Sun streams onto my computer as I imagine what life is like for you on your farm in the middle of May 2020. I’ve just been blessed by the wise words of Donna Brighton, of the Brighton Leadership group, a wise coach and realistic woman.
Our families need us to lead from the core of who we are in this time of disorientation. Brighton says that change is an “external situation” but transition is an “internal process.” Farm families are making all kinds of internal transitions these days during what I have framed as the “Great Pause.” I learned that term in April; sorry I can’t attribute to who said it first.
May presents time to celebrate families, particularly the roles our moms play on the farm. In this moment of May 2020 we are moving from one way of being to another. Some of you have moms who are in long-term care with the ongoing pandemic fuelling anxiety as the ways you wanted to give comfort are no longer options.
My mom passed away at age 65 in 1998, and I miss her this month, especially as I plant the garden and visit her perennials passed on to me.
Brighton encourages us to think, “The only time that exists is right now! You can only make decisions in the now!” This is difficult to do if you have processed the grief of loss during COVID-19 and have moved to the action stage but the rest of your family is still stuck in a “poor me” mode.
Moms typically take on the role of the chief emotional officer of the farm family. They desire family harmony and too often get caught in the middle of intergenerational struggles.
Where are you at with your understanding of the current situation on your farm? Are you happy with how everyone is pulling together and keeping a positive outlook? Do folks treat each other with respect and kindness, behaving well towards each other, even when there are plugged air seeders, and late meals?
What you believe at your core are your cherished beliefs. As a woman of faith, part of my morning routine after breakfast is to spend some quiet time with my Bible, journal and pray. Where I am standing from is that God is in control, and what I know is that I need to be emotionally, physically and spiritually in tune to be able to lead my farm team with positivity and practical decision-making.
Last month I wrote about assumption-free living. Brighton calls us to make a list of the assumptions we are making to keep a daily log of where we might not be standing in the same reality as our farm family.
Our bodies respond to our perception of reality, and fear sabotages us. Do you recognize your response to what is happening around you? I get teary eyed on my gravel path through the shelterbelt when I finish a stint of grandchild care in the house next door. The bush triggers happy memories of creating forts and houses when I was a carefree young farm girl near Dugald. If we perceive anxiety about our current circumstance, our bodies will go to flight, fear, or freeze up. The alternative is to choose to be intentional about our stand to focus our next actions so that our brains shift from fear to the future.
Forward action according to Brighton requires:
1. Focus on where we are going. We are focused on planting crops, caring for animals, and nurturing a positive culture on our farm team. Each day you can write out the three priorities for that day and what actions will move you forward. I have a routine of getting lunch and supper planned before 9 a.m., so that if my day gets interrupted on many fronts, the main priority for me is under control. Employees can have quick morning check-ins to set the plan for the day.
2. Action. This is what we are doing to accomplish the myriad of tasks before us, one day at a time. There are some essential actions for us leading our families:
a. Care for self, our farm team, and our customers — Remember, your daily routine matters. You cannot give water out of a dry well. What are you doing to sleep well, eat good food, and have some renewal time, even just three minutes to reset?
b. Cash flow — Making sure bills are paid and creditors know your current situation.
c. Communication — Face to face, texts, phone calls, emails. In times of high stress you need to communicate more frequently and with less duration. Be careful with your tone of voice. Start by saying, “I am just curious… ” Listen well, and mirror back the message you think you heard.
d. Commitment to goals — Focused, aligned as a farm team.
3. Intention. This is the strategy for HOW we are going to get things done.
John Wooden said, “Never mistake activity for achievement.”
4. Time: What is next? When I coach a farm family we always close off the meeting with, “What are your next steps?” Talk does not cook rice. We can talk things through and challenge assumptions, but ultimately we need to act.
Brighton encourages three kinds of time blocks:
Thinking time. I suspect you have time for this while enjoying auto steer. I like to have this time when I go on a 40-minute walk down my lane. You might like to record your speaking and then have it transcribed on revo.com to transfer your thoughts to digital words you can reflect on further. Journaling is also a great way to track your thoughts. Julie Cameron, author of Artist’s Way calls this “morning pages” where you sit up in bed upon awakening and write two pages of your thoughts before your feet touch the ground. If this sounds crazy I’ll tell you my friend found this practice very helpful.
Time for yourself. Moms would likely appreciate a block of time to do some personal things. Have you asked her what she needs? Ask Dad, too!
Connection time. My husband Wes is teasing me that I now have a phone room… it’s where the grandbabies sleep, but it also has a comfy padded rocker that I use to call friends and connect in the evening. As an extrovert I can practise physical distancing, but I need to call and converse to stay happy.