Have you ever considered doing a performance review with your team members? 

Recently, I was fortunate to spend time with dairying friends and family, and from my combined experiences growing up on a dairy farm to now operating our own turkey farm (while also working off the farm), one similarity sticks out to me:

Farm owners and operators are so busy keeping up with the day-to-day chores there is no time left for effective communication among the various people who work on the farm.

Farmers are dynamic people, and they enjoy managing livestock through improved feed, health and breeding plans, but sometimes this level of detail is not always communicated to other members of the team.

The pattern can be seen in many operations I have visited where the farm manager understands that with clear communication and team direction, more will be effectively accomplished. The challenge is actually implementing planned and proactive communications, which includes both speaking and listening.


Building a high-performing team on your farm

The industry is ever-changing; it leads us to fundamentally shift the way we operate on a daily basis. Developing your team’s skills and collaborative communication does not just happen naturally. You cannot force someone to communicate or listen effectively.

You can, however, give them choices – one choice at a time for one person at a time. Why should you invest in team skills and communication? I believe that by investing in communication, you will start to see an increased level of quality, productivity and reduced downtime (things getting broken).

Communication doesn’t just happen on the farm but in many different settings. For example, we receive a lot of questions about attracting and retaining quality staff while attending trade shows.

Time and time again, we ask about the position they are looking to fill, and the response from farmers tends to be about the tasks and skills required, not always remembering the value in constructive and effective communication skills.

For both you and your staff to continue to be able to improve your business, it’s important to have the opportunity to meet experts and learn about new technology and trends.

Attending trade shows is one way do this because it is a great opportunity to meet with progressive farmers and companies as well as learn about new technology and trends from industry experts that may improve your business.

High-performing teams

The key to a good recipe is having all of the ingredients you need, but the most important factor beyond that is knowing what you are trying to make. What does your end product look like? When managing a team, it is important to build a sense of common purpose.

Too often, team members are not sure what or why they are supposed to be accomplishing a task, which often leads to uninspired, foggy team members.

Providing a clear purpose helps to foster commitment in team members and camaraderie amongst them, which ultimately holds a team together during the inevitable rocky times every team experiences during its journey.

Having a common purpose helps everyone involved understand what your farm operation is trying to accomplish. It helps them see how they contribute and helps them believe it is achievable.

This all seems very straightforward, but unfortunately it is harder than it looks. As you start this process, make sure everyone is aligned with the same purpose, and take the time to ensure you are effectively communicating.

This does take some time; however, it helps everyone work in the same direction. If your staff cannot see the common purpose and how all of the ingredients create a recipe and understand the final product, then it is hard to develop a team.

Creating and defining clear roles

When working with your team, it is important each team member has a clear understanding of his or her role and how it contributes to the end result or final product. High-performing teams work with individuals’ strengths when creating roles so each team member complements one another, creating a good team synergy.

As a dairy manager, it is important to share with your employees your key benchmarks that are vital to your success; these might include production targets or financial benchmarks which reinforce the goals of the business.

By outlining the impacts of meeting or not reaching these targets, key team members should share similar values to help encourage a positive farm culture.

Successfully leading your team and building relationships

To have a successful team effectively complete work, you, as the leader, need to invest your time and effort into providing competent leadership, whereas an unsuccessful leader is often behind an ineffective team.

As the leader, you are responsible for setting your team up for success or failure, depending on the tools and resources you can provide them as well as the relationships you build with them.

Strong relationships among team members – along with their leader – should result in trust, acceptance, respect and understanding, which all affect how the team works together. Without a solid relationship, collaboration is extremely hard to achieve.

Managing people takes effort, time and practice. As a manager, it is important to realize other team members don’t think like you do, nor do they have the same skill set.

As a result, it will only be through training, coaching and communicating with your partners about how you want tasks completed to your satisfaction that you will achieve business success.

Effective communication

Without effective and open communication, your team will lose its purpose and ability to collaborate. Being open to suggestions and concerns, as well as asking your own questions, can help all team members avoid confusion as well as strengthen the team’s bond.

Being an effective communicator will also help teams have a clear understanding of their role and a task’s desired outcome and requirements.

On our farm, it is easy to assume that people doing what we view as routine tasks do not need supervision; however, it is always important to realize people often appreciate follow-up and feedback. Like your farm, your team will take time, effort and dedication to build.  end mark

Kathryn Doan
  • Kathryn Doan

  • Director, Global Business Canada
  • AgCareers.com
    and CareersinFood.com
  • Email Kathryn Doan