People Power: Dr. Bob’s travel insights
By Robert Milligan
Whenever any dairy team member returns from a workshop or meeting, I recommend he/she report the three most important things they learned. Earlier this spring I traveled to five states and taught 14 one- to eight-hour sessions. It was an incredible learning experience. So, I’m practicing what I preach by sharing the three most important things I learned.
Dairy businesses are – as is probably every other sector – leadership challenged. Every dairy, agribusiness and organization will require greater leadership as the world becomes more turbulent. Three issues make meeting this challenge difficult:
1) The transition from management to leadership is hard. About the mid-1970s, newspaper articles titled “Hard work is no longer sufficient” appeared. Prior to that, management was important, but hard work was sufficient for success.
Over the succeeding decades, farmers became outstanding managers, but the focus remained on crops and cows. The transition to “leader” is more difficult, because the focus shifts to understanding the total environment impacting the business, the direction it takes, and the changing human capital requirements.
2) The focus of leadership is on people, relationships and increasing trust. “Leaders rally people to a better future” is one of my favorite quotes. Leadership is about establishing and communicating a business purpose for all workforce members; continually forming a strategy guiding the farm to fulfilling that purpose; and establishing a culture that attracts and retains exceptional people.
Successful leadership is more than using the position of owner/CEO/leader to “force” people to follow. Instead, they establish themselves as trusted leaders who produce great results. Employees follow because they want to, not just because you have a formal position.
3) Leaders have different priorities. At least one owner must “roll out of bed” in the morning thinking about the dairy’s future. Leaders identify opportunities and threats. This priority change does not mean part/most of the day cannot be spent with the crops and cows; however, those can no longer be the predominant priority.
What, then, is the response to the leadership challenge? Leadership must be viewed as an exciting opportunity to learn, grow and ensure a successful business future.
My second observation is that personal growth and learning are a challenge for everyone. I fear, however, that our expectation that learning opportunities be free or very inexpensive – which served us well in our early development – has resulted in an undervaluing of learning. That has resulted in less effort and emphasis on personal growth.
Continuous learning is a necessity for continuing success. Learning is not only important to increasing performance, it’s critical to keeping your workforce engaged.
I participated in a Leadership Livecast titled “Quit and Stayed.” Mark Miller, Vice President Training and Development for Chick-fil-A, Inc., encouraged us to provide opportunities for everyone to grow by gaining more knowledge of oneself; others; the business; the industry of which the business is a part; and competence in individual job responsibilities.
To greatly increase our appetite for learning means continuously observing, studying, analyzing and reflecting. It does not just mean going to more structured educational events.
‘True urgency‘ culture
Finally, I am even more convinced: a) urgency is the key ingredient in today’s turbulent world and b) the best way to thrive is for each business or organization to create a true urgency culture. With the additional insights, I have reorganized “Farm Business Success in Turbulent Times” around the following four topics:
• Owners lead the dairy business or organization toward a true urgency culture.
• The entire workforce views change as opportunity.
• Everyone focuses on what’s important every day.
• The entire workforce feels energetic and vital.