September 3, 2008

Managing Communication on the Farm

By Clive Dalton and Geoffrey Moss

Every successful farm owner, share milker and herd manager says that “communication” is the secret of success. Most of this is one-to-one communication, but on larger farms staff meetings and group communication are necessary. So make sure these are well run and staff look forward to them rather than disappear down the back of the farm to do ‘urgent’ jobs.

Here are a few ideas to try:

What motivates a manager to do a good job?
• Pride in doing a good job.
• More responsibility.
• Opportunity for personal growth and development.
• Advancement and recognition of achievement.

Ways to help you work more efficiently
• Plan each day’s work in advance.
• Learn to delegate tasks to others.
• Make decisions fast – don’t procrastinate.
• Try to do one job at a time.
• ID your peak working times and use them for the most important jobs.
• Set yourself deadlines and tell others about them. This will commit you to action and prevent interruptions.
• Never spend more time on a job than it justifies.
• Carve up a job into small bites.
• Deal with only one bite at a time.
• Don’t put off the unpleasant tasks.
• Try to do jobs when they should be done.
• Concentrate on the most important jobs.
• If you can’t meet a deadline – warn your boss in plenty of time.

Coping with stress – recheck your daily routine
Work overload and stress occurs when you have been given too many jobs and not enough time to finish them.
• Check your goals and targets – make sure they’re realistic.
• List the jobs to be done or problems dealt with.
• Put them in priority order.
• Set a realistic timetable to deal with them.
• Do one job at a time.
• For difficult problems – get all the relevant information and make fast decisions to deal with them and get them out of the way.
• Don’t procrastinate.
• Work at your own pace.
• Avoid arguments when possible.
• Be calm, patient and cheerful.
• Take short breaks.
• Eat regular meals, get more sleep and avoid getting overweight.
• Smoking, alcohol and drugs are not solutions.
• Avoid miserable negative people – enjoy a joke with cheerful positive people.
• Do your best – you can do no more and try not to worry.

Managing meetings
You need a meeting if:
• You have information to pass on to a lot of people.
• You need to involve your team in a decision.
• You want to inform everyone at the same time.
• You need different perspectives on a single issue.
• You want group motivation and synergy.
• You want a commitment.

You don’t need a meeting if:
• You hold one every week out of habit.
• You have nothing special to discuss.
• You won’t achieve anything worthwhile.
• The issues are for you to decide on your own.

Call a meeting if you want to:
• Share information.
• Review progress.
• Brief your team.
• Coordinate people or teams.
• ID or help solve a problem.
• Generate ideas.
• Motivate and inspire your staff.

Before your next meeting check:
• Who can contribute?
• Whose input is needed?
• Who you should invite out of courtesy?
• Do you need someone to keep a record of what went on?
• Do you need to invite a ‘devil’s advocate’?

Prepare an agenda
Hand out copies or write it up on a whiteboard so you can tick items off when finished. The written agenda sent out before the next meeting should state:
• Time and place of meeting (especially start and end time).
• Purpose of the meeting.
• Names of people invited.
• Topics to be discussed – names attached to each topic if needed.
• Copy of minutes (key decisions) from the last meeting – to check if jobs have been done.
• An invitation to put things on the agenda.

Preparing a cunning agenda
• Save interesting items to the last.
• Don’t bring up important big issues at the end – everybody is too tired.
• Keep the good news of success or achievements to near the end to finish on a high note.
• At the start of the meeting ask if anyone wants anything put on the Any Other Business (AOB) at the end so it can be dealt with within the time and things don’t drag on.
• At the start tell people what time the meeting will finish and stick to this. If possible finish before time. If there are really hard issues – sort them out in another meeting.
• Try to sort things out with key individuals if needed before the meeting so the meeting flows.

Conflict is inevitable in life and especially in the work place, so you need to know how to deal with it in a professional manner. There are now plenty of consultants who deal with this so use them. Living in an atmosphere of discontent which can soon speed towards outright hate is very dangerous for all involved, so it’s important for Herd Managers to be able to see signs of problems early on and resolve them as soon as possible.

Further reading

Geoffrey Moss: ‘Revitalise Your Business’ (2002). ISBN 0-9583538-6-7. This is essential reading for Herd Managers and at $30 is great value for money. Available from Geoffrey Moss, 7 Dorset Way, Wilton, 
Wellington 6012. 
New Zealand
Phone: +64 4 472 8226



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