The 3 R’s for coaching employees

Posted on March 11, 2015 in Dairy Performance
By Jon Wilcox
Bobby Knight, a college basketball coach with more than 900 victories and nicknamed “The General,” was perhaps most famously remembered for his fierce, combative, expletive-laden, chair-throwing style.  Yet he’s loyally defended and fanatically revered by most of his former players.

Contrast him with the quiet and calm Tony Dungy.  Dungy’s accomplishments include two Super Bowl victories – one as a player and one as coach of the Indianapolis Colts.  After retiring, he’s become even more recognized for his deep faith and work with inner-city ministries.

Regardless of which coaches you pick, it’s safe to bet they have their own incomparable styles.  Coaching is much more art than science.  And it’s always personal.

Working with people will always be challenging, and becoming an effective coach takes patience.  Agricultural businesses often have an additional wrinkle – a family component – that brings extra layers of complexity.

Leaders need to be realistic and self-aware, and take ownership of the impact they have on the farm’s culture.  Everyone responsible for coaching others needs to lead by modeling desired behaviors – “do as I do,” not “do as I say.”

Anyone can become a more effective coach if they are willing to commit to it.  In my experience, coaching employees can truly be simplified into three basic factors – the three R’s:

  1. Respect:  High turnover, constant bickering, dysfunctional communication and behavior, marginal engagement, and disrespect for animals and assets on the farm are all indications that employees don’t really feel respected or valued.  Model respect, and require it among all employees.
  2. Recognition:  Train employees to understand why they do what they do.  Then “catch them” doing things right.  Everyone needs to feel appreciated, and this includes public recognition in front of their peers.  Send notes or small tokens in the mail that they’ll open in front of their families.
  3. Rewards:  Compensation is just one type of reward.  Know what’s meaningful to individual employees and find ways to give them more of that.  Financial bonuses aren’t the only way to celebrate a job well done.

Let me emphasize that coaching doesn’t have to be complicated.

Invest in your people skills, develop a mentoring program, reward leadership, and have genuine concern for each employee.  Give feedback spontaneously, and don’t wait for a performance review for constructive criticism.  Model the behavior you want to encourage.

Simple team-building activities – around food and during outdoor recreational activities – go a long way in building trust between employees and management.  Those you coach will recognize and appreciate good intentions.

You don’t have to be perfect to be an effective coach, but you do have to care.

This article was adapted from Jon Wilcox’s article titled “Coaching employees is personal,” which was written for the June 2014 issue of Progressive Dairyman.

About the author:  Jon Wilcox works as the sales manager of the Vita Plus western region dairy team.  An employee owner for more than 30 years, he also takes on several leadership roles within the company, focusing on employee development, culture and values.  He earned his associate degree from Ricks College in Idaho prior to completing his bachelor’s degree in animal science at the University of Minnesota.  In addition, Wilcox cited his experiences in managing a construction company with his brother for 10 years and a two-year Mormon mission in northern England as instrumental in preparing him for his career.  Wilcox enjoys working with and having the opportunity to shape high performing cultures on farms, in teams and within Vita Plus.

Category: Dairy Performance
Employee management