Farming Families – Communication

In any business, relationship, community group, or friendship…communication is important.  But when we live and work with our family members?  More often than not, multi-generational family members?  Well, communication is not just important.  It’s vital.

During the first week of this month, we talked about the members of your farm team.  And I asked you to name them.  Could you give each member a score from 1 to 10 that characterizes the level of your communication with that person?

And, because we should always start with the man-in-the-mirror first…How easy are you to communicate with?  Let’s unpack this one a bit more:

1.  A farm member (child, spouse, business partner, employee) comes to you with an idea to improve as aspect of your operation.  How do you respond?

2.  A piece of equipment broke down while your spouse was operating it.  It’s a routine maintenance issue.  How do you respond?

3.  A farm member left the gate open and some calves got out.  How do you speak to them about the situation?

All three of the above happen and happen often in a farm business.  There are the responses that we WANT to have, and then there are the responses we REALLY have.  How can we improve our responses?

1.  Listen first.  Then think.  Then respond. – Too often we are thinking and formulating our response when we should be listening to the farm member.  Taking those extra seconds or minutes can make all the difference in how the communication interaction will evolve.

2.  Be clear. – Too often, assumptions are made.  Assuming we think they know how to do something.  The first time I ever drove a manual transmission (stick shift), my dad said, “Follow me out to the field.”  And then he left.  It took a lot of trial and error and  more than a few tears, but I finally made it out there, jerking and herking the whole way.  It was only then that my dad realized he hadn’t taught me to drive a manual transmission.  Take the time and make sure your farm members understand expectations, instructions, goals, timeframes, etc.

3.  Admit and forgive. – All of us make mistakes.  All of us.  We have to admit them, to ourselves and to our farm teams.  And then we have to forgive.  Forgive ourselves and forgive others.  No one can be successful when their past faults are constantly being recalled and held against them.  Wiping the slate clean, moving forward and lifting each other up is the true blessing of living and working together as a farm family.

Day 17 Homework:  So, how easy are you to communicate with?  How will you improve your communication skills to better your farm team?

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