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The gift of healing stories in agriculture

This gift will not cost you any money — only your time and attention

Pierrette believes as I do that positive feedback and pointing out good actions is important to creating a healthier culture in our farm teams. Pouzer and Koutes authored Encouraging the Heart of Your Business that echoes the same theme.

As Christmas celebrations approach I’d like to challenge you to take a risk this year in giving a gift that doesn’t cost money. It does cost your time and attention.

What would it look like if you wrote a heartfelt letter to your parents or to your adult children expressing your appreciation for their part in your success on the farm?

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It’s time for our ag tribe to create more healing stories in agriculture to encourage families to do the patient work of transition with joyful outcomes. One dairy farmer shared the way his family met with a facilitator when he was in his mid-50s. He and his brother were able to set up a structure for the future that satisfied each family business partner’s different needs. The group listening to his story leaned forward in rapt attention. It was a rare occasion listening to a healing journey and not the usual chaotic story with a hurtful ending.

Coaches use a technique of asking folks to be future focused and “paint a picture of what an awesome future would look like saying: “Describe that to me.”

What will a good day on the farm look like for you in 2020? Is your spouse aware of what you are thinking, feeling, needing and wanting? And do you know their picture of a happy life in family business?

Change is inevitable; growth is optional. BDO’s Brent VanParys, the business transition services specialist quips about the founder who likes to be “large and in charge.” The autocratic or dictator-like leadership style for farm managers is not a healing story. If you are comforted by sameness you are likely not ready to embrace a new mindset on your farm team to develop a learning plan for the next generation to successfully take on new management roles. If you embrace a positive attitude and openness to learning new ways of running the farm, you will have support along the way. Many next-generation farmers have peer networks and share information with each other freely. Being a lifelong learner is a great adventure for growth.

Name three things about your farm team member that you appreciate.

Create a story that shows an example or word picture to illustrate why that trait or action gives you peace and joy about the future of your farm.

Here’s some sample letters from parents to successor son and daughter:

Dear Son,

I am so grateful that you have decided to become the next manager of our farm business. It is a delight to see you using the skills you are wired with to grow our sales, marketing and create stronger customer relationships. Mom and I are very proud of your work and the person of integrity that you are. Your focus, ability to execute work plans, and attention to detail are marvellous. We are confident that the future for our farm is bright. We rejoice that we can celebrate gains in our business, and richness of relationship. Let us know the things that you would like us to do differently. We are open to your feedback because we know that your intention is not to cause harm or offence, but to help us all be better.

Thank you for your patience in this transition journey as we continue to meet, seek new options, and make wise decisions for the legacy of the farm business. We’ll have many more opportunities with our advisers to build out our future goals.

We love you dearly,
Dad and Mom.

Dear Daughter,

It’s been a joy to watch you in action now that you are back from ag college and working full time with our farm team. We are deeply thankful for your ability to navigate the challenges of working in a conservative environment with courage, strength and confidence as a woman in agriculture. We look forward to your ideas for growth and legacy as we transition shares of the company to you and your spouse. We also realize there can be a deep sense of overwhelm when you are wanting to give 110 per cent to the farm and at the same time raise strong, healthy children. Let us know how we can support you more effectively in the many roles you are carrying. Help us to see options that suit the realities of life in 2020. It is very important to us that you feel heard, and that you sense that you aligned with what is truly important to you.

Thank you for being clear, honest and transparent about your fears. It helps us process the approach we need to navigate with your non-farm siblings. We are also thankful for a forum in business meetings to keep family issues and concerns in a separate circle from the farm’s agenda.

Our business serves all of our families. We are deeply blessed with the richness of relationship with you.

We love you dearly,
Dad and Mom.

Dear Brother and Sister-in-Law,

It’s been an amazing 30-year ride with you on this farm. Seems like just yesterday that Dad and Mom handed over the reins to us. As a new year approaches, we’d like to say a heartfelt thanks to you for agreeing to find a new structure for the business that allows each of our families to separate our enterprises with a spirit of collaboration and harmony for the future. Our meetings with our trusted advisers have been a great investment, and really helped us to get better sleep, knowing that the future plans will unfold with few surprises. Have a great winter down south, we’ll keep in touch on FaceTime and see you for a round of golf.

Sincerely,
Your favourite and only brother!

Impossible to craft these letters? I think not. You’ve got a script to get your creative juices going and make it your own story. Give the gift of encouragement this Christmas. You’ll see amazing results!

Here’s to an abundance of healing stories in ag for 2020!

About the author

Contributor

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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