Spring is here. Now we begin the battle between the season’s demands and our goals for the year. Daily, we face the trade-offs between doing things quickly and doing what’s right to raise the best crop possible.
A farmer shared with me that he used to focus on hurrying through planting season. He recognizes that too often this tendency has ended up costing him bushels in the end. Today he’s working on changing his habits from “fast and cheap” to high-bushel producer.
I think this battle is one that most of you face every year. We rush in order to manage the uncertainty of next week’s weather and that can overshadow the reward months later of growing the best crop possible.
Farmers who manage the balance between urgent and important do two things well. First, they know themselves and their own tendencies. Be it planting too early, working the soil when it’s too wet, getting reckless or careless or maybe being short tempered. Second, they put systems in place to manage those habits. Those systems include self-awareness, future vision and check-ins.
Self-awareness requires seeking out and reflecting on input from others. It means asking people we work with and even vendors to share candidly how they see us. “What are things I do well? How do you see me when I’m stressed? What could I do differently to get better results?”
When you seek feedback, you don’t want to be tossed around by everyone’s opinions – you’re looking for patterns and input that help you to see yourself differently.
Vision might sound cliché, but the key is a picture of “where we are headed and why we are doing this.” The vision helps us to understand the future benefits and consequences of the actions we take today. It helps us put into perspective the potential future cost of doing something quickly today.
Check-ins. As we go through the year, we need regular feedback loops to keep us (personally) and our farms on track. We should watch the little signs along the way. Maybe we have a field we use as a high-yield project – when we start the year, we can lay out our activity plan and our scouting. We can check in using the system we’ve laid out so we don’t have to wonder: “What should I do with that field today?”
1. Write out five strengths and five weaknesses you have as a farm leader “in-season.”
2. Ask for sincere input from employees, family members, suppliers and trusted advisors on the strengths and weak points they observe.
3. Pick a strength you want to leverage or a weakness you want to shore up – and identify times this year where you’ll be prepared to change your approach.
Reprinted with permission from Corn + Soybean Digest