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A Better Direction

April 4, 2012
By: Jeanne Bernick, Top Producer Editor
p 28 A Better Direction
Shifting from the parent/child relationship to one of business partners has been a work in progress for Chet Esther (left) and his sons, Ryan and Chad.   

The Esthers improve working relationships with a motivation assessment tool

If the Esther brothers agree on one thing about their dad, Chet, it’s that he can be a hard driver. "There is not a lot of downtime on the farm when Dad’s around," Ryan says.

Chet admits he likes to be busy, keeps things going and expects everyone to work at the same level. His sons have different personalities; Ryan, the eldest, makes decisions on the fly and is content with flexibility and even some disorder on the farm; Chad is efficient and organized, but is less comfortable than his dad with being in charge of farm projects.

The different skill sets and motivations of each of the Esther family members can either enrich their business or create problems, notes Kevin Spafford, Farm Journal succession planning expert. Spafford encouraged the Esthers to complete an Individual Directions Inventory (IDI), which helps measure people’s motivations. Understanding what makes each other tick has given the Esthers better direction on divvying up responsibilities and has helped with working relationships during times of stress, such as at planting.

"Taking the assessment is one of the best things we’ve done to improve our relationships on the farm," Chet says.

History of the Inventory. The IDI was created in 1987 by James T. Mahoney and followed decades of research on leadership and managerial and sales personnel. The IDI is designed to measure the way individuals interact with the world and make life choices. It provides insight into the way a person may strive to achieve specific results. The IDI measures 17 dimensions that are divided into six functional areas:

  • Affiliating: giving, receiving, belonging and expressing
  • Attracting: gaining stature
  • Perceiving: creating and interpreting
  • Mastering: excelling and structuring
  • Challenging: maneuvering, winning and controlling
  • Maintaining: stability, independence and irreproachability


It’s important to note, Spafford adds, that the IDI does not measure behaviors, as most personality-based assessments do. It focuses on motivations, which are very consistent over time and do not require an unsatisfactory state of affairs to stimulate a person to act.

"The single biggest challenge in succession is learning to work across the generations as partner and colleague, rather than as parent and child," Spafford says. "It is difficult for a parent and a child to change a lifetime of behaviors. But that’s exactly what we must do to achieve a successful outcome."

Legacy Pioneer BadgeAre You Interested in Taking an Assessment?

E-mail LegacyProject@farmjournal.com for more information on the IDI assessment and how it can be used to benefit your farm operation.


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FEATURED IN: Top Producer - Spring 2012



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