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Part 3 in a series: Does your team lack commitment?Part 3 in a series: Does your team lack commitment?

A clear decision coupled with full buy-in is a powerful force at any farm operation.

Tim Schaefer

January 25, 2017

4 Min Read

How many times have you overheard someone talking about a romantic relationship that isn’t going well? And how many times have you heard the rejoinder, “They just aren’t committed enough?” The implication is that a lack of commitment is putting the relationship at risk, and the relationship is on the rocks. Not surprisingly, the same holds true at a business and family business level.

In part two of our series on trust among farm family teams, we talked about the importance of healthy conflict. Today we’ll talk about commitment – how it can be powerful, and why without it, direction and momentum is lost.

Commitment = Clarity + Buy in

Great teams make timely decisions that are clear to everyone, and are able to move forward with full buy-in from everyone involved, even those who voted against the decision. All the team members leave the meeting with full confidence that no one on the team will secretly work against the action. Does this sound too good to be true? It happens every day within great teams across the world.

Symptoms to Watch For

Teams of all stripes, including families and businesses, need commitment to move forward. Sometimes it is hard to put a finger on lack of commitment because, unlike healthy debate and conflict, lack of commitment is much more passive. Symptoms of teams having low commitment are as follows:

  • The team hedges their bets and delays making decisions. They prepare and analyze data but succumb to "analysis paralysis"

  • There is discord among the team that ripples through to other employees and even the family

  • Directives are unclear to management and employees alike

  • Opportunities pass by because decisions are not timely

  • Team members second-guess decisions after they have been made and undermine the implementation

  • Lack of confidence and fear of failure among members


While there are several reasons why teams don't commit, the main two reasons are a desire for consensus and the need to for certainty.

A great team will understand that consensus is not always feasible nor desirable. They find ways to get members to buy-in by ensuring that everyone's ideas and concerns are voiced and considered. Hearing everyone's thoughts goes a long way toward getting complete buy-in to the final decision.

Ultimately a decision must be made if the team is at an impasse, and the team leader must ultimately make the call or call a vote.

Many team members want certainty before committing to a course of action. Great teams can unite behind a decision and commit to a clear course of actions even with incomplete information. They do this because they realize that even a subpar decision is often better than no decision at all. They can make a bold decision and be wrong, and then change direction when additional information warrants changing. They do not waffle.

Often the team has all the information they need to make a decision, but a fear of conflict keeps it tucked away inside the hearts and minds of its members. It is only when they can debate all aspects and opinions that real progress is made to making a clear decision with full buy-in.


  1. Send summaries to the team of the key decision made so everyone is clear about what happened in the meeting.

  2. Commit to deadlines for making a decision. This is simple but avoids the team dysfunction of ambiguous timelines. Intermediate timelines are just as important as the timeline for making the final decision.

  3. Create a contingency plan for worst-case scenario. A team that struggles with commitment can reduce their fears of being wrong by discussing the absolute worst case outcome and creating a plan to deal with it.

  4. Everyone's ideas need to be heard and all their ideas need to get out in the open. This first requires trust and a history of engaging in healthy conflict and debate. It takes time, trust, and commitment in order be successful in the process.

  5. Do NOT allow any team member, including the CEO, to steamroll through the decision-making process. Although the final decision may be made the CEO, the CEO shouldn't coerce the others into seeing it their way and forcing a consensus.

A clear decision coupled with full buy-in is a powerful force at any farm, family or Fortune 500 company. Buy-in can't be forced and clarity of the decision can't be left to chance. Not every decision requires full commitment from the team. However, when the stakes are high, spending time gaining the full commitment of your team is often the difference between success and failure.  

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

About the Author(s)

Tim Schaefer

Founder, Encore Wealth Advisors

Tim Schaefer guides large, successful farm operations, helping them get and keep a competitive edge. His tools are peer groups via the Encore Executive Farmer Network, transition planning, business growth planning, and executive coaching. His print column, Transitions & Strategies, appears regularly in Farm Futures and online at FarmFutures.com. He is a Certified Family Business Advisor, Certified Business Coach and Certified Financial Planner. Raised on a successful family farm, his first business venture was selling sweet corn door to door with an Oliver 70.

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