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Early last month in Peace River country I encouraged the farmers to drop judgmental comments and use the words, “I was just curious…could you explain to me why you…”  Curiosity is an effective tool for conflict resolution because you avoid hitting conflict trigger buttons when you stop using judgmental or defensive language. One of the participants said she also found it a useful tool for talking to “idiots” without giving them a label!

An advisor colleague shared a very poignant story about curiosity with me after he witnessed the powerful effects of asking a tough question.

“A new bride who had been raised in town, who was now living with her young husband on the main farm yard sits nervously with her in-laws at a farm succession seminar. She’s heard a lot of new information. It’s time for some small group sharing, and she bravely raises her hand as she looks directly in her father-in-law’s eye: “I’d just like to know, all of these things we’ve heard about today are piling on top of the questions that I hear from the curious folks at my job. I’d just like to know: is the farm doing okay; am I going to have enough to live on; what do you expect of me in the busy season; do you think “Mom” and I could do the books together on the computer; do you respect my input and opinion, even though I don’t come from a farm?”

Amazing answers stem from asking powerful questions.

What is it that you might say …” I would just like to know”?

The father-in-law in the story above shared later in the parking lot that he was relieved to have the hard questions asked, and now he could start formulating some answers. The key question was to quell the workplace gossip and answer to how well the farm was doing financially.

When you ask “why” about the intent of folks making decisions and also come from a sense of curiosity you can make headway without getting stuck in judgment, blame or accusations. You are free to ask questions expecting a thoughtful answer that will help you check out your expectations.

Recently with a group of young farmers in Abbotsford, I surveyed a group of 70 folks who responded with a 43% vote saying that “to be heard and have my opinion respected” was the most important thing they need on their farm. I’ve been using Turning Point TechnologyTM so that the audience can answer truthfully and privately about the key challenges on their farm team. The results post up on the screen in a bar chart format. Sometimes it helps to know that others are sharing the same issues that you are!

What steps are you taking to give good, honest answers to the next generation’s queries?  What do they really want to know from you?  When are you ready to really listen and share your dreams, desires and expectations with them?

Asking tough questions may be squelched if you feel the other person is just going to get mad at you, but that is their decision to respond in a poor way to a good question, not your fault for trying to find answers that impact your family’s future.  I think it is worth it to endure the wrath of another if it helps clarify issues.  They might need to cool down, but you are getting closer to clear answers that you need to move ahead. If they get mad, you can still choose to respond calmly with grace.  We all get to choose our words, and our responses. Sometimes assumptions are keeping us stuck.  “I’d just like to know…is a great opener.” Use it.  You’ll be amazed how much better you will sleep tonight when the weight of uncertain expectations and unanswered questions slips off your shoulders of care.

March 15th, 2011 is my 16th anniversary of writing this column and the time has flown by. That’s precisely why procrastination about asking tough questions has to stop on our farms. Time flies by. We say “we’ll get to that after harvest…and 5 years goes by!”  Thank-you to those readers who take time to call or write me to share their stories, I am humbled by the gift of sharing your journey.

I’d just like to know what trends you are seeing on your farm that are causing you to lose some sleep at night, and what things make you jump for joy!

Fixing Your Time Stress Mess

60 minutes

Workaholics will discover helpful strategies for managing their time stress. Gain understanding for the tensions of your age and stage on the farm. Learn why some problems are not solvable, but just need to be managed as polarities. Self-renewing people are joyful and productive producers.

