Why are some managers and employers successful while others are not? Garrison Wynn, author of Amazon.com best-seller The Real Truth About Success, answered this question while keynoting the Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin (PDPW) Business Conference held in March.

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Coffeen is a former editor and podcast host with Progressive Dairy. 

His conclusions come from studying 5,000 top performers over 10 years in multiple industries, including agriculture, in the areas of leadership, communication and change in order to determine what they do that makes them successful. He whittled it down into a few basic concepts for building relationships and effectively communicating across age groups.

Build trust

As an employer or manager, establishing trust is a critical component to developing a loyal and reliable employee team. Trust is built on the foundation of two things: compassion and competence. That means demonstrating to others you have concern for their well-being while also delivering on promises and expectations.

“They believe you care about them and what they value,” he explained. “They believe you can do your job as how it’s defined, based on how consistently you define it for them.”

Make people feel heard

If there is one thing a person can do to quickly gain trust, it is to listen to others and reassure them that their thoughts and opinions are being considered. For example, when proposing a change, this can be done by first allowing others to share their concerns. Wynn stated, “That’s the pure and simple power of making people feel heard.”


The result is more than just a warm and fuzzy feeling. There is scientific proof that the human body chemically and physically reacts.

“When someone feels listened to and heard, in that moment, the pituitary gland puts that person in an anesthetized state,” he added.

Make them feel valued

When people feel “heard,” their sense of value goes up, too. Employees who feel valued are more likely to take pride in their work and to strive to meet performance standards.

“The number one thing on Earth that humans value is feeling valuable,” Wynn said. “People who feel valued tend to make fewer mistakes and do a better job as employees.”

real truth about success

Similarities first,differences second

When businesses announce and implement changes, the initial reaction from employees may be fueled by fear and uncertainty. The “old way” of completing a task makes the worker feel smart, and the last thing they want to hear is that the way they are comfortable with doing something is no longer valid. As Wynn explained, “No one wants to be a ‘senior beginner.’”

To ease into changes, he recommends first explaining how the “new way” will be similar to the “old way,” such as with a lead-in statement like, “Let me show you how the way you have done things for so many years is going to help the new way.”

Being smart is not enough

It takes more than intelligence to build trust.

“I wish I could tell you being smart was enough, but it is not,” Wynn said. Given the average American I.Q. is around 100, most executives are right around that mark, averaging 104, and middle managers slightly above at 115. Out of 400 billionaires in the world, only one has a genius-level I.Q.

Thus, the true key to success, according to Wynn, is clarity. People who are successful can clearly explain what is important. They can articulate it in a way that is easy for others to understand quickly.

Generational differences

Like any other industry, agriculture is embarking on an up-and-coming generation Y. With 81 million people in their 20s, this age group is larger than the baby boomers.

Those 30 and older may look at the next generation and criticize their differences in work ethic, sense of urgency and need for affirmation. However, Wynn reminded us these young people are a product of the world in which they were raised. The educational system and technology have shaped them differently than the preceding generation, and that’s not all bad.

“Young people have a giant advantage,” he said. They tend to be better problem-solvers and collaborators, since they have been raised to partner with other people rather than work against each other.

Applying these principles to a multi-generational family farming operation begins with recognizing differences and appreciating the positive contributions each person brings to the table. Wynn concluded, “In a family farm, you have to understand that we are different, and our differences make us great.” PD

Garrison Wynn, author of Amazon.com best-seller The Real Truth About Success, presents the keynote message during the Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin (PDPW) Business Conference held in March.Photo by Ray Merritt.

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Peggy Coffeen
Progressive Dairyman