Beyond the Barn: How Will Your Team Do This Year? – Peter Coyne, Vita Plus
Our high school football team had a very successful season last year and only lost one game.
Unfortunately, it was the biggest game of the year; the winner goes to state and the loser goes home. We lost by one point.
Eleven seniors were on that team and I suspect we will need to do some rebuilding this year. Fortunately, we have a great coach who understands kids as well as he understands football. As he and his assistant coaches work with our young, inexperienced team of kids from our community, they will do the same things I see the best dairy managers do on their productions on a daily basis.
Many of the farms I visit with low employee turnover have an open and trusting culture. Management communicates openly with employees on the farm and few surprises arise. Employees know what is expected of them and, in many cases, are encouraged to participate in the decisions that will impact their work. Owners, just like our high school coaches, make sure they know their employees and put them in a position to do their best. They understand how important deliberate and constructive feedback is to the team and that it is consistent across all levels of employment.
Everyone has a responsibility to carry their weight, including owners and managers. Our football coach knows our kids need to have the right equipment and preparation, both physically and mentally, for the game on Friday. Successful managers also recognize the value in providing their employees with the tools needed to do their jobs effectively and are responsive when things don’t work out as planned or signs of wear begin to show.
Great coaches seem to have the ability to identify talent and place those individuals in a position to be successful. They also know how to bounce back after injuries and changes to the team. The underclassmen on our team last year know they may not be as successful this year as they were last year. They also know the responsibility they have to their school and community to do the best they can and that the coaching staff cares about them as students and wants them to be successful. Similarly, conditions in the dairy industry aren’t the same as they were a few years ago.
A couple years ago, everything was going well, while the past 12 months have been harder financially. Additionally, there seems to be a shortage of available help on farm. It’s not an easy task to identify, recruit, and fill all the positions on the team with the most talented employees who understand their role and are willing to do their best.
Building a successful team requires an understanding of how consistent, open communication and clear expectations – tied into a culture of caring and responsibility to a greater cause – draws in the best possible people to your farm and gives you an edge in the talent pool. Most of today’s producers know great forages, comfortable cows, and a consistent routine are the fundamentals of high performing herds, just as blocking, tackling, and controlling the line of scrimmage are the fundamentals of football. Utilizing your team’s individual talents, providing clear expectations and consistent feedback, and keeping the team aware of the greater good – served by individual performance – is what makes a championship team.
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