You are not alone; communication is always a challenge. When we survey farms, we find that improving communication is almost always one of the top three priorities.
The truth is: People power your business. The more engaged and inspired your employees are, the more productivity and value they deliver. It’s rare to find a thriving farm that doesn’t have great communication. Communication and engaged employees are the secret sauce that allows farms to do great things. It’s hard to move forward with poor communication.
One of the tools we see benefit other farms is the quarterly meeting. Often, employees see their own work but struggle to understand the owners’ decisions at the farm level. Having consistent, organized quarterly meetings is a good place to start fixing this disconnect.
Why quarterly meetings? You might already do daily huddle meetings or weekly re-caps. So why add another meeting to the mix? How can you run a tight meeting that gets results?
Daily and weekly meetings are extremely helpful. But just by their nature, they focus on a narrow picture of what needs to be done immediately. A quarterly meeting, on the other hand, takes a broader view. It connects the big-picture strategic thinking to the tactical day-to-day operations. Employees who see the larger picture and how they fit into it are less confused and more engaged.
The purpose of the quarterly meeting is twofold. First, take time to look back at what you accomplished over the last several months. Did it go well? Did it not go well? What could you have improved? What did you learn? It is a time to get feedback from your team and give it. It also is a time to celebrate what you have accomplished.
Secondly, look forward. What should the farm focus on in order to thrive?
A quarterly meeting also gives you time to explain your “why.” The why is the context. It is the reasoning behind the significant decisions. Good teams understand the reasoning behind big decisions. Understanding the why helps build trust. It helps build clarity. It helps guide other, smaller decisions employees need to or should be making on their own. So make a habit of communicating the why behind your major decisions. If your team sees the big picture, they will help you fill in the gaps of what needs to be done. They might even have better ways of doing so. While this sounds simple, it is powerful.
I think we have all been part of disorganized meetings that really don’t accomplish much. On the other hand, great meetings, planned and organized, can accomplish much. An organized meeting is tight, keeps a steady pace, doesn’t wander into unimportant areas of discussion and ends with agreement or action items. Oh, did I mention they have a start and stop time?
Six tips for solid meetings
1. Start with appreciation. It helps build goodwill among everyone. We all like to know our hard work is appreciated.
2. Someone should lead.
- One specific person should be in charge of facilitating the meeting. They will get it started, make sure it sticks to the agenda and be the one to end it on time.
- The facilitator also should make sure everyone else has a chance to voice their ideas and opinions.
3. Stick to the agenda.
- Have an agenda and keep to it.
- Thoughts will come up that need to be addressed but which are not part of the agenda. Keep a list of these topics to talk about later. Maybe only two or three people need to be part of the follow-up conversation. Maybe it needs to be everyone. But even if it is everyone – if it’s not part of the agenda, then schedule a different time to discuss it.
4. Have someone take notes. It doesn’t need to be all the details, but you need to keep a record about the following, even if it is very brief.
- What decisions were made.
- Who agreed to do what.
- When is the due date.
- If no decisions are made, then the meeting is a waste of time.
5. Keep it professional – don’t let emotions run the meeting.
- People cannot make rational decisions when emotions are high. They get emotionally hijacked.
- If emotions start building up, take a break, tell a story or simply call a timeout for 10 minutes.
6. Take a vote. Ask this one question, “Rate the meeting on a scale of 1-10.” It’s amazing how this simple little vote helps improve future meetings.
- 9-10 – Yes, it was good.
- 7-8 – It was ok, neutral.
- 6 or below – Not a good meeting.
If you’re already having quarterly meetings, keep it up. If you’re not, start having them. The first meetings will not be perfect, but nothing new ever is. Keep at it, and you’ll make good progress in the right direction. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to have an organized meeting. When meetings are not organized, they are a waste of time – and eventually, people check out. So make sure you are organized. Be clear about what you will and will not cover. Start on time, end on time, and keep the meeting to less than an hour. Keep notes on the feedback your employees will give you and the issues they are facing.
Quarterly meetings and explaining your why is not magic. You won’t miraculously solve your communication issues. No one thing will ever solve every communication challenge. It will feel clunky and awkward at first, and that’s completely normal. Just keep making small improvements. Before you know it, it’ll start to gel. People will look forward to the meetings.
Connecting the work your employees do to your larger vision or strategy will connect them to you. It builds trust, and it builds commitment within your farm team. You want your employees to work together and pull in the same direction. Short quarterly meetings can bring them the clarity they need to do it. It feels so right, so smooth, when it all comes together. Go for it.
PHOTO: Staff photo.
- Certified Family Business Adviser
- Encore Consultants
- Email Tim Schaefer