Mentoring - putting old heads on young shoulders

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					Digital Re-print - September | October 2009
Feature title: Mentoring - putting old heads on young shoulders

Grain & Feed Milling Technology is published six times a year by Perendale Publishers Ltd of the United Kingdom. All data is published in good faith, based on information received, and while every care is taken to prevent inaccuracies, the publishers accept no liability for any errors or omissions or for the consequences of action taken on the basis of information published. ©Copyright 2009 Perendale Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means without prior permission of the copyright owner. Printed by Perendale Publishers Ltd. ISSN: 1466-3872






hat do we do when we want to replace staff, particularly those who are millers or mill managers. The wise ones will have already done their homework and know who within their organization is capable of being promoted and who is on the “look out” within the industry or the locale for a change of career. Those who haven’t kept the ear to the ground will have a problem. They may choose to use a recruiter of which there are relatively few in our industry although those that are operating in that field are very good at what they do and they will provide you with an assortment of the best people looking out.
What do we do when there is succession planning involved and family interests are in the mix? How do we provide training in those circumstances? Well this scenario doesn’t come along very often, only once in a generation and with the limited number of millers left operating in this country there is very little consideration given to such circumstances. However, whichever scenario we may be addressing there seems to be a renewed interest in “MENTORING” – something which used to take place in the dim and distant past of the twentieth century. Sad to say we just don’t have the time nor the skilled personnel these days to provide the full training we used to in years gone by. No longer can a school leaver come in and work their way through the laboratory, packing house, intake, screenroom and mill, following the correspondence course and then head off for a couple of years to get some experience in another mill somewhere before
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putting old heads on young shoulders
returning home to settle down and take over the rolls for a lifetime. But yet there are people out there who can provide good sound training to up and coming millers and also to up and coming managers and family members. Simply by acting as a mentor a great deal of knowledge can be imparted. Often knowledge that would otherwise have been lost since many of those who are acting as mentors have experiences under their hats which today’s millers are unlikely to see or come across again as milling techniques and demands have changed. As an example of this I cite the current mycotoxin scenario where those new incumbents into managerial posts have not experienced anything like what we have seen in the last twelve to twenty four months. Just how do you approach such a scenario? What do you do to protect your own market and not be left with vast expense? Don’t panic, as Corporal Jones would say in the TV series Dad’s Army. Establish the facts; see what the national and international situation is. Talk to your customers and realize that you are not the only ones out there with a problem.

by Jonathan Bradshaw

To use a mentor can save a great deal of money in recruiting fees and it can enhance not only the individual being mentored but also the rest of the organization because knowledge is somehow infectious and people do not have a problem passing on what they have been told. Most people are gossips at heart and love to talk about their lives and what they have done and heard. The same applies to mentoring. It brings together skilled, experienced people with those who have yet to learn. We all know that things happen slowly in the milling industry and for those involved

there are experiences outside of the normal daily scope that take place. Milling engineers like to try new things since that is how development takes place, hence whenever new equipment is installed it is invariably untried and untested, yet it is these projects which prove or disprove the theories which experienced mill engineers have and which they seek to perfect. People who have lived through these scenarios and have seen experimentation take place have a greater depth of knowledge than those who have simply done their routine work day in and day out. Not that I decry those who work routinely, they are the back bone of the industry but when we seek to challenge our millers and mill managers it becomes very difficult when they only have limited experience. The old adage of “does he have twenty years’ experience or one year’s experience, twenty times over” is a pertinent one in the consideration of using a mentor. Invariably when we look at promoting people we like to favour the devil we know and so we promote in house whenever and wherever we can. When we have only a limited number of locations it becomes very difficult to bring new skills to the table.

The NABIM Correspondence course, the craft skills certificate and the Milling Diploma are all useful tools in the training cupboard but they are no replacement for experience. Consequently the promoted person can often reach their level of “incompetence” at some stage in their life and as a result the organization loses momentum and drive since the incumbent in question has no new experiences to call upon. Everyone around him or her knows nothing more and it is time for some fresh thinking to be injected. But how to do this? Do you get rid of the present incumbent and swap him or her for someone from another organiza-

tion who does things differently, possibly more in line with the desires and wishes of the senior executive who is calling for a change? Well that is one way and that seems to work for a while, especially when you draw someone from a mill or an industry where things are done rather more effectively.

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“Knowledge is somehow infectious and people do not have a problem passing on what they have been told”
in the industry who often work only at one location, the times when they experience anything new from which they can learn are, sadly, few and far between.

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Experience of similar situations, the really dry harvests of the mid 70’s, the really wet harvests of the mid 80’s, the lady bird swarms, the invasions of thrips and green fly we saw at various times in the latter half of the 20th century. All of these scenarios are within the working lifetimes of several people now on the skirts of the industry and who act as mentors to various people and organizations in the UK and abroad.

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but I have seen many instances where an employee has been progressively “outed” in favour of someone else from another milling company coming in and the person who has left eventually moves into new role and is spectacularly impressive in their new role simply because they can bring their experience to bear in a new environment. The role of the mentor is to bring about that change in the existing environment before great expense is incurred and upheaval takes place.

