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Gifts Your Farm Team Needs

Beekeepers are a very friendly and warm bunch of folks as I experienced them at their annual convention in Edmonton last month. They are dealing with issues that threaten their livelihood and like grain farmers, the weather really does a number on their business, too.

As I was flying over Saskatchewan I was really saddened to see the sod covered in so much water that it looked like muskeg, not the Prairies I am used to. I suspect that many of you are anticipating a long winter of stress and indecision about how to get ready for next year, and how to face the financial crunches of 2010.

Buying gifts is probably not a fun activity when dollars are tight, so let’s consider some gifts your farm team needs that won’t cost money. They will cost you time and intentionality.

Here’s some ways to encourage the heart of your business:

1. ACT:Start the conversations about the tough issues that are eating at you and keeping you up at night. When I speak about farm transfer and succession I hear from folks who are so worried about family tension, they aren’t sleeping, and that means they are not able to make well-rested, well-conceived plans for everyone’s future. Mark a date on your calendar that you are going to set aside for personal reflection, and another date to invite the farm team to have dialogue.

2. Agenda of Concerns:Set aside some time to meet in a safe, neutral spot with an agenda. You need to be intentional about setting up a business meeting to take the pulse of your emotional climate of your farm team. Use a soft object like a stuffed toy as the talking stick, so that the person talking holds the toy and gets to speak, uninterrupted. I bet your accounting firm has a stress toy you could use as a talking stick. It’s a good idea to let your advisers know your big-picture idea of getting more clarity for the vision of your business team. If tensions are high, you might want to hire a facilitator or coach.

3. Journal:Figure out before you meet what you really want to accomplish. When I ask family what they want for Christmas, the usual answer is “I don’t need anything”… and then they are thankful for what arrives on December 25. Be brutally honest with yourself. What do you really want as encouragement to the heart of your business? Do you and your spouse want the same things or different?

4. Affirm:Do some performance appraisals of everyone’s work. Family members don’t get fired, but they typically cause lots of friction. Maybe this is the winter that the farm team signs up for a conflict resolution course in January, a day or two to figure out how to come to a common interest and united vision for the farm. Email me if you would like a copy of Jim Soldan’s one-page performance appraisal which will get the conversation started. Employees may want verbal affirmation, or if they see “talk as cheap” they may prefer a financial bonus, or simple acts of service, like offering to do a task for them.

5. Buy my new book:Do the Tough Things Right…how to prevent communication disasters in family business.This is 184 pages of practical tools to have checklists for your talks about fairness, finances for lifestyle needs, farm estate issues, forgiveness and respect and more! Some folks won’t take the time to read, but those of you who are looking for a workbook to get things done right will appreciate this new tool that I have created for you.

6. Celebrate what is good in your life with your family and your farm team:The beekeepers have a lot of fun and they work hard. They take time to network, share meals and learn new ideas. They also bring their small children along for a holiday at the West Edmonton Water Park and Mall. Is it time to have a special meal together with your farm team to celebrate surviving 2010?

Hopefully you can look at ways to give gifts to your family farm team that don’t cost lots of money, they cost you time in setting aside planned events for courageous conversations so that everyone on the team gets what they really want this Christmas and into the new year of work.

Here’s a list of items you can tuck into the December pay slips:

I appreciate you because…

I am thankful the time this year that you helped me by…

I respect your difference of opinion, and to that end I am enclosing a certificate for “Dealing with Difficult People” in Winnipeg at Resolution Skills… www.resolutionskills.ca.

Enjoy this restaurant certificate with your family.

Take two days off next week and spend time with the folks you care about having fun.

Be prepared in January to spend two days planning the work schedule for the next three months, and doing a written performance appraisal. We will meet on _______.

Our next business meeting is scheduled for __________ and have your agenda items on the white board in the shop four days prior to the meeting.

Encouraging the heart of your business will pay huge dividends even when your business is suffering from the deluge of moisture we have experienced this year.

Check your attitude and sense of optimism for the future. If you think you might be suffering from circumstantial depression, make an appointment with your doctor to evaluate low-grade depression.

Thank you to the many readers who drop in to visit me via email throughout the year to share the impact of this column and give me feedback. When I sit at my writing desk and watch the farm activity through the window, I never know what words will spur you on to action or reflection. We are all in this culture of agriculture together, and let’s support each other to make wise decisions for the future for the good of all.

Be an encourager and bless your business. Merry Christmas!

ElaineFroeseisathoughtleaderinplanning forchange.Asacertifiedcoachandmediator shehelpsfarmfamiliestalkabouttough peopleissues.Visit www.elainefroese.com toorderhernewbookorcall1-866-848-8311 tobookherforyournextagevent.Elaineis amemberoftheCanadianAssociationof FarmAdvisorsandtheCanadianAssociation ofProfessionalSpeakers.Shefarmsnear Boissevain,Manitoba,R0K0E0.

About the author

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Elaine Froese is a certified farm family coach and farm partner. Seek her out at www. elainefroese.com or call 1-866-848-8311. Buy her books for your mom. Share your stories of how these phrases have impacted you. Elaine wants to hear from you on Facebook at “farm family coach” or Twitter @elainefroese.

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