Communication is Key During Crunch Time

Make planting season easier by making sure you understand and are understood

Sometimes our communication gaps are funny, but usually we have to wait a while for the crisis to pass before they become funny. When we try to relate something and it's misunderstood, it can lead to big mistakes, hard feelings and even a break in the relationship. This happens particularly in times of stress, like the upcoming planting season.

You need all hands on deck with their heads in the game, operating at full capacity…and headed in the right direction. This gets trickier as we get a more diverse workforce than just family. With immediate family, they're around you a lot of the time and they are better at reading meanings into your tone of voice or just the use of a certain word, maybe even your silence. Outside employees don't get this, and nobody can really read minds. So be clear.

It's good to have a regular time to touch base and catch up on what's happened during the day. What went right? What went wrong? What needs to change? Progress reports can keep us on track and headed in the right direction. As the leader, be sure that you share the vision for what a great planting season looks like to you. What are your goals for this? What is each person's role in reaching those? Setting very specific expectations at the beginning and reinforcing them is helpful to every farm employee.

If there's still time, communicate the busyness of the season to the families of your employees. Help them understand (especially if the employee is new to your farm) the importance of planting season to the goals of the whole operation. Make sure they know to expect that employees will have long hours for a while.

One thing I learned from Laurie Richards, who spoke at our Ag Edge meetings, is that the responsibility for accurate communications falls on both the speaker and the listener. If you are the one speaking, be clear – and ask the other party if they understood. Perhaps ask them to demonstrate their understanding in some way. If you are the listener, you have the responsibility to not leave that conversation until you understand. Silence is consent, and if you don't understand, and you don't speak up, the other person will assume you know what they said.

There's still always the chance that you said and meant one thing and the other person took that another way. It's because we each have our own meanings for words or situations based on our own experiences. If there is a misunderstanding, come back to it quickly and fix it. While technology can do a lot of things for us, communicating is not one of them. Good luck!

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