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Welcome to the home of the Modern Farm Business® podcast, hosted weekly by Dean Heffta. Modern Farm Business translates proven methods and best practices from the business arena to today's modern farm leadership environment. We'll be learning from forward-thinking experts and discovering how to apply time-tested techniques to make real improvements on the farm.

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Jan 10, 2019

Poor communication → Unmet expectations → Frustration & Disappointment

“Everyone hears only what he understands” - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (scientist & author, 1749-1832)

Two big challenges we face in effective communication:

Assumptions: Experiences in my head I’m not adding in to the information I’m sharing because I believe you will already know it as I do.

  • “Take the truck west and turn left where the barn was.” I’m assuming you know where the barn use to stand (because I know).
  • “Take the tractor and work that field.” I’m assuming you know how fast to drive, what angle to go and how deep to till.
  • What’s happening around us informs out assumptions as well. Are we in a hurry? Are we tired and emotions are high?
  • Our environment can have a significant impact on what we process and how we take information in. Maybe it’s harvest and I say, “Give the combine a cleaning tonight before you put it away. What I’m not expecting is a that the employee does a full power wash with soap and then waxes the entire machine. It’s harvest—we aren’t going to do that. To me a “cleaning” during harvest is to blow the dust out of the air filter, get the garbage out of the cab and clean the windows—that’s it!

Definitions: Simple words can carry wildly different definitions, which can get us in trouble. Here’s a humorous example that happened to a friend a few years ago. He was at a farm auction. He called up his father and said “Hey, they have a couple bins they’re going to be selling. Do you want me to bid on them?” The father said, “Sure, just don’t pay too much,” and that was the end of the conversation. As it turns out, that simple conversation was loaded with miscommunication. My friend—not knowing what “too much” meant because his father wouldn’t give him a number—bid what he thought was a reasonable price and won the two bins. He called his dad to let him know that he had bought both bins for just a couple thousand dollars. Flabbergasted, the father asked what kind of bins he had bought.“Well, they are 5,000 bushel grain bins,” said my friend. “Oh no!” the dad exclaimed, “I thought you were buying bins to hold nuts & bolts in the shop!”So when I say, “Go fast,” what does that mean? How about “slow”? “Carefully”? “Stay late”? “Show up early”?  That could mean 5am or 7am...I know some people who would think 9am is early.

Better communication results on the farm

  • Know the audience: Understand who you are talking to and be able to dial in the message. Some people will require more detail in the message than others. This flex we do with different people is well-presented in the model known as Situational Leadership. It presents our approach in stages, depending on the development of the other person:
            •  Very low competence = Very directive guidance—very clear, very straightforward and focused on the basics. 
            •  More experienced = Coaching communication—less directing the actions and more providing support and guidance.
            •  Very competent = Supportive relationship—more offering our support than our direction.
            •  Expert level competency and confidence = All they need is delegation
  • Communication routines build rhythms on how we communicate with others based who they are and what they need. Lay out when to check in with your landlords—just put it on your calendar (and then do it.) Decide right now when you’re going to have banker meetings. Use a calendar on your phone; send invites. If your banker says he want to meet three times over the year, pick a day/time and send him an invite. Calendar team meetings however they serve the group the best. What’s on the calendar gets done, so schedule it and do it.
  • The medium refers to all of the different tools we have to let us communicate. Never in history have we had more ways to communicate than we have today, and never has it been cheaper! We have face-to-face, phone calls, text messages, emails, instant messaging, Face Time, Twitter, et al. Here’s where wisdom comes to the plate. Which medium will give the best results in any given situation? Choose wisely which way you will communicate with others based on each situation. Texting is always quick & easy, but sometimes too much detail is required so you should opt for a phone call instead.
  • Speak simply, avoiding jargon and technical talk. Nobody has ever complained because someone was too easy to understand.
  • Assume nothing. Of course that’s impossible, but I challenge you to be diligently aware for when you are adding assumptions. When in doubt, ask for clarification
  • Ask for understanding. Ask others to repeat back to you what they heard or what they are now going to go do. You can say, “Hey, I gave you a lot of information there on what I want you to do this afternoon. Just to make sure I didn’t miss anything, what is your plan on the project?”

“Seek first to understand and then to be understood.” - Steven R. Covey (author, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People)

I hope you’ve found some things that can help develop your leadership skills today. If you are looking to grow your business effectiveness, give Water Street Solutions a call at 866.249.2528.