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A weary-looking farm woman waits patiently in line making sure she is the last one to speak to me privately after my keynote. She has just one question. “When is the right time to start including our daughter-in-law in family business meetings? She doesn’t know a thing!”

How would you respond?

Reflective listening is activated, and I ask:

“She doesn’t know a thing about what? (match the words) What expectations do you have of her? Help me understand. Tell me more. How long has she been married to your son?” 

[Tweet “Learn how assumption-free living leads to collaborative decision making on your farm teams. #farmbusiness #farmteam #farms”]

In my coaching experience, it is best for the farm team to have collaborative decision making, with everyone being respected for their input and ability to create solutions.

This month is “GO TIME” for farmers and there is added stress of fields in poor spring condition and financial strain, not to mention the daily coping of managing COVID19. I vote for a mindset shift in how you manage the challenges ahead. Look at all the opportunities you have to identify the challenges together as a team, and brainstorm solutions. On our farm, we are also taking one day at a time.

The daughter in law (DIL) in the scenario above is likely reeling with anxiety and frustration. Her in-laws and possibly her spouse have certain expectations of her behavior and knowledge, crafted into a tight box with huge assumptions.

It’s time for a collaborative and proactive approach to decision making on our farms.

Last June I snuck into the conference next to my session to review the book table of Dr. Ross Greene, author of Raising Human Beings. This grandma bought the book.  I encourage you to get a copy to improve your farm family dynamics. Farmers are now homeschooling, so again there is added stress. Greene is a former Harvard professor now out of Portland, (see www.livesinthebalance.org ) who I would love to have tea with. His approach with children I think transfers well to de-escalating the drama on farm teams.

Greene says our need to understand people’s behavior is a result of incompatibility with expectations. Children act out when what’s going on and their skills are incompatible with the expectations that they are under or the environment they are in. Imagine a city raised new bride on the farm who has not had the chance to discuss or explore all of the “unwritten rules” of her new farm home and family. Perhaps the decision- making model on your farm is like a dictatorship, and new team members are expected to bow to the boss.

Greene sees incompatibility as an opportunity to find solutions. Creating solutions is one of the core principles of positive conflict resolution. 

This list reflects the key skills Greene suggests parents need to explicitly try to teach.

Empathy: This is your ability to gather information to truly understand concerns. In my skill set, it’s deep listening to explore and discover what the other person is truly feeling, thinking, needing and wanting. If you are getting feedback that you are a poor listener, then ask your team what you could do to be a more effective listener. I’d put down your cell phone, look the other person directly in the eye, and remove distractions for your conversation to be more effective.

Appreciate how your behavior affects others.  This is where we want to knock down assumptions and ask more questions. Do you have any idea how your actions are impacting our farm team? What would you like me to do differently?   

Silence from a DIL may mean she has given up trying and decided to be aloof. Aloof people are a hot button for me, I really truly want to know what people are thinking and feeling so that we can create solutions. Silence can be a form of violence and stone-walling. Greene uses the term assumption-free living as a goal for better lives. Don’t assume you know the reason or intent of another person’s actions. Ask them to clarify their intentions. Remember, your intent is hidden in your mind unless you are willing to communicate it.  Circle back to the other person to share how their words and actions affect you. Love does not read minds!

Farmer Megz Reynolds (@farmermegzz) fell in love with a farmer when she was a film-maker from Calgary. She studied to be a heavy-duty mechanic as she knew that skill would be helpful to the farm.  I love this story. Megz, as she is known, was willing to create new solutions to add skill to the farm team. Imagine if the DIL in our story was asked about the skill sets she already possessed that would be helpful to the farm, and was embraced for it!

Resolve disagreements without conflict. Yes! This means you have crucial conversations by staying calm and sharing concerns.  Greene suggests the parents identify the issue that is a priority, share their concerns, and then work with the child to brainstorm solutions. You pick a solution that could work and give it a try.

Take another person’s perspective. The ability to put your self in the other person’s shoes is another positive conflict resolution skill. Can you imagine what it feels like to enter the culture of agriculture when you have no idea of all of the unspoken expectations for you on the farm? What does it feel like to be a land-rich founder with few liquid assets or cash flow problems, and be worrying about divorce? 

Honesty. Being transparent about your fears and finances is likely hard for you, but take baby steps in being vulnerable with respect as you communicate with each other. Financial transparency helps each generation on the farm be clear about workable expectations and keeps the creditors happy when communication is a two-way street. It also breaks down assumptions about who has more financial freedom and gives power to all parties to make better collaborative decisions for debt servicing. 

I know a DIL who made 6 figure income off-farm, yet nothing she did was good enough for her father-in-law. He had no clue about her cash-flow.

I have a friend, mother of 5, who makes observations of her DIL’s behavior with permission. She asks, “May I make an observation?” She is coming from a place of mercy, not judgment. 

This takes courage as a deep investment in building stronger relationships.

Cheers to assumption-free living on our farms this April and beyond.

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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