Farmers who can paint a mental picture of their vision for the future - and share that picture with others - are the most successful farmers.
I would bet that just about every farmer who reads this post has a vision of their future. I would offer two challenges. Can you write it down and can you paint that picture so other people can see it clearly? A true vision is something that you are going to recognize when you get there. Conversely, a vision without any plans or actions is a daydream. We won't be talking about daydreams here. We'll talk about how to turn your vision into action.
Keep the vision simple. One of our customers was talking about the future of his farm. He is in his 30s. He has many years ahead of him in his farming operation. Typically when we think about the future of our farm, what's the first thing we think of? Usually the focus is on size. That is because it is easy to measure progress: the change in size between today and the size we become in the future. A vision isn't only about size.
This client has invested much of his energy into planning the environment that his farm is going to have. He thought about the relationships his workers should have with each other. He considered how to turn them in to planners, equipping them so that every day on the farm doesn't have to be a fire drill. He determined he does not want the fire drill environment. He envisions a well-oiled machine and he continues to work with his employees towards that type of environment.
As an executive, you have three responsibilities. First is to set the direction. The captain of the ship needs to know where the ship is going. The second responsibility is the environment – setting the culture. As the leader you are ultimately responsible for the culture of your farm. Make it a part of your vision. As the executive, the third thing you're responsible for is the execution. Turning the vision into reality takes action and holding people accountable for getting things done. Your responsibility is to be certain that things are done in a way that moves you towards your vision.
Where do you start? Reflect about what you see the future of your farm looking like. Consider the culture, the size, the level of profitability, the amount of debt, how much you own. Think of every detail because the power is in the details. Write your vision down and start sharing it with people, recognizing that a vision of the future is not a static thing. You don't put it in the file and pull it out every five years. This is a living, breathing target that's evolving every year. Share it with people. Rewrite it. Make it come to life.
There's a state called target fixation. A unique feature of our bodies is that we move toward what we look at, or fixate on. If you're riding a motorcycle around a curve and you focus on a specific tree on the side of the road, you will find the tree with that motorcycle. We have to make sure we continue to move our gaze into the future, so that our machine, our business, moves towards the future that we're working to create.