Build a Strong Management Team

October 2, 2012 10:19 AM
Build a Strong Management Team

It’s about what the dairy needs, not what family members or employers want their responsibilities to be, Ohio professor says at Expo seminar.

Strong management teams are built by understanding a dairy’s needs, filling positions with the right people and letting leadership perform at a high level.

All three steps must be done well, with no cover-up for weak links, said Dr. Bernard Erven, professor emeritus from The Ohio State University, in a “Building a Strong Management Team” educational seminar today at World Dairy Expo.

“Any weak link will come back to bite you,” Erven said.

Family relationships can be a great asset or a great liability to the strength of a management team, he added. Moreover, the complexity of building a strong management team requires a long-run commitment. “It’s not simple,” Erven said.

“A strong management team is a near impossibility with the wrong people,” added Erven.

The vast majority of dairies are tied to a family ownership structure. The importance of family considerations is raised further by those same owner-operator families having important management responsibilities. Building a strong management team starts with an honest assessment of what the business will need from that team in the next five to seven years.

That means the management emphasis should be on what the farm needs, rather than what the family or current management team would most like its responsibilities to be, said Erven.

“Family members and long-term employees cannot continue just because they have a strong desire to satisfy their management dreams, desires and strongly felt preferences,” Erven said.

Successful leaders aren’t made from simple recipes, short cuts or accidental success, Erven said. Successful leaders have a wide variety of characteristics. They use diverse leadership styles and are flexible as needed over time. They also gain power in various ways, including by their family position or by marrying into the family. Successful leaders also surround themselves by people who are able and willing to follow and listen.

In hiring the right people for leadership positions, Erven said, look for candidates who have:
• Self-motivation and passion for success;
• Experience and training;
• Interest in dairying;
• Ability and willingness to learn;
• Good communication skills;
• Success as team players.

Having the right people on the management team is not enough. “Supplement careful hiring with first-rate training programs,” Erven said. “One training program will not fit all.”

Today’s educational seminar was sponsored by Zurex PharmAgra.

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