Mentoring is a key part of the Alpine DNA. It is often misunderstood but the following definition has the core of it:

Mentoring is most often defined as a professional relationship in which an experienced person (the mentor) assists another (the mentoree) in developing specific skills and knowledge that will enhance the less-experienced person’s professional and personal growth.

Mentoring at Alpine happens at multiple levels. It doesn’t just happen at senior management but is embedded at every level where Managers  and Supervisors deal with up and coming staff. It is part of the way we try to build careers for our team members rather than just focusing on the short term and getting the job done. This can initially be a little scary for a new Supervisor or Manager who might think that if they impart the “secrets” of their success they might be at risk from the team members working for them. I don’t look at this way and often observe that a key part of managing and developing people is ultimately to make your role partly redundant. In this way the delegation is complete and the Manager or Supervisor has the opportunity and time to develop new skills to enable their own careers to progress.

Mentoring is founded on developing deeper relationships between Managers and Supervisors and the team members working as part of their team. At one level this is supported by a key Alpine value of mutual respect for each other but it goes much deeper than that. If you want to effectively mentor your people you have to break down some personal barriers and uncover more about the “mentoree” and their family and background. There is nothing new or false about this; it is just part of building good, harmonious relations with your work  colleagues. Once you have established  a personal relationship it is far easier to understand what drives team member’s background and behavior and to make constructive suggestions for improvement.

At Alpine we foster mentoring by having an open culture. I often put this in the context of “we’re all in this together” and if we succeed at a team level we will all benefit. We also encourage relationship development by having regular staff lunches, celebrating birthdays, acknowledging new Alpine children and by some small but important rituals which can be a regular drink on a Friday afternoon or some other simple way of bringing staff together.

We have several great examples of mentoring in action. There are many but one in particular serves as an example. Bruce Wilson is the Manager of our Alstonville Nursery and he has very successfully mentored our Production Manager, Ben Habershon over the last several years. This has worked fantastically well for both parties. In corporate-speak, a real win-win. Ben has developed his technical and people management skills really well which has accelerated his development and Bruce has also been able to delegate more effectively so that he can be assured that the “ship” maintains an even keel even when he is not around.

There are some traps with mentoring. It is not code for trying to “clone” people in your own image. It is about uploading skills and experience that can then be expressed through the individual, often in a very different way that matches the mentoree style. The other concern that comes to mind is that the mentor relationship might be viewed as favoritism in an organizational setting. To avoid this perception we should make sure that mentoring is an organizational value that is adopted through the organization.

Mentoring is not a single, simple solution to personal relationships but managed effectively it refreshes an organization and helps retains positive cultural values so that team members know and understand the culture and row the boat in the same direction.

 I know I am eternally grateful for the great mentors I have had in my career. Their lessons will never be forgotten.

 – Peter Knox