Hire employees focused on service
Anyone can be a leader as long as he or she understands that service is the basis of leadership, knows that being authentic means being a leader in every aspect life, and has a servant’s heart.
Tom Thibodeau of Viterbo University led the servant leaders track of PDPW’s Cornerstone Dairy Academy™ in March. As he explained, you don’t need a management title to be a leader. That has practical implications for our farms.
As new employees are hired and teams grow, here are a few key aspects to keep in mind on your dairy:
- When looking at candidates for positions, find out if they have a servant’s heart. Thibodeau said this is at the core of people. If they aren’t focused on service now, you can’t change their hearts. You want employees that are engaged on your farm, so discuss your operation and mission statement with them and make sure their values match yours.
- On that note, all businesses – including farms – should have a mission statement. Otherwise, how are employees supposed to know the mission or goals of the company? If you don’t have a mission statement, arrange a meeting with all of the owners of the operation to create one. This will probably take some time. Next, discuss it with current employees. Make sure that everyone understands the mission of the farm and holds each other accountable.
- Thibodeau also discussed hiring for character and teaching for skill. Get to know the candidates through the hiring process; don’t just ask them the “normal” interview questions. Ask about their extracurricular activities outside of work. Ask questions that will make them think on their feet and help you learn more about their work abilities. Then decide if they will fit into the culture that you have built on your farm.
- Don’t just focus on getting to know your employees when you are looking to hire them. Periodically sit down and talk as a group about “the good stuff” in everyone’s lives. This will help build character and morale in the group. Thibodeau explained people want three things:
- To be authentic (be the same person at work and home)
- A work place that is flexible
- For other people to know them as a person (showing that you care about someone as a person – and not just an employee – will help them care more about you and your farm)
Getting to know your employees personally will also allow you new insight into their potential and strengths. They will most likely feel more comfortable approaching you with opportunities to build their skills. Over time, if their skills are a match, they could take leadership of other employees or projects. Help build up their skill sets by encouraging them to attend training sessions or other opportunities in your area.
Don’t forget to develop your own skills as well. I strongly encourage anyone looking to be challenged and wanting to learn about leadership to check out the Cornerstone Dairy Academy or consider other leadership development programs in your area. This is a great way to learn what others are doing on their farms or in their businesses. You can learn a lot from others about the hiring process and building teams to move toward a common goal of success.
About the author: Brittany (Stewart) Gevelinger is a dairy specialist at Vita Plus Dodgeville. She earned her bachelor’s degree in dairy science from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in 2009. She continued her education at Virginia Tech and completed her master’s degree in dairy science in 2011. Her research included evaluating feed ingredient variation and on-farm troubleshooting of feed management software. She conducted whole-farm nutrient balance assessments and recommended feed management and business model options to improve farm management. Before joining Vita Plus, Gevelinger worked as a feed technology specialist based in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and provided dairy ration formulation, feed formulation, and technical assistance.