As managers of businesses engaged in agricultural livestock production, we must manage four areas:
When I mention these four areas in a talk, I often get a comment such as: “Why do I need to worry about managing people? There is just me, my wife and our children.”
If we really think about it, we should recognize that, as managers, we manage relationships and lead people. The family relationships that involve the household and the ranch can be every bit as challenging and difficult as managing non-family members. Many ranchers hope to have one or more of their children find a place on the ranch as adults. For this to happen, the children must enjoy the work and see opportunities for the future.
In previous columns, I’ve made the following statements:
The manager’s job is to create an environment in which people want to excel and then provide the tools, training and freedom to do it.
Leadership is best gauged by the voluntary response of those being led.
- A manager can empower no one but himself; but he can encourage, facilitate and reward the empowerment of others.
Let’s examine the importance of these statements.
Think on a team basis
Creating an environment in which people want to excel requires thought and creativity. Too often, we only think of what we (the manager or owner) want to accomplish in order to meet our objectives or fulfill our dreams. Have we thought about how that makes our family members or employees feel?
Yes, we are the head people, but if we want full cooperation, we must help others create and fulfill some dreams of their own. They need encouragement to provide their thoughts and ideas for the creation of a ranch vision and guiding principles, as well as the daily activities and tasks of getting the jobs done. They must be listened to; not with the intent to respond, but like Steven R. Covey said, “with the intent to first understand.” That is a higher level of listening.
This doesn’t mean we should agree, but there must be respect for every idea given. You don’t want only arms, legs and 8 hours a day from your team members; you also want their hearts and minds. Truly listening and being willing to be persuaded with good reasons will go a long way toward that.
In fact, you might find, as I did, that the people on your team can enhance what you do. They can make you and your ranch better; sometimes, you will even tap yourself on the side of the head and say, “Why didn’t I think of that.”
Provide the right tools
Next is providing tools and training. People obviously need the tools required to do a job well. Don’t expect quality work from poor tools. Having good tools usually doesn’t cost very much, and productivity and employee morale are greatly enhanced.
One of the biggest mistakes I see in leading new employees is assuming they know how to perform the tasks expected of them or that they should intuitively know what to do. After a few years, that’s true, but, at the beginning, training is very important.
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If you have a top-class operation, the people coming to you, including your own children, won’t immediately know how to perform all the needed tasks – especially at an efficient and high-quality level. Training creates comfort and competence for both managers and team members. Too many poor employees are the result of poor managers (trainers or teachers) or leaders who can’t lead a team to a shared vision that is exciting, challenging and rewarding.
When you encourage, facilitate and reward empowerment, good people will usually recognize that you value them and are willing to invest in them. They also understand that they are part of a winning team that is progressing and improving.
Foster a team attitude
Few managers are good in all the four areas we must manage. Developing a team attitude can help develop skills in a team member that you may lack and which can improve total management performance and results. Most of your team members want to be part of a winning team – one that provides satisfaction, challenges and a chance to improve.
Meanwhile, managing and fostering relationships with a number of people and organizations outside of your operation can provide valuable insight and add valuable members to your team. These potential members include bankers, veterinarians, feed dealers, implement dealers, other good ranchers, researchers, Extension specialists, etc.
Fostering relationships with these people can bring constructive criticism and fresh, valuable ideas to your operation. If they’re vendors, you need to help them understand your objectives, so that they’re willing to help you use their products profitably and not just to maximize their sales to you.
Beware of “I” disease
I must discuss one more item that pertains to leading an organization. It may be your ranch, but beware of “I” disease. I’ve heard too many owners or managers talk about what “I” did. I’ve even seen this in partnerships, with both partners claiming the “I” credit.
You have a team, so give them credit – most of it. If you’re good, your contributions will be evident to your partners, team members, neighbors, customers and vendors. If something turned out well, then suggest that “we” did it.
If it was a bust, you might then say, “I surely goofed up that time.” But, even then, “we” still works.
One of the greatest blessings of my professional life was to have great co-workers. Without them, my efforts wouldn’t have gone very far. We need to express gratitude and respect for the members of our team by the words we say and the opportunities we give them.
Burke Teichert, consultant on strategic planning for ranches, is retired as vice president and general manager of Deseret. He resides in Orem, UT, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The opinions of Burke Teichert are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or the Penton Farm Progress Group.
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