No doubt your farm operation has grown through the years, and with that growth, you’ve probably needed to hire employees. Your management style and “people skills” are likely works in progress. Many farmers say employee management is the most difficult component of their business.

It doesn’t have to be, says Dushyant Sukhija, a former executive with Cisco Systems and author of The Cisco Way: Leadership Lessons Learned from One of the World’s Greatest Technology Services Companies (www.theciscoway.com).

“Employees are the true intellectual capital of the company and that means businesses must invest in their people,” Sukhija says.

He suggests at least four ways employers can fine-tune their management skills

Align employees to a common goal
“No organization works well if everyone is a maverick, going off in his or her own direction,” Sukhija says. “It’s important to communicate the goal and make sure everyone is on the same page.”

Create a nurturing environment
Any business should want to motivate its employees to excel, believes Sukhija. One way this can be done is through rewards and recognitions, so employees know their hard work and efforts are appreciated. Employ the Golden Rule – as simple as it sounds, too many owners and managers don’t take the time or effort to treat their employees the way they would want to be treated, yet it’s vitally important.

Harness employees’ intellectual horsepower
To get superior work from your employees, show you have their best interests in mind and help them build their skills. “Cisco, for example, used certification programs to train employees and promote personal growth,” Sukhija says. “This wasn’t just for our experienced people. We developed special programs to prepare our junior talent to become the Cisco workforce of the future.”

Drive exceptional thought leadership
It’s critical to hire the right leaders because so much else can hinge on how they perform,” Sukhija says. Many leadership experts feel it’s a good policy to hire people who excel in the areas in which you’re weak, in addition to hiring (and keeping) the absolute best people you can. “Companies should look for people with a command and understanding of the business’ mission; who have stellar reputations and the ability to attract new talent; and who have the potential to grow to the next level of leadership,” Sukhija says.

He says when people are inspired by the people for whom they work, great things can happen. It takes time and effort – and often leadership/management training – but the payoff in a motivated, effective team will be significant.