As the new year brings excitement for new things, I thought I’d share something I’ve learned over the past several year.
Cooley walt polo
Editor & Podcast Host / Progressive Dairy


Have you ever attended a meeting or training, jotted down a notebook full of new ideas to implement on your dairy? You have the best of intentions to make some real changes, but then you get caught up in the day-to-day hustle of dealing with no-show employees, battling the weather or putting out whatever other fires have sparked up?

When you start something new, make sure you have someone equally invested in a new idea – or it may falter. You need someone with enough passion for the new thing who will see it get done even if it means a bit of extra work. We all have individual enthusiasm to start. But we all know at some point in the future, things are going to get difficult and our willpower to muscle through will be tested.

For example, I started a weekly check-in with my siblings on Sunday nights via text in 2021. I put an alert into my phone to remind me at 8 p.m. to send out the following message: “Keep me in your thoughts and prayers this week. I could use help with _____________.” We’ve agreed to fill in that blank with one or more of the things occupying our minds. Plus, the weekly mental exercise has natural vulnerability built into it because it admits help may be needed. That vulnerability helps build trust and has brought us closer together.

Like other new things, we were good to reply for the first several weeks. Inevitably, after a few months when it wasn’t new anymore, we skipped a few weeks. Maybe it’s because I was out of service camping when the reminder went off or sick or whatever. But I quickly realized I couldn’t be the only one to keep it going. Thankfully, and without asking, one of my sisters jumped in. She would text and remind the group if I hadn’t gotten to it. She was my helper to keep the momentum going. With the two of us making sure to initiate action, the habit has now become a routine. It requires less effort from both of us to keep it going.

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At Progressive Dairy, we call this concept two-deep leadership. In other words, who is the person who will fill in if the primary person isn’t able? It makes all the difference in keeping new – and old – things running smoothly. Plus, the practices also make sure we grow new leaders from within our organization.

What kinds of things could use this two-deep principle in your operation?

Consider the following:

  • Do you have that person willing to corral the milkers for a team meeting when you don’t do it yourself?

  • Do you have that herdsperson willing to grab benchmark numbers when you forget to and make sure you review them together?

There’s only so much we can do alone.

One of the farms I’ve consulted with in the past reminded me during our visits of a popular African proverb. I was impressed how they made sure it was a part of everything they did. It embodies the idea of two-deep leadership.

If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.
—African proverb

As already alluded to earlier, you want to find someone with enthusiasm for what you’re trying to accomplish. Also, look for someone who asks questions about what you’re trying to do. Watch for them nodding their head in agreement or telling you privately they like the idea you’re talking about. These are telltales of someone who could help push your new idea forward – one who will engage with it.

First of all, be aware you need someone – a two-deep. Then look for some of these signs, and I’m sure you can find the right person to help you and your dairy go far with your 2022 goals. end mark

Walt Cooley