Sun streams onto my computer as I imagine what life is like for you on your farm in the middle of May 2020. I’ve just been blessed by the wise words of Donna Brighton, of the Brighton Leadership Group, a wise coach and realistic woman. Our families need us to manage change and lead from the core of who we are in this time of disorientation. Brighton says that change is an “external situation,” but transition is an “internal process.”
Farm families are making all kinds of internal transitions these days in order to manage change on the farm during what I have framed as the “Great Pause.” (I learned that term in April; sorry, I can’t attribute to who said it first.)
Celebrating Moms: Our Rocks in Times of Change
May presents time to celebrate families, particularly the roles our moms play on the farm. In this moment of May 2020, we are moving from one way of being to another. Some of you have mums who are in long term care with the ongoing pandemic fueling anxiety. The ways you wanted to give comfort are no longer options.
My mom passed away at age 65 in 1998, and I miss her this month, especially as I plant the garden and visit her perennials passed on to me.
Moms typically take on the role of the chief emotional officer of the farm family. They desire family harmony and too often get caught in the middle of intergenerational struggles. They are the rocks we lean on in times of uncertainty, and over the years, they have taught us a lot about how to manage change.
Assessing the Situation, Your Beliefs, and Your Assumptions
Brighton encourages us to think, “The only time that exists is right now! You can only make decisions in the now!” This is difficult to do if you have experienced grief and loss during Covid19 and have moved to the action stage, but the rest of your family is still stuck in a “poor me” mode.
Where are you at with your understanding of the current situation on your farm? Are you happy with how everyone is pulling together and keeping a positive outlook? Do folks treat each other with respect and kindness, behaving well towards each other, even when there are plugged air seeders and late meals?
What you believe at your core are your cherished beliefs. As a woman of faith, part of my morning routine after breakfast is to spend some quiet time with my Bible, journal, and pray. Where I am standing from is that God is in control, and what I know is that I need to be emotionally, physically and spiritually in tune to be able to lead my farm team with positivity and practical decision making.
Brighton calls us to make a list of the assumptions we are making—a daily log of where we might not be standing in the same reality as our farm family. Our bodies respond to our perception of reality, and fear sabotages us. Do you recognize your response to what is happening around you?
I get teary-eyed on my gravel path through the shelterbelt when I finish a stint of grandchild care in the house next door. The bush triggers happy memories of creating forts and houses when I was a carefree young farm girl near Dugald. If we perceive anxiety about our current circumstance, our bodies will go to flight, fear, or simply freeze up. The alternative is to choose to be intentional about how we manage change on the farm—to focus on our next actions so that our brains shift from fear to the future.
Tips to Manage Change on the Farm During the “Great Pause”
According to Brighton, forward action requires several things. As you internally process the new world around you, these tips can help you manage change on the farm and move forward successfully.
1. Focus on Where You Are Going
Right now, most of us are focused on planting crops, caring for animals, and nurturing a positive culture in our farm team. Each day you can write out your top three priorities and what actions will move you forward. I have a routine of getting lunch and supper planned before 9AM so that if my day gets interrupted on many fronts, the main priority for me is under control. Employees can also have quick morning check-ins to set the plan for the day.
2. Take Action
This is what we are all doing to accomplish the myriad of tasks before us, one day at a time. There are some essential actions for us leading our families:
- CARE for Self, Our Farm Team, and Our Customer: Remember, your daily routine matters. You cannot give water out of a dry well. What are you doing to sleep well, eat good food, and have some renewal time, even just 3 minutes to reset?
- CASH FLOW: Make sure bills are paid, and creditors know your current situation.
- COMMUNICATION: Communication can be face-to-face, a text, a phone call, or an email. In times of high stress, you need to communicate more frequently and with less duration. Be careful about your tone of voice. Start by saying, “I am just curious…” Listen well, and mirror back the message you think you heard.
- COMMITMENT TO GOALS: Managing change means coming together as a focused and aligned farm team.
3. Move Forward with Intention.
Intention is the strategy for HOW you are going to get things done. John Wooden said, “Never mistake activity for achievement.” When you move forward with intention, you are making calculated movements that bring you closer to your goals.
4. Create Time Blocks
When I coach a farm family, we always close off the meeting with “What are your next steps?” Talk does not cook rice. We can talk things through and challenge assumptions, but, ultimately, we need to act.
Brighton encourages three kinds of time blocks:
- Thinking Time: I suspect you have time for this while enjoying auto-steer. I like to have this time when I go on a 40-minute walk down my lane. You might like to record your speaking and then have it transcribed on rev.com to transfer your thoughts to digital words that you can reflect on further. Journaling is also a great way to track your thoughts. Julie Cameron, author of Artist’s Way, calls this “morning pages” where you sit up in bed upon awakening and write two pages of your thoughts before your feet touch the ground. This may sound crazy, but I’ll tell you, my friend found this practice very helpful.
- Time for Yourself: Moms would likely appreciate a block of time to do some personal things. Have you asked her what she needs? Ask dad, too!
- Connection Time: My husband Wes is teasing me that I now have a phone room…it’s where the grandbabies sleep, but it also has a comfy padded rocker that I use to call friends and connect in the evening. As an extrovert, I can practice physical distancing, but I need to call and converse to stay happy.
When your farm family pulls together during difficult times, it is easier to manage change on the farm, find new ways of adapting, and push through to brighter days. These are lessons that our mothers have taught us since we were young. Remember: no challenge is too great when you come together as a family.