Beyond Mentoring: Co-Sipping the Yeast Overflow From the Brewing Vat

I was recently on a tour of the Half Acre Beer company with some friends and colleagues in the procurement and supply chain profession, many of whom work for the same organization. Aside from sampling some outstanding brews that are not widely distributed (Akari Shogun is an absolute stunner), I saw a great example of team building during the event when everyone in attendance saw a large beer vessel with an overflow tap that was excreting yeast overflow from the fermentation process.

As if on cue when we all stared at the overflowing vat, one of the senior folks on the tour said, “Who is our youngest employee… You, go drink that.” The young analyst of course did as directed (with a smile on his face), but he was soon joined by one of the more senior guys on the tour as well, who did so because he did not want to leave a young coworker hanging alone with yeast byproduct in his mouth.

Now that is team-building, though maybe in a fraternity-esque sort of way. But the need for senior leaders and young talent to step in together into the same mess, either metaphorical or real (of their own doing or otherwise), and collaborate can lead to outcomes that bring everyone closer together – as well as loyal staff (something with the current generation of millennials is hard to achieve).

I’ve been reminded of this time and time again in project after project over the years. If a junior employee knows that senior leaders in an organization are fully willing to step in and get their hands dirty themselves – ideally in a manner that mentors lower-level employee involved – everyone wins. Whether it’s developing category strategy, analyzing commodity management approaches, exploring inventory reduction strategies, or working on joint product innovation with a supplier, the more true collaboration there is in a non-hierarchical manner within an organization, the more an organization and its individual employees grow.

Having said that, I just hope they both brushed their teeth afterwards.

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