Advice for becoming a better leader in 2016
Are you making any New Year’s resolutions for 2016 to be a better leader on your farm? If so, author and business consultant Rob-Jan de Jong has several tips to make them stick.
“Too often, we don’t come up with imaginative solutions because we let ourselves be ruled by routine and 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. 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 “having an open mind” might be a little soft for a New Year’s resolution, here are four goals he says will help you become a better leader in 2016 if implemented with “repetition and perseverance.”
- Formulate powerful questions. Train yourself to avoid asking poorly designed questions. For example, avoid yes/no questions. Try to start questions with “why,” “what” and “how” because they tend to elicit more thoughtful responses than questions that begin with “who,” “when,” “where” and “which,” he says.
- Expand your sphere of influence. “We are strongly influenced, for better or worse, by the small group of people we have direct contact 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.”
There are several advantages to joining a peer group, such as discussing the ins and outs of business decisions, adds Danny Klinefelter, Texas A&M Extension economist. “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.
- Break your patterns. Deliberate breaks in patterns can open up new perspectives, de Jong 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 your ideas.
- 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.”
He recommends engaging in three “pure listening conversations” three times per 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 grow into a more mindful, visionary leader one step at a time.”