Too many managers are trying to “teach hens to swim.” It’s a simple analogy that can refocus a business and give managers a new question to ask themselves, “Are we empowering potential in our workforce?” Motivating employees and investing in their strengths are the last things some managers think of on a dairy operation and, according to Declan Coyle of Andec Communications, empowering your team is one of the most important parts of a business.

Freelance Writer
Amy Schutte is a freelance writer in Idaho.

At the recent Global 500 event hosted by animal health and nutrition company Alltech , Coyle addressed more than 300 dairy producers with the same message he has brought to governments, sports teams, senior management and sales teams around the world as a leadership consultant and director of Andec.

Described as “the world’s most positive man” by Alltech’s founder and president, Dr. Pearse Lyons, Coyle encouraged producers to write down their three “fiercely important” goals and put them up for the entire farm to see daily.

“Your team needs to know what your goals are and how what they are doing affects those goals,” Coyle said. “Get your three goals and put them up around your dairies so people can see them and knock them off one by one as they are happening.”

In a survey done of corporate offices, 83 percent of managers were “trying to teach hens to swim,” and Coyle argues the best way to have a successful business is by helping people to become who they were meant to be.


“On your farm, look at your workers and ask them what their strengths are and how we can use that for the good of the farm,” Coyle said. “The role of the leader is to release the potential of the team.”

Brian Medeiros, Medeiros and Son Dairy in California, said the suggestions on training and retaining great employees were valuable for his operation.

“Declan brought an interesting light to an often forgotten part of our dairy equation – our employees. His insight and passion about our ‘most valuable investment’ was a great way to refresh the idea that as we move forward, our employees are an ever-more important part of our operation,” Medeiros said. “They are our eyes and ears on a day-to-day basis on the farm, and therefore are one of the key parts of the equation to keep the farm running smoothly.”

Coyle’s four tips for empowering the workforce include getting the right people on the bus and putting them in the right seats. He also suggests getting the wrong people out of the workplace if their talents don’t match up with your goals. And lastly, know what direction your business is going.

When hiring new employees, Coyle suggests finding people who can handle adversity and have a passion for the industry. Optimism and persistence often take a workforce further than merely having the right skills for the job.

Once you find the right people for a team, you can start building a successful workforce, but producers aren’t off the hook yet. Coyle suggests the following points to keep the momentum going:

1. Give your people adequate and fair pay.

2. Let them have autonomy and the power to direct their own lives.

3. Give them a sense of mastery and the ability to see progress in their performance.

4. Lastly, your employees must feel that they have a purpose in their jobs. Catch people doing things right and eliminate negative remarks.

Autonomy, mastery and purpose are three words every manager should know as they move from not just focusing on employees achieving goals, but who they become in the process.

The session hit home for Pennsylvania dairy owner Kevin George, who said Coyle encouraged him to foster a positive environment for his employees.

“Our leadership role is to help them be the best they can be so together we can reach our greatest potential,” he said. “The event served as a reminder that the most important and biggest investments on our farms are people, cattle and land. Our understanding and appreciation of them is the key to our future.” PD

Amy Schutte is Alltech Idaho’s territory marketing coordinator.

TOP RIGHT: Motivating employees and investing in their strengths are the last things some managers think of on a dairy operation and, according to Declan Coyle, empowering your team is one of the most important parts of a business. Photo courtesy of Alltech.


Amy Schutte
Marketing Coordinator