Effective farm leadership starts with strong interpersonal skills
The agriculture community is increasingly recognizing human resources as a valuable management tool, making interpersonal skills and their evaluation a hot topic.
“What you’re finding on farms now is more people are paying attention to human resources,” says farm family transition coach and producer Elaine Froese.
“I think things are changing,” says mediator and coach Monica Clare. “There is an evolution in human consciousness. People are starting to wake up to things that, in my parents’ generation, just didn’t exist.”
But Ken Keis, president and CEO Consulting Resource Group International, says there’s still a huge gap in the agricultural community.
The technology driving modern farming has become very sophisticated, but the interpersonal dynamics side hasn’t kept pace, he says.
Communication skills are lacking and it’s the number one reason organizations encounter problems, Keis says.
Communication isn’t just about talking. It’s also asking quality questions to get clarity, as well as the ability to suspend biases and frames of reference, he says.
But it can also be about listening, adds Clare.
Being a good communicator on the farm isn’t just about talking. It also means asking good questions, seeking clarity and keeping biases and frames of reference at arm’s length. It’s also about listening. Tweet this
“How are we receiving the information others are sending out, and how are we responding to it?” Clare asks. “Communication takes many forms: it’s also about silence, body language, things we do. It covers a lot.”
Froese and Keis recommend farmers assess their skills, and, Clare says, reassess six months later to determine what, if any, progress has been made.
“It’s always best to circle back and communicate,” adds Froese. “What’s working and what is not working - and create the solutions together.”
Clare also advises asking co-workers for their perceptions.
“It often is a big shock to people to find out what other people really think about them,” Clare says.
Keis estimates 85 per cent of people are wrong about how they appear to others. But don't let someone else's assessment be a defining moment.
“You have to deal with people’s perceptions, especially as a leader,” Clare says. “How do you want to deal with that person’s perception of you?”
Farms are increasingly adopting human resources tools in leadership, where interpersonal skills like communication are valued as essential to keeping the operation running smoothly. Leaders should assess areas for personal improvements, experts say.