Foster Exceptional Teamwork

March 4, 2017 02:55 AM

These tips can determine whether your farm flourishes or founders

The next time you’re unsure if a candidate for a farm job is a good fit, try something unconventional. Ask him or her to tag along while you shop for groceries. 

“It’s amazing what you’ll learn,” says Pat Lencioni, a business consultant and author, speaking during a recent webinar hosted by EntreLeadership, a management consulting company. 

The exercise is helpful because it puts prospective hires in an unstructured environment where they must interact with people. Lencioni says managers must be selective and seek candidates with three traits essential to teamwork. The best team players are:

  • Humble: They are more interested in others than themselves. “A person knows who they are and wants to use their talents to serve,” he says.
  • Hungry: They always work hard and want to do more. “They have a desire to get things done,” he adds.
  • Smart: They understand the people around them and realize their words, actions and behaviors have an impact on others.

As farmers welcome the next gen-eration back to the operation and look for talent outside the family, it’s important to understand these dynamics. If you hire for the right traits and hold team members accountable, you’ll accomplish more.

“Conflict often occurs when job duties are unclear or when we don’t hold employees accountable,” says Rena Striegel, a succession planning consultant with Transition Point Business Advisors. “To ascertain an employee’s true capability, you must be clear about what’s expected of them.  Once you empower them to do a job, step out of the way and let them do it.” 

Because employees bring different experiences and motivations to the farm, it’s important to know where each person stands. That enables leaders to introduce positive changes for the good of the team.

“It’s mostly nurture, not nature,” Lencioni says. “People are born good and they strive for these things, but the environment has a huge impact.”

The average day on the farm starts early and ends late, so a short exercise can get farm employees and managers up to speed quickly. Gather your team around a table and have all members rank themselves first, second and third using the humble, hungry and smart metrics, Lencioni says. For example, an employee might be extremely humble (No. 1) and hungry to work (No. 2) yet need to develop greater emotional intelligence to understand and respond to the needs of others (No. 3). 

Once everyone has established a personal ranking, have them identify their No. 3—in other words, their weakest area. “I’m always surprised at how frank people are at assessing themselves,” Lencioni says. 

Then break into groups based on their No. 3 selection and have each group brainstorm ways they can quickly improve in that area and hold one another accountable. “Iron sharpens iron,” Lencioni says. “The real key to developing this in your teams is the leader being able to call themselves out on weaknesses, help the team and constantly, persistently remind people until they’ve got it for themselves.”

In addition to understanding how team members work together, consider how the talents of each person can be leveraged effectively, Striegel says. 

Ask team members questions to better understand the issues that matter most to them. “When people are working and excited about the future, there’s not a lot you can do to stop them,” Striegel says. 

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