This week, I'm continuing to write about the topics we'll focus on at this year's Water Street EDGE farm business seminars that are taking place across the Midwest this winter. The speakers will be focusing on skills and practices that farmers can use to give their operations a competitive edge.
When I speak at the seminars, I plan to share some communication skills we can build and use on the farm business – and in our everyday lives. And communication is something many people on the farm feel is a struggle at times – whether it's with our family members or others involved in the operation.
Farm communication: Then and now
Think about this: In the past, farming typically required quite a bit of solitary work on one's own. The farmer and a few family members probably did the majority of the farm labor by themselves. There wasn't as much of a need to direct the activities of other people and communicate frequently with others about the farm's priorities.
But farming has changed quite a bit in that respect. Now, communication with farm employees – and other partners and vendors – is a critical skill. To make sure business operations are running smoothly and effectively, farms may hold regular meetings to plug people in to the priorities on the farm.
Otherwise, the head of the operation can end up needing to spend a great deal of time repeating important information. They may have to spend quite a bit of time correcting mistaken perceptions that others have developed because of incorrect information. That might be more likely if the majority of the communication on the farm is very informal.
Stock your toolbox
I think building effective communication skills is kind of like having a well-stocked toolbox at your disposal. Different communication situations require different tools – whether you're communicating with vendors or suppliers, landlords or lenders, family members on your farm or non-family employees.
Having the right tools available at the right time can help you understand others better and strengthen relationships. That's something that will be critical for the successful farm business leader of the future as he or she will need to lead and influence increased numbers of people, requiring strong communication skills.
My session at Water Street EDGE is called 'Cultivating Communication: Grow Your Skills, Grow Your Edge.' You'll learn four key skills that you can use each day as you lead people on your farm – and communicate with other partners and stakeholders involved in your operation. Find an event near you and plan to attend.