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Are You Positive?

May 07, 2012

Are you the manager who only sees what’s wrong at your dairy? Here’s how to turn that around for big results.

Duvall, Shaun pro photo 1 11   CopyBy Shaun Duvall, Puentes/Bridges

“Every thought is a seed. If you plant crab apples, don’t count on harvesting golden delicious.” – Bill Meyer

I am not sure who Bill Meyer is, but his words are right on. Today I am talking about fostering an attitude of positivity. I’d like to suggest that a stubborn commitment to finding and focusing on the positives on your farm will bring big results.
We have all had papers graded by our teachers. I don’t know about you, but I always relished the positive comments, and pretty much didn’t read the red-lined ones. In my career as a teacher, I used to red-line a lot. Then one day, I decided that I would highlight in yellow the things that were accurate or good. I found that over time, the students’ quality of written work went way up.
First, I think that we all need to acknowledge that there are many more good things happening on our farms than there are negative. Not to be “Pollyanna-ish,” but I believe it’s better to build the confidence and trust of our employees first, so that when something does need correction, it can be accomplished easily. Your employees are much like my students. They want to do well. How many employees have you had come to work each day saying, “I am really going to screw up badly today”?
With each positive observation, you are building your employees’ confidence in their ability to do a good job, that they are doing many things well, and that you believe in them. Adopt that as your primary mindset. People are really interested in doing well. And recognition from you means a lot, often more than a big salary. Rather than saying what went wrong today, say, what really went well with the employees, the cows, with me? I would bet that you’ll feel better as well.
I work with a farm in Minnesota where the producer took a punishing negative attitude. At farm meetings, he would only focus on what was wrong. The employees were understandably passive, and it seemed that there never was progress. (As a Spanish translator, I would interpret these meetings, so I was an observer). They would discuss the same issues each month, down to deducting from paychecks for damage, etc., (which may not be legal).
Then, one day, the producer focused the entire meeting on the good things. This is a very good farm in terms of milk quality and production. It was like he planted golden delicious and was beginning to harvest them! Remember also that your stresses and problems are very evident to your employees. Try not to let them affect the way you deal with them.
Subsequent meetings have all been very productive, and there is genuine enjoyment of the meetings. The employees believe that their “patrón” is interested in them, and they want to do their best.
Now that the employer has earned the commitment of the employees, he/she can focus on the major areas of improvement on his farm. And he can lead his employees willingly, rather than drag them kicking and screaming. Remember, it is all about leadership by example.
Next time, I’ll talk about the benefits to you of adopting a positive focus.
Puentes/Bridges is a nonprofit organization that, under Shaun Duvall’s direction, promotes cultural understanding, particularly in the dairy industry. Duvall also operates SJD Language & Culture Services, LLC, a translation and interpretation business. For more information, contact Shaun Duvall at shaunjd@tds.net or (608) 685-4705.
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