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How to become more of an asset to your farm operation

Invest in yourself and your decision-making this winter.

As grain farms approach the winter “planning” season, last week I encouraged farm leaders to create a plan for that off-season time. This week, I want to recommend a specific step for your plan.

A farm leader is typically a very busy and dedicated person. There’s a lot on their plate, and they know it. They’ve developed ways of operating over the years to help make sure they and everyone else gets things done – whether that’s using a particular system for work, enlisting the help of others on the farm or creating clear checklists.

The farm leader thinks of the farm operation as a whole. That’s good – it’s their job to do that! They’re the main person who must consider the overarching farm business, but not necessarily every detail. As the leader, they’re ultimately responsible for the big picture view and outcomes of the operation.

Asset or liability?

Because the leader has so much to do and think about, there’s something that can tend to go by the wayside a bit – and it’s actually very important for leaders. Unless plans are made specifically, it’s not likely to happen.

There’s always something we could be doing on the farm. Even in the off-season, we could fix or work on something outside, and for many farmers, that’s very attractive. Working outside might even be a big part of why we were attracted to farming as a career in the first place. However, when you’re in a leadership role – or aspire to be a future leader – there’s something else that needs to be getting some of your attention: you.

The off-season is an ideal time for farm leaders to intentionally invest in and work to develop themselves as leaders. You as the leader can become an enormous asset to your operation – or, on the other hand, you could even be in danger of becoming a liability.

Getting better

Increasing your self-awareness as a leader has several benefits. When you’re aware of your own tendencies, you begin to see the impact of decisions and alternatives more clearly. You can choose to take a step back from any knee-jerk reactions and ask, “Why?” and “What do I really want for my operation?”

You also become a better leader of the other people in your operation. You develop an increased understanding of your own communication style and how it works with the styles of others on the farm. Once you’re more aware of your own tendencies, you can begin to gain awareness of how others operate as well. Then you can work to motivate them better based on who they are and how they communicate.

Becoming a better leader with more self-awareness also brings more recognition of the benefit of outside perspectives. Hearing the perspective of a trusted third party, whether that’s a wise friend, insightful relative or trusted outside advisor can help both leader and farm. They can sometimes “see” things in us, our decision-making process or our operation that might be very tough for us to otherwise realize.

Starting block

Create a plan to build your leadership and take your self-awareness as a farm leader to the next level this winter. Here are a few starting points:

  • Find and attend a farm business seminar or conference this winter that’s focused on helping you boost your leadership game.
  • Talk with our advisors for the farm for more ideas on creating a plan to benefit your financial decision-making.
  • Check out the Modern Farm Business podcast for more leadership insights.

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

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