We are well aware change is imminent. Yet when faced with it, we’re all just people navigating the unknown. Talking about change (or just plain fretting about it) isn’t valuable, but providing leadership during change is.
Recently, I had the pleasure to work with Stephanie Liska, CEO and president of Beck Ag, on the topic of change. A comment from her changed my perspective.
“Change management is just about process,” Liska says. “Change leadership is about the people.”
That’s one to tweet out! She’s right, and there are farming organizations doing change right. One such operation is Titan Farms of Ridge Spring, S.C., the winner of the 2017 Top Producer of the Year award.
For Titan Farms, change is about growth and emerging leadership roles in the organization. As such, the company chose to use executive coaching—one of the prizes for each honoree—in a unique way. With the input of human resources director Padget Cowan, we focused on working with new managers.
The organization already emphasizes building the knowledge base of its leaders. It does so through participation in industry associations, conferences and state leadership programs. But coaching as a training approach was totally new.
Opportunity to Grow. To decide which team members I should coach, Cowan worked with CEO Chalmers Carr to consider several factors. “Observation of deficiencies and desire to grow the position and the person was important,” Cowan says.
Although managers selected for the program know the industry and are not entry level, they have been tasked with an abundance of new roles. Titan Farms decided to have me coach Cowan and the company’s new CFO and IT director, along with its vice presidents in sales, processing and operations and farm operations.
We a crafted a short, intensive program to take place over a few months with group and individual coaching. For group meetings via conference calls, Cowan aimed to enhance day-to-day team functioning.
“We looked at our dynamic in the group and are looking for better ways to increase our strengths and better our weaknesses,” he says.
Family Focus. Cowan talks frequently of the farm’s recent growth and associated growing pains. Therefore, Titan Farms has placed an emphasis on growing great leaders that become part of the family. “The company is very much about family, and many of the managers have worked their way up through the farm, helping us keep and foster that culture,” he says.
Change is hard, yet it presents an opening to take willing employees to the next level. Titan Farms focuses on culture and growing leaders. In South Carolina peach country, change is opportunity.
Five Tips To Select Managers For Coaching
Thoughtful selection of employees who should receive company-sponsored professional development is critical to ensure the success of your farm operation. Here’s how to pick the right coachees.
Approach it as a positive opportunity to grow. It’s not an attempt to fix someone.
Gain commitment from the employee. They should be dedicated to the process. Coachees with a bad attitudes aren’t a good fit.
Establish specific objectives. Work with a coach that can build measurement metrics to use as milestones, and create a schedule.
Have an end date. Coaching should not be ongoing with no clear end. It can be renewed for a longer term as long as there is a clear purpose.
Do a post-assessment. Build it into reviews and conversations. Don’t complete the program and drop it. Over time, ask your coachee how they are continuing to use what the gained from the program and what else they need.