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How to Achieve Clear and Concise Communication On The Farm

“Elaine, I am feeling paralyzed and overwhelmed with this farm transfer thing.”
“How do I talk to the kids without emotions running wild?”
“We do fine until we try to get a sit-down family meeting with an agenda, then no one is really honest with what is going on here.”

 

I hear each of the above statements quite often from different farm families. While the issues are different, each revolves around communication and our ability to eliminate the barriers that prohibit us from communicating in clear and concise ways that allow us to make good decisions and build a stable organization.

The goal of any communication is that it is clear, concise, well –understood and received by the listeners. For many farmers, the winter months may provide more planning time to talk about the issues, the farm strategies and the dreams that drive us to both grow our businesses and enjoy our families. So let’s discuss how to make the most of that time by ensuring we are communicating effectively.

My friend Randy Park has an incredible mind for dissecting the decision advancement process and challenging us on how we make decisions. His work with the definition of filters is something I think all farmers might find helpful.

Here’s Randy’s perspective:

“Filters are the thinking filters that we each use automatically and often unconsciously when making decisions. They form from our beliefs, experiences, education, biases, and assumptions. Filters are very useful in blocking out extraneous information and are very helpful in making quick decisions. However, unless we are careful, they can block out important information, especially for situations we have never experienced before.

We all have individual filters. Additionally, when we get together in any group, we form collective filters which can result in everyone thinking the same way. If you bring together people who have diverse experiences and education, their different filters can result in better decisions.”

[Tweet “#Farmers, understand your filters in order to better #communicate on the farm.”]

So, let’s be honest about the filters we carry as farmers. Here are some examples.

“As the farm manager, I should be able to provide leadership to the farm transfer process, but why do I feel so overwhelmed?”

In this situation, you may be filtering many things as problems to solve with quick fixes. This is what I term the “Roundup” solution; things should change within ten days, like Roundup, and be gone. The process of business continuance is multi-layered with many different plans overlapping, and the process is complete only when you die. Then it becomes an estate issue.

“There’s too much drama on this farm. We yell, walk away and avoid conflicts at all costs.”

Here you have a conflict avoidance filter. Take it off and see conflict as a great way to get clear with people as long as you stay in the conversation, calmly, for as long as it takes to find reconciliation and resolution. Those of us who have a family history of confrontation or collaboration to be direct about the issues have a filter that accepts heated talk as a good thing, not something to be avoided.  Filters form from our beliefs. Do you have a model of forgiveness in your belief system that will help you embrace conflict and offer an apology or make repairs to the communication tears in your farm team?

“Morning is the best time to get the work done around here.”

Really? Did you have a late night last night or a short one with cranky children and seeding hassles? Today’s young parents have different filters around the need for parental care by both spouses, and their day of work starts later than yours. They too are highly scheduled, but they do not see the need to justify their choices to the farm boss. Their filter is based on the reasonable idea of family first, farm work second. The problem is that you have not tried to reason with them or check out the experiences of being an early worker on your farm when others are just “waking up” at midday and are in gear late into the night. Are we allowing people to be part of the team with different circadian rhythms and work styles?

“We need to work smarter, not harder around here.”

This might be an education filter where new technologies are employed to make jobs easier, more timely and efficient. We certainly don’t want to go back to paper ledgers instead of computerized accounting. However, we still all need to communicate and develop systems for keeping track of important papers like bills, tax receipts, etc. What habits (bad habits) are killing your communication system?

At our farm, we use labeled cubbies in the kitchen as a landing pile for documents of each family member, and colored files for collecting faxes. As a coach, I strongly suggest that families buy a white board for the shop or back office door to collect agenda items and job lists for clear expectations of roles and responsibilities. Conversely, a pencil and paper are still a very cost effective planning tools to communicate clearly, and not forget the important issues that need addressing. Emailing the minutes from the business meetings with the action plan of “who does what by when” keeps everyone on the team accountable to act and work smarter.

Cleaning our bias filters make take a bit of hard work and honest reflection. Do you think farm girls make better spouses than the city or town wives? Be honest. This one gets personal for folks whose farming children, the potential successors, are courting people with “fresh eyes” and different approaches to farm codes of conduct and our culture. Have you every sat down and thought through all of the experiences you have as a farm kid that you take for granted?

“Make sure the gate is securely closed.”

“Get that gas cap on tight and don’t ever mix the fuels.”

“Don’t cross an isolation strip with your combine  header feeding grain.”

“Empty the rain gauge after you document the amount.”

“Don’t ever park this truck on the swath.”

…and it goes on. We expect other folks to know and understand things about our farming systems, but we have never checked to see what biases or assumptions we have been making.

In-laws on the farm team, whether male or female, can be a wonderful asset to your communication process. They come with a different family style of conduct, another approach, and attitude about conflict, and believe that change is good when we understand the “why” behind doing things differently.


Elaine Froese wants to hear your communication success stories and struggles. Share with us in the comments below!

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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