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Communication greases the wheel, part one

Andree_Nery/Stock/Getty Images Plus Farmer using digital tablet computer in cultivated corn field
Smooth communication throughout your team keeps operations rolling without a squeak.

I worked on the farm a lot as a child, but somehow I avoided hand packing wheel bearings with grease. The first time I watched my husband do it on an inherited family heirloom camping trailer, I finally understood the saying “grease the wheels”!

Communication is the grease that keeps the wheels of the business turning without too many squeaks. I see it needed in three main cadences:

  1. ongoing operational coordination,
  2. addressing a problem or conflict, and
  3. long-term planning.

These concepts apply among family members and non-family alike. I’ll address #1 today.

Morning routine

Think of ongoing operational coordination like the morning greasing routine on the combine. You do it to prevent future problems. It’s usually pretty quick and follows a routine. It provides today’s or this week’s FYI and answers urgent questions.

How? This may be a morning huddle or a text or email. Some folks send out a message at the end of day saying who will be where tomorrow.

It provides the information all need to stay productive and not get frustrated.

If you’re thinking, “We’re a small team and everyone knows what’s going on. Why do I need this?” I challenge you to reconsider. I recently led a team workshop of eight. During the idea sharing discussion, one member asked, “What happened to those morning huddles we used to have? I thought that was really helpful.” They had started the huddles at my suggestion a few years ago, but it had waned. No, I did not plant him in the audience—I’d never even met him!

Whatever format you use, the key is, keep it consistent and keep it focused so it’s not a waste of time. If the usual leader is unavailable, that doesn’t mean the meeting cannot happen! Ask someone else to lead it—a great growth opportunity.

The ‘look ahead’ meeting

Another variation is a “look ahead meeting” that helps everyone know what to expect and be ready to engage over some longer time period. This may be monthly or seasonal as work patterns shift. Use this time to solicit suggestions on workflow, assign teams, and provide training.

It sounds simple, but folks appreciate knowing what’s coming up so they know how likely they’ll work late, what to wear for weather or grime, if they’ll be near HQ for lunch or not, who they’ll be working with—or to mentally prepare for a task they enjoy or dread. Sometimes as boss, we take for granted how much inside info we have.

So, just like you use the grease gun regularly, make sure you’re communicating throughout your team to keep operations rolling without a squeak.

Related: Communication greases the wheel, part two

Davon Cook is a family business consultant at K Coe Isom. Reach Davon at davon.cook@kcoe.com.
The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Farm Progress. 
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