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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.

Generational Differences

Mar 05, 2013

iStock Three Generations   low resolutionFrom Legacy Moment (03/01/2013).
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At a recent workshop, a young man sitting next to what looked to be his grandfather, asked, "What are some of the challenges you see among different generations on a farm?"

This is a huge question; it's puzzled man since the beginning of time. Peruse the shelves of any library, review the course offerings at the local college or check the Internet for topics related to generational differences, and you'll be overwhelmed by the sheer number of selections.

Though a bit obvious, but not simple, there are three areas that jump to mind that separate the generations:

1. Experience: Though almost self-explanatory, experiences will vary across multiple generations. Like anything else, those differences might be both a blessing and a curse. On a positive note, using the experiences of another person allows us to leverage the capabilities of the entire management team. As a negative, people have a tendency to staunchly oppose any option based on a past experience, regardless of whether or not the circumstances of the situation are different.

2. History: History, as a reference to time and circumstance, is definitely different among the generations and will affect everything related to communication. It is very hard for someone who lived through the Great Depression, or the generation who survived the agricultural meltdown of the 1980s, to readily open up the purse strings to expand the operation. Empathizing with each generation and learning to appreciate historical difference might, again, build a stronger management team.

3. Desires/Wants/Goals: Each person, regardless of generation, has their own self-interest at heart. Understanding that statement will go a long way toward bridging the communication gap. That said, there are common goals that are shared across the generations. We all strive for making the operation stronger, we all want financial security for our families and most people want to grow professionally. Acknowledging these common desires allows the family to work toward common goals. For example, everyone agrees that financial security is important, though a young person might want to increase current income while the senior generation is focused on growing equity. From those two dissimilar objectives, the family can agree on specific goals, and take the actions necessary to realize those objectives. In doing so the generations might rally around a common goal of providing financial security for family members working in the operation.

News & Resources for You:

Among generations, your success depends on the quality and the quantity of communication within the family.

In communicating with the senior generation, supporting your proposal with sound reasoningis the best approach.

Time is running out to enroll in a Legacy Project Workshop. Remember, our March tour includes stops in Ames, Iowa; Dubuque, Iowa; Mankato, Minn.; and Sioux Falls, S.D.

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