Are you making any New Year’s resolutions for 2016 to be a better leader on your farming operation? If so, author Rob-Jan de Jong has some tips for making them stick.
One key is breaking preconceived notions, he says.
“We think we know ahead of time what will and won’t work, which makes us quick to dismiss ideas that sound too out there,” he says. “The people who answer to you learn that creative thinking is frowned upon, even if that’s not the lesson you wanted to teach.”
While de Jong admits that “having an open mind” might be a little soft to make for a good New Year’s resolution, here are four goals he says will help you become a better leader in 2016.
1.Formulate powerful questions.
Avoid yes/no questions. Try to start questions with “why,” “what” and “how” because they tend to elicit the most thoughtful responses.
2.Expand your sphere of influence.
“We are strongly influenced, for better or worse, by the small group of people we have direct conflict with,” de Jong says. “[Because] we tend to hang out with people who are fairly similar to ourselves, chances are we are limiting our perspectives.”
In this AgWeb article, Texas A&M Extension economist Danny Klinefelter spells out five advantages to joining a peer group.
“Peer advisory groups can work through the issues related to implementation and follow-through, addressing problems and opportunities as they arise to help members effect change,” he says.
3.Break your patterns.
Deliberate breaks in patterns can open up new perspectives, de John says. It doesn’t have to be major disruptions, either. Change where you sit in meetings, for example. Or hold back if you are typically the first to volunteer.
4.Learn to listen.
“We’ve all been taught the importance of being good listeners,” de Jong says. “The problem is most of us struggle to actually do it.”
de Jong recommends engaging in three “pure listening conversations” three times a week. That’s one way to exercise that particular skill, he says.
“Some of these practices may take people outside their comfort zones, and everyone might not be ready to try all of these at once,” de Jong says. “But, if you start to put them into practice, you’ll be able to grow into a more mindful, visionary leader one step at a time.”