$15

Rave reviews

“A joy to work with, heard loud and clear. When the farmers laughed or asked a great question, I knew they were listening and really wanted to learn from her. Her tips were easy to understand. It was just about understanding that conflict happens, and to have the confidence in yourself to ask for what you want. In the glowing review from farmers after her presentation, I knew they had heard that loud and clear.”
Maddy Berner, Event Planner & Communications Coordinator, National Milk Producers Federation National Milk Producers Federation
“I wanted to say a HUGE thank you for your virtual kitchen table chat with Arlan Academy. My wife and I signed up as it was exceptionally relevant to our current journey with potentially transitioning to her parents’ farm. The session was able to cover so many aspects of these crucial conversations and hearing you speak to both sides of the conversation was eye opening for my own perspective on this topic. It seemed to be very well attended and sounded like there were many other people who would echo my thoughts and feelings on it.”
N. Oakley, Farmer, Ontario
“Elaine helped me allocate $1 Million of assets the night I listened to her. Elaine’s presentation brings value to the use of my services in my office.”
Don Forbes, Forbes Wealth Management
“I recently joined in and listened to your Healthy Farmer Agriwebinar for FMC. I truly enjoyed hearing your perspective and even went and grabbed my Mom, away from her work, to come and listen in on some of your main points as well! One area that really stood out for me, both personally with our own succession plans and with our clients, was your discussion involving "Instant Influence" and how ready are you to change? I loved this concept!”
Annessa Good, FCC Transition Specialist, Alberta
“Elaine Froese truly is the Farm Whisperer. With her big heart and stern resolve, she guides families through uncharted waters and helps them arrive safely at their desired destination. She has been there, done that, and has helped hundreds of families come out on the other side. With your family and your farm legacy on the line, you owe it to yourself to start this conversation. You do not need to do it alone. Let Elaine Froese guide you through. Your legacy is being written day by day. How will you be remembered?”
Tracy Brunet, Host of The Impact Farming Show & CEO of Farm Marketer
“You speak like you’ve been sitting at our kitchen table! You know our family issues well. I am feeling more comfortable understanding what we now need to do. Elaine Froese is real.”
Audience Member,
“I attended the meeting you spoke at in Stratford Ontario recently. We held an emergency family/farm meeting today because of issues that I had enough of. We used a 'talking stick' like you recommended and wrote a chart of rules. The rest of the family thought the idea that we needed a meeting was worth rolling their eyes over, until we got started. The younger ones were quick to clue in that they now have an opportunity to be bluntly honest. The older ones took a bit longer to believe they could truly say what they think. In the end, the meeting needed two sessions because there was so much to talk about… and so many things people didn't realize were a big deal to the others. Your lessons and encouragement have given us the tools we need to get to a better place in our relationships and our business. Truly thankful.”
Kim Martin, Dairy Farmer, Ontario
“Helped me develop my framework to start having constructive and meaningful conversations around the farm.”
Tennille Wakefield, Farm Partner
“Some great lessons, Elaine! You continue to do some remarkable and potentially life-changing work.”
James Mitchell, Principal, Conversations Consulting
“Our family had a good farm meeting yesterday afternoon. Your Fairness video was a great topic of discussion. One of the action items after the meeting was to have my two non-farming siblings watch the video before the next big meeting they are involved with on the farm. It will be a great conversation starter as we catch them up on our current plan. As they are younger, we also hope it will help them to ask new questions that may not have been on their mind.”
G.G., Farm Family Legacy Coach, Alberta
“Elaine gives me excellent tools that help me work with my clients!”
Laurianne Osmack, Financial Planner / Partner, Doell Osmak Wealth Management
“She has a sense of “knowing” quickly what is happening in the family dynamic. Her messages to her audiences drive home what needs to be done next to solve the complex issues of farm transition and conflict resolution.”
Audience Member,
“Eye-opening. Excited to open the door of communication with my spouse and farm family.”
Ashley Hoppe, Farm Partner
“The Strong Farms, Strong Families session gave farm families an opportunity to meet face to face with Elaine Froese... hear her own story, experiences and skill set. From this information packed session and related materials, families could identify areas of success in their journey and other places they need assistance. The greatest take away was that participants could see that Elaine Froese is someone they can trust with the things that they hold most precious.... their family and their farm.”
Nancy Atkinson, Nobleford Ag Society, Alberta
“Elaine’s real-life scenarios help her audiences know they are not alone, knowing there are creative solutions to help them get the life on the farm they have always wanted.”
Audience Member,
“A long time female client who had refined the art of procrastination was so moved by the end of your presentation that she accepted your permission to “drop the bananas.” She contacted me soon after for an appointment to do some planning which included the selling of the family “Century Farm.” A very, very emotional decision on her part that was not likely to have occurred without your presentation.”
Don Forbes, Forbes Wealthy Management
“I just have to say… that your work is amazing and I have never forgotten your teachings from our session in Williams Lake at TRU. It is super important work. I know so many people going through the trauma of succession. I hate to use that word, but I was an “out-law” and know it can get terrible. I continue to forward your emails on to others. Keep doing what you do! You are amazing. You kind of walk into the fire regularly… and with a smile. Proud to have met you.”
Megan, BC Rancher
“As my husband and I eagerly started the course we were optimistic and excited to be taking this next step in our Farm Transition. We were starting to question ourselves and whether or not we were just being selfish and greedy, and if this Farm Transition was still an option for us. We barely got through the first Module and were already having such a huge relief. As we moved through the modulus there were so many times that we just sat back with our hands in the air and thought YES. My husband and I would smile with relief because all of the concerns that we have been struggling with were relevant and came up in the modules. We really enjoyed the course and are excited to move on to the next stages to find our farm resolution.”
Shannon Gilchrist, “Get Farm Transition Unstuck” online course participant
“My hubby farms with 2 brothers and parents, and it’s become a really toxic place. No communication, no respect, etc. Twelve months ago, my husband’s brothers told him they don’t want to work with him anymore and offered him a pay out. His parents did nothing to stop it! He had no choice but to leave. Three months later, we moved off the farm and into town. He has been offered heaps of jobs and is now truck driving and carting hay and grain. We have tried communicating with his parents about what happened but they are not interested. So basically my hubby has lost his family. Very sad but we as husband and wife are overall in a good place and moving on to create our own life. Please continue on with all your wonderful work in helping families on the farm. I continue to tell any farmers I know about you, that they must ‘google’ you, and read your books.”
Donna, Farmer, Australia

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