We must not forget Teamwork in amongst the discussions about mentoring. Everyone, in any organization must be part of a team, whether they like it or not. Mentors generally tend to coach individuals but they also have the experience to know that each individual has to perform some group duties and how they perform those duties will affect the overall company performance. Management consultants generally tend to want to change the whole company structure to bring about rapid change whereas Mentors tend to concentrate on changing on individual and restoring his or her influence upon the group. Change from within rather than mass change from outside or above. Working relations with Mentors tend to be over a period of time, possibly a few days to begin with just to familiarize each other with the tasks in hand and then reducing down in terms of involvement over probably a six month period resulting in the Mentor just being called when necessary or simply on a casual basis once a month or less frequently. Costs of using Mentors varies depending on the roles involved but if it is expensive it simply doesn’t work and it doesn’t happen. By the very nature of the Mentors only the successful ones can be of any value and they invariably do this kind of work for the enjoyment of seeing people succeed rather than the financial rewards. The international market has several Mentors operating, often in the larger group mills or with government run organizations. The success of the “British Miller” as an overseas miller and mill manager has meant that most of those people who were employed in the UK when milling was in its heyday are now working abroad. Several of these expats are acting as Mentors and their exodus from the UK has left a distinct technical and managerial skills gap in the UK, which is in need of filling. As I have stated earlier the NABIM training courses provide a back bone to this technical skills gap but the Mentor has a distinct role to play in advancing the cause of the mill manager. Invariably the Mentor also bring skills that benefit the whole organization, improvements in overall working practices often follow in the wake of a good Mentor and

certainly the enquiring nature of those who remain after the Mentor has gone leads to improvements on working practices that have a distinct financial effect. But it is not always the failing person who needs a mentor, often the new incumbent needs some direction. I have quoted in the past the adage that “it is often easy to confuse activity with progress” and many a new incumbent into a managerial role can be extremely “active” leaving other employees confused and skeptical. The experience a Mentor brings can channel enthusiasm and draw upon the new, young managers’s keenness to make a mark in such a way as to become far more effective than would be the case if left to their own

devices. Someone once said “Experience is a comb which God gives to man when he is bald” perhaps there is time for a few bald people to pass that experience along to the up and coming millers and managers who still have their hair.

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You could pull in management consultants who will look at restructuring your organization, probably introduce a paper chase and some measurement of results, set objectives and tie performance to reward. All tried and tested means of motivating people but perhaps it is not necessarily motivation of an individual or group of individuals that you seek, perhaps you just want some new ideas….back to your mentor.

Beware the impostors!
Some mentors make a living from interim management and there are an abundance of management consultants on the scene at the moment as many people made redundant in the recent credit crunch find themselves looking for work and thus purport to be experts in their fields. Beware the impostors! Pick a mentor who can demonstrate a good track record, someone you know and someone whom your staff will respect.



Jonathan Bradshaw J B Bradshaw Limited Mill View Beverley Road Driffield, YO25 6RX United Kingdom
Tel: +44 1377 253015 Email:

European milling industry
Mentors will have worked in the European milling industry, often have experience of a wide range of milling techniques, can address a wide range of disciplines, have held office at various levels in a range of organizations. They will have experience beyond the scope of anyone you employ currently. They will invariably have international experience in milling, probably in baking too and they may have experience in other fields, meat process-

Tackling under performance

There are perhaps people within your company now who come to mind as not performing at their best. There are several reasons why that can be. Perhaps they are distracted by family matters, children going through exams, heading for college or university. Perhaps spouses or parents who are not well and who ask for your employee to give of their time to support them, distracting from their performance at work. These are the sort of people whom a mentor can “Invariably the Mentor also bring skills that benefit, perhaps they can benefit the whole organization, improvements in work with them on a confidential basis, exploring the overall working practices often follow in the wake root cause of their apparent of a good Mentor and certainly the enquiring inability to perform and, using their experience from elsenature of those who remain after the Mentor where make changes in their daily lives that will allow them has gone leads to improvements on working to concentrate on the job in practices that have a distinct financial effect” hand rather than worry about things beyond their control. Perhaps it is simply a time management issue. There are ing, feed milling, and agribusiness. They are many scenarios where managing and organthe sort of people you may hire to oversee a izing a diary can bring about dramatic results capital project but most of them will be able in personal performance. Or perhaps it is to take things a stage further and they will be a matter of lacking technical or managerial people who can train the staff and establish experience. The ability may be there but the the effective human resource structure that is idea to spark the enthusiasm is not. Many required to turn in a profit when the capital people however give up on the individual and installation is complete and you want some see changing the person as being the way to pay back from your investment. solve the problem. Sometimes it is the case

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Description: What do we do when we want to replace staff, particularly those who are millers or mill managers. The wise ones will have already done their homework and know who within their organization is capable of being promoted and who is on the “look out” within the industry or the locale for a change of career. Those who haven’t kept the ear to the ground will have a problem. They may choose to use a recruiter of which there are relatively few in our industry although those that are operating in that field are very good at what they do and they will provide you with an assortment of the best people looking out.