Dare to lead and love your farm family

If you can understand the farm team’s thoughts and emotions you’ll have greater success figuring out issues and creating solutions

Dare to lead and love your farm family

I am a big fan of Brene Brown’s work and encourage you to check out her insights. Recently I surveyed her newest book Dare To Lead (Random House 2018). When I read books I write notes at the back and then translate ideas gleaned for working with farm family communication.

Brown is working to create more courageous cultures as I am with farm families. It takes courage to be vulnerable and share your deepest needs and dreams when you are feeling stuck with inaction.

Are you creating what Brown calls “psychologically safe containers” for positive communication behaviours? Listening, staying curious, being honest and keeping confidences are the examples of safe actions. Let go of the negative ones like judgment, interruption, unsolicited advice giving, and sharing outside of the team meeting.

Brown’s team members write down one thing that they give themselves permission to do or feel for a particular meeting. Farm families who know they need to meet often are filled with tension and worry about the conflict that may arise. If you write down things like, “I give myself permission to be honest about my feelings,” you will likely feel empowered to speak honestly. Give yourself permission to be open minded or to listen more than you talk. Give yourself the OK to ask for more time to think about something before you share your point of view. The slips are a key tool to being clear about your intent. Brown says, “Permission slips aren’t promissory notes, they are for stating and writing down intentions only, so there are no repercussions if you fail to deliver, however, they are useful for increasing accountability and the potential for support, and also for understanding where everyone in the room is coming from.”

Learning from others requires that we name the issue we want to solve, be curious and reward great questions. “Curiosity changes the brain’s chemistry,” says Brown.

I would love farm families to pay more attention to what they are feeling with people. Brown defines empathy this way: “Empathy is feeling with people.” She believes empathy is a skill which can grow.

  • Be able to take the other person’s perspective; be a learner. This is a key positive constructive conflict resolution behaviour.
  • Be non-judgmental. This is hard for parents and adult successors who jump to old patterns. You might screw things up as you practise, but circle back to the tough conversation, clean it up and try again.
  • Work to understand the other person’s feelings. “Say more” is a good probing response.
  • Communicate your understanding of the other person’s feelings. Name the emotions that you are sensing. Brown challenges us to name 40 emotions and improve our emotional literacy.
  • Be mindful of what is going on for the other person; “pay attention.”

Empathy is not sympathy and feeling bad for the other person. It’s not dismissive by saying, “It’s not that bad.” It is also not comparing with stories that start with, “If you think that’s bad, listen to what happened to me!”

“Empathy is the most powerful connecting and trust-building tool that we have, and it’s the antidote to shame,” says Brown (Dare to Lead p.160).

Brown sees power in these empathy phrases:

Oh man, I feel you.
I know that feeling and it sucks.
I see you. You are not alone.
I understand what that’s like.

Many of the farm families I facilitate are relieved to feel “they are not alone.” When you can understand that empathy is the heart of connection you will have powerful communication. Brown says, “Empathy is connecting to the emotions that underpin an experience.”

Some farm business advisers will counsel you to “keep the emotions out of the business decisions.” Not a good idea in my books. Understanding what your farm team is thinking, feeling, needing and wanting will give you more clarity in your decision-making as you figure out the issues and create solutions together.

Daring leaders are willing to give difficult feedback and sit beside the folks they want to problem solve with. They ask powerful questions without lecturing. Brave leaders also acknowledge what the team is doing well by catching people doing things right. Farmers would be wise to ask, “What does support look like?” when you are working towards a tight deadline and tough project.

Knowing your core values will also create a strong farm culture. I have a values indicator assessment tool done online for $40 per person. You can contact me at elainefroese.com to request info. I can also send you a values cloud tool to start thinking about your cherished beliefs.

Brown uses three values to guide her company:

Be brave.
Serve the work.
Take good care.

Courage comes with setting clear boundaries, leaning into difficult conversations and talking to people not about them.

Serving the work is about taking responsibility for the team experience and relaying positive energy.

Take good care has to do with how we take care of ourselves and each other.

Wise farm families treat others with respect and compassion, doing things in a timely fashion. Being appreciative and practising gratitude builds the emotional bank account of your team.

“Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind” (Dare to Lead p. 211). Clarity of values and actions makes for a happier, healthier culture.

Daring leadership embraces these values:

Compassion, gratitude, learning, clarity, contribution, renewal, belonging, reward, honesty, leading from the heart, and many more.

Seek out Brene Brown’s books, Ted Talks and resources at brenebrown.com.

About the author


Elaine Froese is a Manitoba 150 Woman Trailblazer. She is passionate to guide farm families to find harmony through understanding. Her mission is for you to have rich relationships on your farm. Visit elainefroese.com to learn more and book her for speaking engagements at arlanacademy.com.



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