Way back in Dr. Berry’s management class we were drilled with the mechanics of decision making “101”.

  1. Identify the problem or issue. What decisions need to be made?
  2. Research the options available to deal with the problem. Gather information.
  3. Choose the best option considering the pros and cons of each option.
  4. Act on the decision using workable reasonable timelines.
  5. Evaluate the impact of the decision or results.
  6. Make adjustments and continue building your decision making skills.

Each person on your farm team has a natural tendency towards the way they like to make decisions, and on some farms there needs to be more attention paid to the things impacting decision making. I call this the spirit, mind and body factors.

Deep in our spirits we hold beliefs and values that shape the way we see the world. If your decision making is based on emotional factors, you may believe that you follow your “intuition” or feelings when making decisions. I’ve written about Pierrette Desrosiers before, she’s a farm coach/psychologist who believes up to 80% of decision making is based on strong emotions. My curiosity is that the conflict avoidance tendencies of farm families may be influencing how they avoid making tough decisions, because they do not want to “offend” or create heated discussions.

If your emotional “bank account” is full with affirmation and appreciation, you are likely to come to crucial conversations about hard farm decisions with a more open approach. If you feel your opinion or thoughts don’t get the respect they deserve, you are likely not contributing to great decision making on your farm team.

Bad decisions have many contributing factors, yet “Thinking for Results™” leader, Randy Park, feels two main factors towards bad decision making is not examining the assumptions being made and not considering important information.  You can visit his website at  Print off Park’s Thinking and Decision Making checklist.  Park talks about the “filters” of experiences, beliefs, education, and assumptions that are filtering how they see the situation. I see this often in family meetings when we are working to break down assumptions and get clarity about communication expectations.

Here’s some brain/mind filters to consider that may be affecting your farm team:

  1. Negative outlook. This is the poor me self-talk that says, “I don’t deserve to be heard. Nothing is going to change around here anyway, so why bother trying to make myself heard?” Young farmers want to be heard, and have their opinions respected. Are you allowing their input, and really listening to their perspectives on solving problems?
  2. Positive outlook. This is the “art of possibility”, let’s work at finding the best solution to our problem and try some new approaches. Let’s make sure everyone on the farm team has input. This filter for decision making embraces the possibility of considering new options, and rewards innovation. This is the attitude about agriculture that says “yes there are challenges ahead, but we also see a ton of opportunity.”
  3. Bias. “I’ve seen this before. This is the way we always do it, why should we change?” This filter is hard to deal with if the founder can’t let go of old ways of thinking or needs to be the ultimate decision maker in all things.
  4. Wounded filter.  I am hurt from the way my dad treated me, it’s not my fault things don’t change. The blame and shame game take over, and options for good decisions can’t be considered.  Wounded ones say, “don’t even suggest counseling or therapy.”
  5. Regret filter. Focusing on what happened in the past, “we woulda, shoulda, coulda done things differently, but we didn’t and now we are stuck.”

Can you look at your own filters to be more aware of how your beliefs and mindset is influencing your decision making?

Park asks: “Are you making decisions based on incomplete or inaccurate information? You may think you are communicating clearly to others, but they may interpret things differently.”

I recall the mother-in-law who was genuinely trying to help her daughter-in-law by offering to buy groceries and run errands for the young mother. The daughter-in-law did not see this as “being helpful” but her filter of “independence” saw her in-laws’ actions as “being interfering!”  So any decisions about child care, or running of the farm household were impacted by the assumptions and filters of the two women clashing.

Your spirit, emotions, and mind filters can affect how you make decisions, and so can your physical body. When we are rested, and feeling healthy we make better decisions. I recall the farmer who called me with symptoms of sleeplessness, and lack of energy. I sent him to his doctor and he reported a few weeks later that he was making much better decisions since he now had thyroid medication and help for sleep apnea. Do you just need to get a better physical assessment of what is going on with your body? Rational minds make good decisions, minds scrambled with depression don’t. Get a complete physical check up to see if your lack of common sense is related to ill health.

Farmers typically want to avoid mistakes. How do you avoid making bad decisions?

Track what is working.  Farm financial statements and family living costs can be analyzed to help you make good decisions for the future. I find it distressing when I meet 30-something successors who have not been given any chance to look at the farm books, or discuss the consequences of decisions made about finances. I also am surprised by the number of farm women in their 50’s who don’t have great financial awareness of their personal wealth or farm assets they hold title to.

I believe that seeking out new tools to make better decisions needs to be an intentional process for everyone on your farm team. If certain members choose not to participate in the decision making process you are going to suffer the influence of one person having a high impact with an incomplete or poor decision.

Conflicting vision for the future of the farm can be a barrier to shared decision making. What standards are your decisions weighed against? When your visions are different, you’ll have different standards for evaluating your decisions.  A young successor wants growth, and a founder is looking to pull back and not buy machinery or incur more debt.  Think about your big picture or future vision for your farm and your family. Talk about where you align and where you see things differently.

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.


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“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
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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.”
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