The crossroads experienced over the last 12 months undoubtedly tested each and every person’s mindset, decision-making and leadership skills. All parts of dairy operations were impacted, especially the most valued asset: the people.

In the middle of a mountain of uncertainty and challenge, the key habits of top leaders on high-performing teams really surfaced. What was once a simple decision was now one that required additional thought, like deciding whether or not to hold routine team meetings or group trainings to developing a backup crisis plan ensuring that all the work could be completed if and/or when coronavirus surfaced on the farm. It meant figuring out and determining how to adjust to office staff working remotely while schooling their kids from home. These top leaders managed the same, yet differently.

1. Mindset is top-priority. The top leaders have this in check. While the brain isn’t actually a muscle, they treat it as such; they exercise it by filling it with positives, including whom they choose to surround themselves with and the information they read. They recognize that even in the midst of a pandemic and chaos, rest and recharge is needed. A positive, strong mindset has been key to how they present themselves to their teams and others, and ultimately a secret to their success.

When is the last time you paused to test your positive thinking skills? The “story” you tell yourself and the words you use to talk to yourself are more critical now than ever. Ask yourself: What am I most proud of accomplishing in the last year? What did we, as a team, all achieve? What, if anything, do I need to shift in how I lead my team? What am I doing to recharge, and is it frequent enough? Who could I connect with to get back on track?

The top leaders also make it a habit to spend time mentoring others on the importance of building a positive mindset.


2. Decision-making requires action. Top leaders realize that taking no action is not an option. They understand they must take risks and have the courage to keep stepping up and forward one step at a time for the betterment of others. This is and has been one of the toughest 12 months in history for even the best leaders. Whether it was regarding a situation on the farm or as a member of a board, decision-making is a requirement. With this willingness to make decisions in the midst of uncertainty, they “grew.” Those around them who were watching, participating and following grew, too. Together, these high-performing teams pivoted to something new, navigated through change and found the key to unlocking their abilities to be stronger and empowered.

How can you build your confidence in making decisions? Ask yourself: What decisions are easy for me to make? When I struggle to make a decision, what is it that I am resisting? How can I build my confidence and willingness to make decisions? Do I have the information and facts I need to make informed decisions?

Regardless of your comfort level in making decisions, give yourself permission to build your confidence and trust. Making little decisions today leads to bigger opportunities in the future.

3. Leadership skill development is meant to be an ongoing process. Top leaders never stop learning and are always looking for ways to sharpen their leadership skills. Learning agility, active listening, empathy, strategic thinking, the art of delegation and ways to handle conflict are just a few. The top leaders of high-performing teams see the value in going beyond transactional management and in transforming talented individuals.

Time for a checkup

During a January 2021 PD podcast, I shared a powerful yet simple tool leaders can utilize with their dairy teams to practice their skills and to boost morale, empower people and take things to the next level.

We are now three months into 2021. Let’s do a quick check; ask yourself these questions:

• Am I/are we, as a team, making sufficient progress in the areas we declared we wanted to improve to reach our goals?

• Are we focused and on-track with the current plan we created, or do we need to make adjustments and realign as team?

• As the owner or manager, am I doing my part in providing clear direction and leadership by setting expectations and timelines and providing feedback to the team?

For some, the answers are easy because you are focused, you have a plan, and your team is on track; you feel like you are rocking it. Great job – keep going.

For others, you may realize that the momentum of developing those 2021 goals and leading your team has dwindled. Take this moment to pause, revisit the priorities, reset and realign your team. The top leaders of high-performing teams do this frequently and make it appear seamless.

May we all take note of where we would rate ourselves and lean into developing the top three key habits of top leaders on high-performing teams. Their mindset, decision-making abilities and leadership skills have greatly impacted their operations, our industry and most definitely have positively influenced a multitude of people.  end mark

PHOTO: Getty images.

Kristy Pagel