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Are your employees problem solvers?

How to think like a coach and develop your farm team.

Darren Frye

October 24, 2022

2 Min Read
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Q: We’ve added several employees to our farm over the past few years. Financially, I’m concerned that they don’t seem to be good problem-solvers. Everything still seems to come back to me to make decisions, solve problems, deal with issues. It’s slowing us down. Is this something I have to just live with or is there a way to improve this so we can operate more efficiently? – A.C., Ill.

A: If you grew up on a farm, thinking like an owner and problem-solving is part of how you naturally approach work. It can become a real frustration if your employees don’t approach their jobs the same way.

First, think about the expectation. What will compel employees to operate with an ownership mindset – that they will act as you would? Generally, employees aren’t going to act like owners if they’re getting paid for hours. This means right-sizing our expectations of what we want from them. Do they have a clear understanding of what we expect them to be responsible for, and what it means to be successful in their role?

Next, work on developing coaching skills in yourself as a business leader to help them learn how to go about problem-solving. This begins with self-discipline. As a leader resist the urge to jump ahead and solve every problem for them.

Consider this: If everyone who brings a problem to you gets it solved, you’re going to get more problems to solve! When we’re sincere about wanting to develop employees, then we must shift our mindset to that of a coach. If the problem is their responsibility and they have the capability to solve it, then the leader’s job is to ask questions like: What are your thoughts on what we should do?

Also, what happens when an employee solves a problem in a way that’s different than you would have? If you get frustrated with them, that’s going to send a message to employees to not solve problems themselves, but to go and ask you what to do – because that’s their safe bet.

The rural labor market is certainly challenging right now. It involves multiple trade-offs in terms of finding the best employees we can, working to right-size our own expectations, and coaching our employees to their full potential.

Frye is president and CEO of Water Street Solutions. [email protected]

About the Author(s)

Darren Frye

CEO, Water Street Solutions

Darren Frye grew up on an innovative, integrated Illinois farm. He began trading commodities in 1982 and started his first business in 1987, specializing in fertilizer distribution and crop consulting. In 1994 he started a consulting business, Water Street Solutions to help Midwest farmers become more successful through financial analysis, crop insurance, marketing consulting and legacy planning. The mission of Finance First is to get you to look at spreadsheets and see opportunity, to see your business for what it can be, and to help you build your agricultural legacy.

Visit Water Street Solutions

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