October for farmers is a “get ‘er done” kind of season where fall work is pressing, late-season crops are harvested, cattle are moved, and the list goes on. Last March, when the Great Pause hit us, we were advised: “not to waste a good crisis.” So, on top of the routine things that we manage, we have a lot of emotional roller coasters to navigate as well. If talking about your farm transition plan seems like yet another emotional burden you’d rather not deal with, I’m here to help you ‘get unstuck.’
Dealing with the Emotional Factor
Gratitude is a great tool for resilience. The ability to count our current blessings and reflect on the things we cherish in life gives us good energy. I love singing the song “Give Thanks with a Grateful Heart.” As I write this, we are thankful that we can gather in our community of faith and build each other up weekly.
Since March, I have heard from many farm families who are desperate for tools to have better communication and understanding about the certainty of their future. The problem with the pandemic is being able to live with high degrees of uncertainty and not knowing. When things are so uncertain, working on your farm transition plan can sometimes be the last thing you want to think about.
Some podcast experts suggest 2020 fuels “ambiguous loss” and “anticipatory loss.” We never know what may be lost next. I experienced this when I was watching my father’s health decline with Alzheimer’s. Anticipatory loss is borrowing worry for what the future is going to look like. This is not a helpful emotion, and it may be freezing your family into inaction rather than motivating change.
Back in 2016, Dr. Megan McKenzie and I spent a year of Tuesdays with many flipcharts on the floor, creating the online course Get Your Farm Transition Unstuck. We believe emotional factors are blocking the farm family’s ability to create positive change. Moving forward with your farm transition plan is a matter of first getting ‘unstuck.’
What Is Stuck?
Stuck is a place where you didn’t anticipate ending up—being somewhere else when you’d rather be doing what you had originally planned, though you should be doing, or need to be doing. You’ve been forced to admit things aren’t going well. You need to deal with the frustration, anger, helplessness, blame, and surprise.
Now it’s time to figure out a plan to get out. If you are going to get where you want to go, you’re going to have to take the time, put in the effort, and find resources to get unstuck.
When the tractor is stuck, you call for help if it is really messy. Today, in the digital reality of doing business, medical appointments, and learning online, you have a new way of getting your farm transition plan back into gear.
Getting Unstuck in Your Farm Transition Plan
Succession transition planning is not a one-time event; it is a journey. This year of challenges has magnified the pre-existing tension and issues that farm families are trying to navigate. They need facilitated communication to talk about tough issues. They need safety and respect as they are vulnerable when they describe the life they have always wanted but are not currently experiencing. Smart families enlist expert farm transition plan advisors who are happy to sit with deep emotion and unravel the blocks with questions like:
- Where do you want to get to? What’s the vision for the family and the farm?
- What barriers are keeping you stuck? How would you like to ideally deal with them?
- What needs to be nurtured with pro-active actions and creative solutions? I usually find that income streams, residence needs, and fairness to non-farm heirs are the big questions seeking answers.
- How can you find a practical path to your end goal—an action plan?
Farmers tell me often that they are too busy to plan and find the transition planning process too overwhelming. They know they need to create more certainty for their futures, but the year flies by, and before they know it, nothing for transfer of labour, management, or ownership has been done.
The Role of Communication
Worry is not useful. Stressing and worrying without action depletes people. Communication is the first step in taking action and moving forward.
Transition communication takes courage and is doable. Imagine how good it is going to feel when you have agreements signed, open communication, and understanding of what everyone on your farm team is thinking, feeling, needing, and wanting. The reward of transition planning is worth the journey.
As a farm family coach, I am working with BDO to help families breakthrough their communication barriers and find ways to create workable plans. Once the family is clear about what everyone wants and why the foundation for a great farm transition plan is created. Due to social distancing and protocols, lawyers are now able to have visits with you on Zoom, Facetime, the phone, and have documents signed with digital witnessing. So, you can update your will from the comfort and privacy of your farmhouse!
We can also build a succession farm transition plan with you over computer visits. When I do Zoom calls with the family, I meet with each couple privately first. The next step is a family meeting. At that meeting, I type notes on my shared screen while we get input from all family members on the call. I also record the coaching sessions, and folks can have the recordings to playback to recall their next action steps.
Making decisions about the legacy of the farm requires everyone to act as emotionally mature adults. Sometimes we need to do some pre-work around communication styles and conflict dynamic profiles to help folks understand their strong habits and the not-helpful triggers.
I have not been on a plane for over six months, so I am available to help you get unstuck. The Get Unstuck course is online. You can explore possibilities with me on a short discovery call, so go to www.elainefroese.com/contact and tell me what you need. The team of transition experts that I am connected with will help you build your farm transition plan with individual interviews.
We’re in a messy middle of life right now. Count your blessings, and take the first steps to stop worrying about the pain of not knowing. Let me help you find harmony in understanding. Be grateful.