Getting machines ready for seeding launches farmers out of bed in anticipation of a new season. “How are you calibrating yourself for seeding stresses?”
As we age, are we open to change behaviours and do a “reset of our default habits” to create a more positive culture on our farm team?
Peter Drucker said “culture beats strategy.” Many crop plans are in place, but things really go off the tracks fast when folks are quick tempered, abrasive, and rushed in their communication. Pace yourself, this is not a good time to go off like a time bomb. It’s time to think clearly before you speak, listen well, and choose a good response.
Culture is a mixture of what you believe to be true, how you choose to behave every day, and how you make decisions as a farm team. Believe. Behave. Decide.
When seeding pressure mounts we all need to be reminded to extend grace to one another. “Did you have a good night? How did you sleep?” is a great opener to discover if your teammate is exhausted, or replenished. If you stay true to your core values of what you believe, even when hoses get plugged, you will create solutions rather than have abrasive knee-jerk reactions. I’ve met farmers who have decided to reject negative comments, and make a new approach with kindness, curiosity and patience.
“No matter what we do on this farm Elaine, it’s never good enough.” This feeling of what Brene Brown calls “less than” is pervasive in agriculture. It’s not valuing one another and not speaking words of affirmation and appreciation into the lives of your farm team. Small gestures like saying “thank you” for warm coffee brought to the field, or, “here, I thought you might need this,” will build the emotional bank accounts of your workers, and set a positive tone for the day.
We all get to choose our response. You also get the behaviour that you accept.
Say “no more” to sad stories of farmers who think that hostile actions, swearing, and walking away from hard conversations are “normal.” Normal is a setting on my dishwasher, and that’s it!
Ask instead, “What is it like to be this person? How would I like to be treated in this situation?” We flourish with more grace and mercy in our lives. I often recall, “Be kind to everyone you meet, you never know what battles they are facing.”
I met Dr. Brian Goldman who hosts “White Coat, Black Art” on CBC and authored The Power of Kindness: Why Empathy is Essential in Everyday Life.
He encouraged dairy farmers to have greater emotional intelligence and activate greater empathy on their farms. Every workplace and family would benefit from folks who are more self-aware, people who choose to be kind.
Your culture may have given you some unwritten permission to be blunt, short, and brash with your language but you are leaving a long trail of hurt behind.
Whose opinions count as you make hundreds of decisions for seeding? Are you open to accepting a new way of doing things? Can you lead regular short meetings to glean the “flight plan for the week” and then be open to the input of all your workers? Are you OK to the folks who ask, “Why are we doing that?”
Simon Sinek’s Start with Why is a great teaching tool as your next audiobook on your tractor. My audiobook Building Your Farm Legacy is at audible.com.
If you value honesty and good communication you won’t be offended when people ask why. It’s a great starter question and you can continue to ask more questions to drill down to the key issues that need to be addressed.
Great leaders do not attempt reading minds. Love does not read minds in marriage. We all can recalibrate our communication patterns and ask more questions.
Be careful with your tone of voice, and don’t rely solely on texts. Texting can be a tension trigger if you make assumptions or cloud your response with a negative conflict filter. Picking up the phone to converse helps you hear the tone and intent of your teammate.
Work consciously to change your default communication habits to make good things happen. When I stay calm, ask questions with a kind tone, and delay my responses, I am creating a better culture to navigate seeding stresses. If everyone behaves well and shows up on the farm as an adult, not a temper-tantrum toddler, we won’t lose good energy to distracted management.
You don’t want to suffer the late-June embarrassment of plugged runs showing up in your fields. So why not calibrate your communication style to give you maximum productivity with a “rock ’n’ roll” planting with great energy, a positive outlook, and confidence to be clear in their messages, and kind?
Anxiety over crop markets and a looming sense of planting overwhelm can frazzle the best of us. There is another way.
Choose to intentionally show up each day in the field as a learner who takes responsibility for their words and actions.
Encourage the heart of your farm with words of affirmation, encouragement and gratitude.
Check your levels of energy and manage them well throughout the day. Consider a 15-minute power nap after lunch, and don’t neglect what your body is telling you.
Track tasks on a whiteboard, Google documents or group texts so everyone is kept in the communication loop and knows the seeding flight plan.
Use enough words in a kind tone to have clear messages sent, and paraphrase back what you heard.
Read Proverbs in the Bible reminding yourself what it takes to be a person of great character growing in integrity.
You get one shot at life. Take some time to reflect on what communication habits you need to recalibrate this spring. Your family will deeply appreciate your willingness to be a better person, and I bet your crops will flourish, too!