Most decisions are emotional, not rational. Take stock of your emotional intelligence, and see where your emotional limitations are hampering the farm business.
Pierrette Desrosiers has a very powerful message for farmers. “If you can’t manage your emotions, your emotions will manage you,” she says.
Desrosiers is a Quebec-based psychologist and coach who often shares a room with me at conferences, like we did in Quebec at the International Succession Conference last August. If you’d like to catch up with her on an agri-webinar, you can find her at www.farmcentre.com speaking about emotional intelligence.
Emotional intelligence, a term coined by Daniel Goleman, is our ability to identify, assess, and manage the emotions of oneself and of others. Strong emotional intelligence (EI) is a good business asset.
Pierrette would argue that 20% of decisions are rational and 80% are emotional. That’s why it’s very important to understand yourself, how you control yourself, and what is your motivation. Your competence in these areas is part of your EI. The conflict resolution, communication, negotiation and leadership skills that you possess are part of the social skills and empathy pieces of EI.
As a coach and farmer, Pierrette Desrosiers understands the underlying fears of farm founders that relate to the emotional competencies. Here are some examples where emotion plays a key role:
- Difficulties in managing business crises, lack of delegation, poor management tools
- The next generation’s bad behaviour, which may result from lack of capability, no motivation, conflict, jealousy or disproportionate expectations
- Fear of exiting the business, perhaps because one has no other interests, a fear of aging, or an inability to adapt
- Resistance to change
Challenge your EI. Face your fears
“Not making a decision is a decision,” I say, and Pierrette agrees. Awareness of your strengths, weaknesses, and motivations will have an impact on others, Pierrette says. She asks, “What is the impact of your decisions related to your farm transfer? In order to change the results, you must change your thoughts, and face your fears.”
Here’s Derosier’s checklist of fears farmers tend to underestimate in succession:
- Feeling useless, fear of aging or dying
- Losing your identity, to no longer be anyone
- Being judged by…
- Being questioned and openly criticized
- Not being understood
- Being controlled and manipulated
- Showing weakness, being seen as incompetent
- Not being able to fill the previous owner’s shoes
Face these fears by managing your impulsive feelings and emotions. When I hear a person say, “My parents are making me so mad!” I am curious about the person’s ability to deal with anger and take charge of his or her own responses.
Desrosiers says the “best way to face the fears of transition is to be positive, and don’t deny reality or keep procrastinating.” She says that the defense mechanisms of denial, delaying and distorting are not helpful. Families need to face their fears and act!
Your motivation to make good decisions with emotional intelligence comes from the expectation that you will receive a reward for your work, or avoid the pain of something very negative. Conflict resolution is one of the tools you can use in order to see the perceptions of the other farm players and develop your empathy.
Farm families can develop and grow new pathways for good emotional management and extinguish the habits that don’t work.
You need motivation to see what you want and what rewards are driving you. Many families want to avoid pain, but really need to face the work of conflict resolution head on.
There is a commitment of time to work through the communication process of clarifying perceptions and expectations of the farm team. This is not a quick fix process like using Roundup on your fields.
Family business meetings and feedback will help you evaluate your decision making. You can draw in facilitators and coaches to help you develop better emotional intelligence and manage your anger thermometer. Pierrette Desrosiers says sometimes you need to follow “fish advice” and keep your mouth shut when you are angry. You might also consider seeking therapy and counseling. You pay thousands for your crop and livestock inputs, why not invest in your own emotional health which drives your farm business?
When you develop the courage to face reality, things will change, even if is rough going. Some of the next generation may have to learn to delay gratification and be patient with the transition process. Are you making emotional decisions? Yes, is the likely answer.
Take some time to ask yourself Desrosier’s powerful questions:
- What do I want?
- How badly do I want it?
- Is what I am doing now helping me to reach my goal?
What is your next step going to become more self-aware, disciplined, and have better social skills for making good emotional decisions?