I’m working with people, and everyone
takes to different types of education.”
4. Training programs
have their place, though.
“It starts with training programs. I think
it’s important when people have structure and clear objectives: They know what
they’re shooting for and what they’re aiming to attain. They have to have faith
in you. Somebody has to be a true believer, and in a way, they have to buy in.
For us, it’s sort of cult-like—the cult of hospitality. Everyone is obsessed
with the same kind of ethos about it, the ‘we serve people not drinks’
5. Mentoring is
“We have a structured training program at
Williams & Graham, but I wouldn’t call it a mentoring program. To me,
training and mentoring are totally separate things. You can train skill sets,
but mentoring is sharing life experiences to bring someone to the greater end.
I think that takes a one-on-one connection. You don’t get mentored by someone
you don’t believe in or by someone you don’t really know.”