Master farmer (and brother-in- law) David with a small part of his herd of naturally grown beef cattle.
Photo Courtesy of ohnemusbeef.com
Leading Like a Farmer
I have an abiding relationship with the land. I grew up in farm country. Both my parents came from active farming families.
We lived in a small rural town where life revolved around the seasons, the soil, the crops, and the herds.
My dad started out in farming, but successive years of prairie drought forced our family to move to the concrete jungle.
There, dad finished degree work and pursued a career as an educator.
A recent visit to my sister and brother-in-law’s cattle farm brought back a flood of childhood memories.
The old adage is true.
You can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy.- Somebody
Having that rich rural upbringing in my background helped shape my pragmatic, optimistic worldview.
(a little bit country, a little bit rock n roll)
Farming is a firm belief in the future. A belief that things will happen according to plan. That growth and change will come in due time.
As I followed my sometimes perplexing early adult career path, the profound common sense lessons from my rural upbringing stood me in good stead.
It helped bring things into sharper focus.
It wouldn’t hurt to think more like a farmer to be a better leader.
Yup, farmer. Just think about it for a bit.
They are faithful stewards of the land, working hard to produce everything that feeds us daily.
Here are five ways to approach your Leadership as a farmer would:
Prepare the field (Master the context)
Farmers would never try to grow crops or herds in a barren place.
They do whatever is necessary to prepare nutrient-rich soil for growth.
Similarly, you can’t grow your career—or the careers of those you lead—if you’re in an uninspiring, stagnant or hostile work environment.
As leaders, we need to consciously create a safe place for others to flourish. We’ll foster trust and collaboration by modelling vulnerability, leading with empathy, actively listening, and encouraging open communication. To nourish our own careers, we need to adopt a growth mindset, allowing our curiosity to fuel lifelong learning.
Begin with the end in mind. (Have a vision, strategy and plan)
A farmer would only plant a crop or start a herd with a plan that includes a clear understanding of their desired outcomes.
In growing your career, having clarity on what you want is critical to achieving it. Maintaining focus will help you do the things necessary to expand your experience and skill set.
When you can articulate your goals, you’ll have an easier time aligning your attention and intention to plant the seeds for continued growth.
The same approach works for helping your team grow, too. When you ask what each member wants to achieve, you’ll better understand their goals and create a plan to accomplish them.
Having started – Let things grow
Micromanaging doesn’t work with plants, herds, or people. If you hover or over-control, you’ll impede progress.
Work teams respond in much the same way. Once you’ve helped plant the seeds and ideas for growth, certainly monitor, but avoid getting into the minutiae of every task. Empower your people to make their own decisions—even if they differ from those you might make.
As a leader who steps back yet offers support and resources, you send a message of trust—and allows others to thrive.
Just as a farmer must be patient and allow their crops to mature before they can be harvested, a leader must be patient and allow their team members to develop and grow before expecting them to produce results. Remember that leadership growth happens steadily over time.
Farmers know they must keep their fields free from weeds that threaten to invade and choke out their valuable crops or harm the animals.
When managing a team, one toxic employee can quickly destroy the morale of the most productive team. If you’re a solopreneur, unreliable partners or even over-demanding, taxing clients can take their toll if left unchecked.
Sometimes, the “weeds” you face aren’t people but outdated processes, services, or activities that drain your precious resources and prevent you from focusing on what truly matters.
When you say no to the people and things that don’t support your goals, you make room for those that do. It’s up to you to proactively assess the fields of your career and take action, pulling the pesky weeds early and quickly.
Work real hard and learn from previous harvests.
Farmers know that forecasts can sometimes be wrong and that some form of setback will strike sooner or later. But when it does, they don’t give up. They use this knowledge to be better prepared.
“Opportunity is missed by most people because it’s dressed in overalls and looks like work!” Thomas Edison
Every leader makes mistakes, but the ones who view their failures as learning opportunities thrive. The next time something doesn’t go as planned, set aside time to review where you went astray, what you learned, and what you can do differently in the future.
By thinking like a farmer, you’ll sow the seeds of Leadership and reap a bountiful career harvest.
Until next time- Lorne
Credit Acknowledgement: Adapted from a Forbes Article with a similar theme by Amy Blaschka
Subscribe to Get a Free E-book: 7 Principles of Leading Change
Subscribe today and I'll send you my complimentary e-book on navigating change and a monthly support article on effective leadership.