“It is well-known in management that the creation and maintenance of a positive emotional state is key to performance, and positive feedback is a powerful tool. When done appropriately, it may not only add to motivation, satisfaction, and performance at work but also to the quality of working relationships.” -Pierrette Desrosiers Psycoaching.
Pierrette believes, as I do, that positive feedback and pointing out good actions is essential to creating a healthier culture in our farm teams. Pouzer and Koutes authored “Encouraging the Heart of Your Business” that echoes the same theme. It’s time for our tribes to create more healing stories in agriculture. It is time to encourage families to do the patient work of transition with joyful outcomes.
Creating More Healing Stories in Ag
One dairy farmer shared the way his family met with a facilitator when he was in his mid-fifties. He and his brother were able to set up a structure for the future that satisfied each family business partner’s different needs. The group listening to his story leaned forward in rapt attention. It was a rare occasion, listening to a healing journey and not the usual chaotic tale with a bad ending.
Coaches use a technique of asking folks to be future-focused and “paint a picture of what an awesome future would look like saying: “Describe that to me.” What does a good day on the farm look like for you in 2020? Is your spouse aware of what you are thinking, feeling, needing, and wanting? And do you know their picture of a happy life in the family business?
Making Changes in 2020
Change is inevitable; growth is optional. BD0’s Brent VanParys, the Business Transition Services Specialist, quips about the founder who likes to be “large and in charge.” The dictator-like leadership style for farm managers is not a healing story. If you are comforted by sameness, you are likely not ready to embrace a new mindset on your farm team. This make it difficult to develop a plan for the next generation to take on management roles successfully.
If you adopt a positive attitude and openness to learning new ways of running the farm, you will have support along the way. Many next-generation farmers have peer networks and share information freely. Being a life-long learner is a wonderful adventure for growth. Name three things about your farm team member that you appreciate. Create a story that shows an example or word picture to illustrate why that trait or action gives you peace and joy about the future of your farm. What healing stories do you want to see on your farm?
Writing Letters of Appreciation
As we move farther into the new year, I’d like to challenge you to take a risk. Take the time to give gifts to those you love that won’t cost money. It will only cost you your time and attention. I challenge you to write heartfelt letters to all the important people in your life. How would it look if you wrote a heartfelt letter expressing your appreciation for others part in your success on the farm? It can be the first step for more healing stories.
Here are some sample letters.
I am so grateful that you have decided to become the next manager of our farm business. It is a delight to see you using the skills you have accumulated to grow our sales, marketing, and create stronger customer relationships. Mom and I are very proud of your work and the person of integrity that you are. Your focus, ability to execute work plans, and attention to detail are marvelous. We are confident that the future of our farm is bright. We rejoice that we can celebrate gains in our business, and richness of relationship. Let us know the things that you would like us to do differently. We are open to your feedback because we know that your intention is not to cause harm or offense but to help us all be better.
Thank you for your patience in this transition journey as we continue to meet, seek new options, and make wise decisions for the legacy of the farm business. We’ll have many more opportunities with our advisors to build out our future goals.
We love you dearly,
Dad and Mom.
It’s been a joy to watch you in action now that you are back from ag. college. It is great to see you working full-time with our farm team. We are deeply thankful for your ability to navigate the challenges of working in a conservative environment with courage, strength, and confidence as a woman in agriculture. I look forward to your ideas for growth and legacy as we transition shares of the company to you and your spouse. We also realize there can be a deep sense of overwhelm when you want to give 110% to the farm and at the same time, raise strong, healthy children. Let us know how we can support you more effectively in the many roles you are carrying. Please help us to see options that suit the realities of life in 2020. It is vital to us that you feel heard and that you sense that you aligned with what is truly important to you.
Thank you for being clear, honest, and transparent about your fears. It helps us process the approach we need to navigate with your non-farm siblings. We are also thankful for a forum in business meetings to keep family issues and concerns in a separate circle from the farm’s agenda. Our business serves all of our families. We are deeply blessed with the richness of relationship with you.
We love you dearly,
Dad and Mom.
Sibling and In-Law
Dear Brother/Sister and Sister in Law/Brother in Law,
It’s been an amazing 30-year ride with you on this farm. It seems like just yesterday that Dad and Mom handed over the reins to us. We’d like to say a heartfelt thanks to you for agreeing to find a new structure for the business that allows each of our families to separate our enterprises with a spirit of collaboration and harmony for the future. Our meetings with our trusted advisors have been a great investment and helped us to get better sleep, knowing that future plans will unfold with few surprises. Have a great winter down south. We’ll keep in touch on FaceTime and see you for a round of golf.
Your favourite and only brother/sister!
Impossible to craft these letters? I think not. You’ve got a script to get your creative juices going and make it your own story. You’ll see amazing results! Here’s to an abundance of healing stories in ag. for 2020!