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Here’s what happens when farm families don’t trust each other

TAGS: Farm Life
eyecrave/iStock/GettyImages two male adults and one female adult showing sibling rivalry
Want to build trust on the farm? To start, talk straight, deliver results, right wrongs, and keep commitments.

I’ve seen families unable to complete a buy-sell agreement or make a big decision together. They get stuck negotiating the finest details, debating endlessly. Why? Often what they debate is a red herring. The real problem is an underlying lack of trust.

And until that fundamental issue is addressed, they continue to churn.

Stephen M.R. Covey in The Speed of Trust says trust is “the one thing that changes everything,” meaning trust impacts every single relationship, communication, and project we have. In my work with family farms, where there is significant conflict, trust is sorely lacking. Where there is a highly functioning team, they check all the boxes of high trust in Covey’s checklist.

Covey describes the impact as a high trust dividend, or a low trust tax—financial terms that get our attention! And truly there is financial impact. People who don’t trust each other spend precious time in conflict or circumventing each other, spend resources creating redundant systems to protect themselves, and sometimes spend extra money on lawyers, auditors, consultants, etc. I’ve seen extra employees hired just so one person has “his” loyal set of eyes on the ground!

What is trust?

We might start by defining trust as being honest or keeping information confidential. But it goes beyond those character traits. Trust is also earned by meeting commitments, doing our work well, being reliable.

Admitting your family needs to work on trust skills may sound touchy feely and intangible. But in fact, there are habits and behaviors that build trust. Covey outlines 13, including these four important ones: “Talk Straight, Deliver Results, Right Wrongs, Keep Commitments.”

Trust behaviors can be learned and taught, if you’re willing to tackle the real issue at hand. In my next blog we’ll touch on these behaviors to get your farm family back on the trust track.

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. 
The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Farm Progress. 
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