TRENDING TOPIC ARTICLE: MANAGEMENTPublished: October 12, 2010 print issue of Progressive Dairyman In this article, University of Wisconsin’s extension specialist Jerry Clark outlines several attributes that a successful manager must have, including leadership, empathy and teamwork. to jump to the article. Because this article was so popular, we asked Clark a follow-up question: Of the attributes listed in your article, which three are most critical for a manager to have in 2013?

Here was his response:
CLARK: 2013 will present its own unique set of challenges to dairy managers just as 2012 did with issues of drought and high feed prices. Managers who are aware of their management style should again be able to navigate the issues of 2013.

Successful managers are not only those who possess a high skill level in all attributes but also those who recognize and understand their own strengths and weaknessess.

If a successful manager is weak in a particular attribute, then they may use the strength of another attribute or another employee to help them through a specific decision or issue.

Three attributes which dairy managers may need to rely on in 2013 include communications, managing resources, and decision making.


Communications is always important and this may depend on the size of the operation. Smaller dairies with a few family employees may not need an elaborate communication protocol compared to a larger dairy with numerous employees. Clear, concise communication both orally and written cannot be replaced. Listening skills always need to be sharp.

Decision making will be important. Coming off a drought year brings changes not only in feed and herd management but stress as well.

As management options and decisions are made daily, stress can increase, and how a manager handles that stress can affect the dairy either positively or negatively.

It will be important to focus on the big picture and overall decisions for the farm. Be sure to focus on the consequence and rewards of the decisions being made.

Managers will need to pay attention to the resources around them in 2013. With uncertainty in the Farm Bill discussions, high feed prices, and unstable feed inventory due to the 2012 drought, dairy managers may need to be creative to manage their cows, feed and employees.

Managers will need to use resources effectively to solve problems, not just to put a band-aid on them. Those who can do that in a year such as this will likely be farther ahead than those that cannot.

All management attributes are important as they impact how decisions are made and issues are handled. This will be no different in 2013.

Management skill sets of agri-business or organizational managers vary as much as the types of businesses or organizations in which they manage. Successful managers possess and demonstrate various levels of effective skill in specific management attribute areas.

Assessing management skills and a manager’s ability to demonstrate effectiveness have been accomplished through management assessment centers.What is an assessment center?
Businesses and organizations have used the assessment center methodology to select, evaluate and develop individuals for managerial positions for many years. The assessment center method is unique in that it combines standardized procedures in which competencies for a specific position are identified and assessed using both individual and group simulations and activities.

Individuals are observed and evaluated on their performance against competencies/attributes in several exercises by a team of trained assessors, using a multiple assessment technique. This means that the feedback provided to an individual participant is based upon pooling of information, multiple observations of assessors, and consensus decisions.

Assessment centers are based on a thorough job analysis of owners and managers and the competencies/attributes necessary for effectiveness and success. It incorporates activities and simulations that enable a participant to demonstrate his or her skills and abilities on nine job-related dimensions. These attributes include:

  • Communications
  • Managing resources
  • Creativity
  • Planning and organizing
  • Empathy
  • Teamwork
  • Decision-making
  • Initiative
  • Leadership

The activities in an assessment center include a group discussions with non-assigned and assigned roles, a background interview, an in-basket activity, a written case study, and a personnel discussion.

Once an assessment center has concluded, assessors are expected to synthesize information and participate in a consensus discussion with other assessors within a short time following the actual assessment center. This consensus building exercise is where the participant is rated in the nine attribute areas.

Following the rating process, each assessor develops two written reports, which become the basis of the feedback session with his/her lead participants. This verbal and written feedback is delivered to the participant as soon as possible following the actual assessment center. Suggestions are discussed with the participant for self-improvement in order to increase their effectiveness in any of the nine attributes.

Attributes assessed at management assessment centers
Communications – The extent to which one can communicate orally, listen and respond appropriately, or clearly express his/her ideas in writing. Specific behaviors include: effective use of speaking skills (i.e. quality of speaking voice, eye contact, hand gestures); uses active listening skills; comments and ideas are clearly stated and understandable – both orally and in writing.

Planning and organizing – The process of establishing a course of action for self and/or others to accomplish a specific plan, goal or outcome. Specific behaviors include: ability to conceptualize ideas; approach problems systematically using time and organization management skills; set priorities; organize and plan for solutions; handle strategic issues and provide follow-up necessary to assure implementation and evaluation.

Leadership – The ability to influence and/or empower others to move towards attaining a specific outcome. Specific behaviors include: set goals; define and solve problems proactively; demonstrate vision; create motivating environment and work conditions; use techniques (modeling, delegation and motivation).

Decision-making – The process of identifying problems, securing relevant information, developing courses of action, and making a decision from information gathered. Specific behaviors include: focus on overall decision rather than individual items; have good arguments to support ideas; question problems instead of accepting at face value; approach problems systematically; set priorities; be objective when considering alternatives.

Managing resources – The extent to which one maximizes and monitors the use of all resources to obtain effective outcomes. Specific behaviors include: delegates work to others appropriately; clarifies expectations especially with personnel; demonstrates financial and production knowledge and applies it effectively to problems.

Empathy – The ability to consider the feelings, emotions, situation and needs of others when making a response or decision. Specific behaviors: recognize stress in self and others; use active listening skills; demonstrate patience and diplomacy; maintain confidentiality; and take time to draw out thoughts and ideas from others.

Teamwork – The degree to which one is willing to work cooperatively with others. Specific behaviors include: work effectively with team members; oriented toward working with others rather than approaching situations alone; is supportive of others; willing to share with others and consult on important items; uses consultants effectively.

Initiative – The ability to begin actions without stimulation or support from others. Specific behaviors: offer ideas in group discussions; determine options without encouragement; proactive; speaks up in group settings.

Creativity – The capacity to generate or recognize novel courses of action that are useful in reaching management solutions. Specific behaviors: innovative thinking; generating unique solutions to a problem; asking probing questions of others and themselves; considering multiple solutions; flexibility and openness to change. PD

Excerpts from 2008 Wisconsin Fertilizer, Aglime & Pest Management Conference, Vol. 47

Jerry Clark
University of Wisconsin – Extension