Like most farm kids, I grew up in a home where remaining inside during good weather was not an option. If you didn’t have something to do, someone would gladly hand you a tool of some kind and provide a job to complete. Whenever I sensed the shovel fairy (my dad) was nearby, I would sneak off to the farthest corral, sit on the highest rail and watch cows.
This habit stuck for many years, and it’s something I still enjoy when back on the family farm. Over the years, books on behavioral science found their way onto my bookshelf, and this fascination is one of many that led me to the pursuit of an advanced certification in executive coaching and the launch of my coaching practice. What started as an interest in understanding the motivating factors of animals led to an unbound curiosity about people and the experiences that form who they are and how they interpret the world around them, myself included.
Today, I work with professionals across many different industries: law, tech, media, academia, non-profit, agriculture and others. I’ve worked with Fortune 500 executives, entrepreneurs, mid-career professionals and people looking to transition toward retirement. No two stories are the same, but one theme is consistent: Change is difficult. That is where a coach can help.
While I know some farms that work with coaches, it’s not as common as it is in other industries. As agricultural businesses scale up to meet today’s demands, coaches can be there to help cultivate the growth of your leadership bench and develop healthy habits and systems along the way.
What is coaching?
It’s hard to give a general overview of executive and developmental coaching because it helps with so many issues and obstacles. Typically, every executive or entrepreneur I’ve met has some sort of pinch point. Something that’s holding back the growth of the business, a mental block that prevents the next step or something that frustrates them.
Coaching helps facilitate learning and development, overall well-being and optimal performance. Coaching raises self-awareness and involves feedback from the coach and often other stakeholders (i.e., direct reports, managers, owners, customers, etc.). The coaching process builds resilient leaders, helping to develop new skills, identify paths out of current challenges and create change in attitudes and behaviors.
Simply put, the goal of coaching is to close a gap between an individual’s potential and their current state.
A common misconception is that an executive coach only looks at roadblocks related to a career and helps you move past them. The fact of the matter is: When a behavior or mental block is keeping you stuck professionally, it likely affects other parts of your life as well. Coaching involves the whole person, not just the version of yourself you bring to work.
In a coaching engagement, we identify a goal, break it down and refine it over the course of the work. We look at strengths, uncover areas for growth, build new practices, execute a plan with a test and learn mindset. Most engagements last between six and 12 months.
What example do you set?
To be an effective leader, self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management skills are non-negotiable. It is particularly difficult to be self-aware or to manage the relationships with direct reports if you have no idea how your employees experience you. This is why many coaching engagements often involve employee feedback. This helps us understand how things are going and whether or not our teams operate with trust.
Anxiety thrives in ambiguity. When we are unaware of how our teams feel about us, we may think we are behaving in a way that keeps everyone happy, healthy and productive, but there’s no way to be sure without asking. We gather a tremendous amount of data on the modern dairy farm, but perhaps the most important metric we aren’t measuring at the same rate as other industries is how well we manage and lead our employees.
The mental and physical health of the leaders in an organization typically set the tone for the mental and physical health of those they lead. Leaders who don’t make their own health and well-being a priority typically find that their employees don’t either. The easiest example of this occurs on teams where the boss never takes a vacation. As a result, employees tend to get the perception that taking time off isn’t acceptable and thus rarely take vacation. These teams tend to have higher rates of burnout and turnover.
If you are leading a business in growth mode, there’s one thing that is certain: Any management issues or deficits in leadership ability tend to scale up as businesses do. If your management style is working on a small scale, it doesn’t mean you will be effective as you grow.
You are resourceful
The habits, behaviors and systems that get us to where we are currently are typically not the same ones that take us where we want to go next. I do believe that you have everything you need to arrive at the life you want. And I would never suggest you can’t get there on your own.
But, perhaps, it might be a quicker journey if you have someone on your team. Somebody invested in you as a person. Somebody who will tell you the truth but never what to do. Somebody who holds no judgment of your past or of you as a human being. Someone who will hold you accountable to the life you want to lead and the type of person you wish to become.
The hope of any coach worth their salt is that at some point, you won’t need us anymore. Your world must eventually be able to function without our presence, which is why coaching is not about giving you an endless supply of advice and telling you what to do.
If that’s what you’re looking for, there are many of us who would love to work with you to get there. I promise we don’t just sit on the rail and observe; we’ll be beside you the whole time.