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Leave a Legacy

RSS By: Kevin Spafford, Legacy Project

Kevin Spafford is Farm Journal’s succession planning expert for the Farm Journal Legacy Project.  He hosts the nationally-televised ‘Leave a Legacy’ TV, facilitates an ongoing series of workshops for farm families across the U.S., and is the author of Legacy by Design: Succession Planning for Agribusiness Owners.

Communication Among the Ages

Feb 19, 2013

Fotolia Farm RoadFrom Legacy Moment (02/15/2013).
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Recently, I was asked, "What advice would you give a mature farmer (62 and older) to enhance communication with the younger generations, and vice versa?"

My response applies to all three generations—senior, middle and younger.

It is the responsibility of each generation to better understand and then empathize with the other generations involved in the conversation. The following quick thoughts might help in these situations:

  • Listen to learn. In our workshops, we do a leadership development exercise that is usually eye-opening for everyone. We break into groups by generation. Then the audience shares ideas about what each generation needs from the others and what each generation offers. The older generation almost always offers capital, land and experience—the exact three needs of the younger generation. On the surface this might not sound amazing, but outside of the workshop, this conversation might never happen. In the safe atmosphere of the workshop, we can have a constructive discussion based on the wants/needs of each other.

  • Allow others to surprise and inspire you. You're not as good as you think you are, and neither are they. Reining in the ego and allowing room for others to perform will generate surprising results. I never tire of seeing the youth and enthusiasm of a young producer or an aspiring farmer. And the common sense and wisdom of a long-time producer is oftentimes amazingly clear. Participating in a conversation, working side-by-side or solving a common problem is always more refreshing with an open mind.

  • Make allowances. Nobody is born perfect, including you. Allow others to make mistakes, to err and to misjudge. Though it is more painful, more expensive and more time-consuming, an error can sometimes be the best teacher. Making a mistake is certainly one way to reinforce the learning opportunity in a situation. We all make mistakes, and if we're growing an operation and trying new things we'll continue to make mistakes; it's part of the trial-and-error process in learning efficiencies and testing effectiveness.

News & Resources for You:

Meet a three-generation farm family who exemplify working together in an effective (but no less loving) way.

Your success depends on the quality and the quantity of communication within the family.

Have you enrolled in a Legacy Project Workshop? Our March tour includes stops in Ames, Iowa; Dubuque, Iowa; Mankato, Minn.; and Sioux Falls, S.D. 


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