First of all, my apologies to any readers named “Nancy”, this is not really about you. I have coined the phrase “nasty Nancy” to describe anger-filled farm coaching clients. These are the folks who are extremely negative, they threaten to leave the room and the conversation often. They are really closed off to any awareness of how their cruel habits are driving the farm to “rack and ruin”.

Lest you think that I am talking about your farm or ranch, please be aware that the names in this column have been changed to protect the innocent, and my scenarios are composite stories of learnings along my coaching journey.

I understand the value of being thankful and appreciative, which we are celebrating this month as official “Thanksgiving”.  I think it has been written many times before that we should be acting out “thanks living” every day of our lives.

It saddens me to see farm families grasping for solutions to the age old problem of lack of appreciation, and missing general kindness and civility from the founders of the farm. The employees who had one day hoped to be equity partners in a thriving ag business, leave the farm in their prime because they just can’t take being taken for granted, anymore. If nasty Nancy is married to loving Larry, Larry may well decide to end the marriage contract, and spend more time with his cows (or vice versa.)

Bullying behaviour from workaholic founders or early exits of potential, well -intentioned successors is costing farms way too much in terms of emotional relational capital, and affecting the balance sheet. Sometimes the successors are nasty,too, which just adds fuel to the conflict fire, rather that addressing issues.

We reap what we sow. If readers could tell me who sowed all the foxtail barley in pasture fields, we might attack the source, and cultivate away the problem. Foxtail barley rubbed up against skin and socks is itchy and irritating to hikers. The same holds true for minor irritations that evolve into large tirades that crush any hope of things changing for the better. You get the behaviour you allow or accept. It is time to say “let’s practice being more thankful for each other’s contributions to our business, and our family.”

Enough of the negative effects of ingratitude. How do you challenge the behaviour?

1. Acknowledge that each of us as adult farmers is responsible for our responses to other’s behaviours and words. I get to choose my response. They say that it’s the little foxes that spoil the vineyards. What small random acts of kindness and thankfulness can you intentionally create this week?

2. Past behaviour tends to be a very good indicator of future performance, and this is why next gen farmers leave for other careers or farms where they will be appreciated for their skills and insights. They don’t have to work with “time-bomb” style fathers forever. (see Stephen Poulter’s book called “The Father Factor.)

3. Now that you are an expert at getting maximum production and efficiency out of your fields and livestock, it is time to brush up your human resource or people skills.

I know your cows understand you, it’s time to start understanding the power of appreciation and gratitude showered on respectful partners, family and employees.

One of the greatest stumbling blocks to stalling a great business continuance plan (a.k.a. succession plan) is lack of appreciation.

4.Eating your gold alone is a lonely endeavour, and you can’t take it with you when you pass away, ie. die. Some farmers see gifts as their preferred way of being affirmed, maybe in the form of cash, land, or bonus canola cheques. It’s time to figure out how your way of being affirmed as a decent bloke in the business is best confirmed. Do you want words of verbal affirmation? Do you want quality time with your family? Do you want action or acts of service, such as the tools being put away in the shop without a tirade? Perhaps just a firm squeeze on the shoulder for a job well done will keep you humming until the killing frost.

5. Use regular farm business meetings with issues on the agenda to attack the problem, and not the person.

So , that’s my Thanksgiving pep talk . The folks that entrust me to facilitate the sacred space of farm family meetings know well what relief feels like when the words of appreciation, forgiveness, and gratitude start flowing.

The emotional cost of being a “nasty Nancy or cruel Charlie” is immeasurable if you lose the relationship of your son or daughter and their children. The financial cost of taking others for granted can cause huge conflict avoidance and fear that keeps folks away from the source of fierce conflict triggers. This means that farms that need infrastructure changes, or capital planning re-structuring, don’t get things done, because everyone is avoiding the bully, and staying clear of being un-appreciated.

Fear is a horrible motivator for lasting change. It’s way better to be pro-active and challenge the nastiness, rather that just accepting it as something that no one has the power to address or change. Find your voice, and speak up !

Let’s resolve to be emotionally healthy adult farmers. Look in the mirror first. Chat with your spouse for helpful, loving feedback. Embrace the behaviours that are going to groom the next generation to want to love being on the farm for the next 30 years, and create an emotionally rich legacy. That’s the relational capital that costs thousands when someone leaves hurting, and the balance sheet never quite recovers from the high cost of re-training or finding a passionate replacement.

If you are quiet and shy, find a non-verbal way to express your thanks to your farm team. If you are talkative, use a novel approach to show others how much you really care about them feeling appreciated. Break bread together, tell stories of the best part of 2012 so far, and find a way to build up the relational capital of your farm. In the end it’s really the richness of relationship that will outlast your time on earth.


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.


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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