For producers, people development and leadership training often come in second behind the daily stresses of your operation. There are risks to this mindset, though. Don’t let these excuses hold you back.
- Leadership training isn’t necessary. Most producers don’t view themselves as managers or leaders but rather as farmers, says Bob Milligan, senior consultant, Dairy Strategies and professor emeritus at Cornell University. “Sixty years ago, the secret to success on the farm was hard work. Now, in the 21st century, it’s leadership and developing people, including oneself.”
- Leadership training takes too much time away from employees getting their jobs done. When managers don’t know how to communicate effectively, employees might be unclear on certain tasks and expectations. “It takes time for managers to learn how to lead effectively, but this is important and valuable time when production, the reputation of your farm and the success of your business are on the line,” says Rodney Jackson, leadership consultant and coach for PeopleFirst, a leadership training program facilitated by Zoetis for livestock producers.
- It’s expensive. Employees are a big investment. Get the right people on board, and give them reasons to stay. “On average, it costs about one-fifth of an employee’s annual salary to replace him or her,” Jackson says. “To put this in perspective, a dairy-calf ranch operation in the southwestern U.S. found it was spending an extra $1,407 per employee on turnover costs.” This doesn’t include intangible costs such as increased workload and stress on other employees.
- That’s just his or her personality. “We’re finding that our early ideas on management—that people are just an input into the production function—was wrong,” Milligan says. For farmers, managing crops, livestock or equipment is easy compared to managing people. “We all have some traits that make us better leaders than others, but we can all become better,” Milligan says.
- We don’t have any challenges or conflicts with employees on our farm team. “Really bad teams fight a lot, but so do really good teams—about solutions and new ideas, not about personality and politics,” Milligan says. “Having no conflict puts you in the middle. You’re not falling apart, but you’ll bleed to death.”
- This training doesn’t apply to all of our workers, so it isn’t worth the investment. Leadership training has a ripple effect. Studies show the relationship an employee has with his or her direct supervisor is one of the top reasons an employee stays with the company, Jackson says. “When employees are engaged, they care about their jobs,” he says.
- Payment equals job satisfaction. Business success is determined by traditional production and profit, and the health of the business environment. “We find the culture of a business will be the biggest driver to success,” Milligan says.