Sean K. Treasure
We’ve all had them. Bosses that not only fail to empower or inspire us, but actually make us dread going to work each day. Their positional authority has inspired volumes of writing on what it means to be a leader. After all, a person doesn’t need to be a great leader to receive a promotion; usually they performed very well in their subordinate positions and were rewarded with a higher position. However, just being great in one position doesn’t mean they’ll be great leaders.
I’ve had mostly good experiences with my superiors throughout my career and those people taught me a great deal about leadership. But, the few bad experiences helped reinforce those ideas. They taught me that there are bad ways of leading; that despite that fact that I’ve always had an interest in my positions, I could still feel completely passionless about them. I’m certain that this discouraging mindset resulted in not just decreased productivity for the companies, but higher stress levels and less happiness for my colleagues and me. With that in mind, here’s a few things that I’ve learned; things that I will avoid as I lead others.
For leaders and aspiring leaders, it’s important to take note of what works as well as what doesn’t. If you want to motivate, inspire and encourage people to do more you must defiantly avoid the types of actions that bring the opposite result. Give thanks to people. Give them a purpose, lead them by example, give them credit and empower them to do more.
Do you have any lessons for us? Please share them in the comments below!
Mike Spangler - Staff Grain Analyst
As I sit here watching the plethora of commodity market monitors, I can't help but think we are a little off track and too focused on tariffs. As farmers, you don't have the luxury that that the general population has and cast blame here and there. These markets dictate profit and loss...they have lasting effects. More then ever, you need to know YOUR numbers.
In my opinion, the tariffs are a moot point, which the politicians and gen pop can volley back-and-forth. We need to look at the rest of the picture. Any tariff imposed will be followed by South America raising their price because apples-to-apples, their beans became more valuable. so, they will extract bigger margins. For China, it just becomes a function of freight spreads between Gulf, Brazil, and Argentina. So, the global demand for soybeans is not decreasing, and actually with the CBOT action, the demand will likely increase. This is important to remember because the global supply is a finite number, and any USA soybean demand decrease from China, will result in an increase, or even new, demand from another country. Getting the right vessels in the right place at the right time for these new or increase trade routes, may result in brief price bump, but this will be short lived. So, as grain marketers let's throw this tariff talk right out the window and focus on things right here right now.
Truth is, the corn and soybean crop looks not only great, but it's ahead of last year and the 4 year avg. We are going to have a crop, and it's gonna be big throughout the I-States and Corn Belt. That being said, demand will also increase at these prices from all avenues...Ethanol and Soybean crusher margins are great and the poultry markets continue to grow demand. This will leave markets increasingly volatile, which is good for the hedge funds and futures traders, but can be a juggernaut for the American farmers, as he/she manages the sales with all the other facets of farming. We have said this before, and will continue to remind everyone, to know YOUR numbers, or hire a trusted advisor to become part of your farm team. It's easy to look out your window, and say...hey, this crop looks awful, this board will rally again when you have so much else going on with agronomy, equipment, family, etc. The truth is, with the crop looking great in the top grain producing states, we will likely keep the board with sideways, but very choppy trade.
For example, look at North Carolina's crop conditions...26% G/EX, 34% Fair, and 40% P/VP. North Carolina is a very large poultry and pork producing state, so when combined with the very poor crop conditions, it will likely be a large corn deficit state this year, or at least until Brazil/Argie crops hit. What does that mean for the NC farmer? The demand is not going away, which will push the feedmills/crushers to pull increased amounts of grain from OH,IN, and IL. This will help keep local basis strong, as more grain coming by rail increases freight costs compared to buying local farmer truck grain. The increase rail volume will also stress the lines, and result in late and/or missed trains. In markets like this, sell basis contracts as the market the market dips and price the basis contracts as futures recover...and save a few bullets in the chamber for when trains don't show. Keep in mind, the increased demand will also push basis slightly hire in the states filling this demand. It all boils down to knowing your numbers, and developing a game plan from the vast amounts of data available.
It's always interesting to here from all parts of the country...let us know what conditions, land rent, and cost of production are looking like in your section of the world.
Food for thought....looking at 2019....can wheat/soybean rotation, rather then corn, almost double your per acre profit? In some areas, it's looking so.
It’s widely said that in order to be a good leader, one must first learn how to follow. In a way, it makes some sense; leaders need to understand how their particular style is received from a follower’s perspective. They also need to appreciate that “followerhood” is the boots on the ground point of action where a leader’s charted course is tangibly felt. Still, as I’ve pondered this recently I’ve come to my own conclusion that this conventional wisdom is completely backwards; which I suspect is why no leadership guru has ever written a book on how to be a good follower! Leaders don’t need to know how to follow to successfully lead; rather, followers must learn to lead to grow themselves and their organizations.
It starts with a truly defining leadership. The dictionary definition simply states that it is “the position or function of a leader, a person who guides or directs a group.” I would add to that definition that a leader is also the principle motivator and empowerer of a group. Additionally, good leadership requires clear communication of all of the above. None of those functions, guiding, directing, motivating, empowering or communicating really require knowing how to follow. They’re unique skillsets in their own right. Notice that my definition doesn’t conjure images of micro managing or ordering. Those actions are contrary to empowering and in my opinion stifle forward movement.
More important for a leader than “knowing how” to follow is knowing herself and her leadership style. Every leader is different. Being a “good” follower of a bad leader, a good follower of competent leader A and a good follower of competent leader B are all different things. It makes me wonder how a person can learn to follow when every leader is unique and not only communicates, motivates and empowers differently, but requires different things from their constituents?
While it’s true that a follower travels the course that a leader has charted, it must be understood that a good follower possesses leadership skills to successfully navigate that course. It doesn’t work the other way around. John Maxwell has rightly said that the hardest person to lead is yourself. Successfully implementing the leadership skills of motivating and empowering on oneself is necessary all the way down to the lowest level of an organization. It seems clear to me that learning to follow is a waste of time. Learning leadership is the key to success in all endeavors.
Agree or disagree? We'd love to hear your thoughts! Please don't hesitate to comment below!
According to bestselling author, speaker and leadership guru Brian Tracy, as much as 60 percent of a leader’s time is spent listening. When we say listen, we don’t mean just listen with your ears. In fact, we’re suggesting that you make an effort to hear more than their words and seek to know what’s going on behind the words. Why are they upset? Is their idea to update farm operations a good one? It’s important to acknowledge their words AND consider their underlying motivation.
Tracy emphasizes four listening strategies to maximize conversations.
1. Listen attentively- Focus on the speaker!
2. Pause before replying- Resist the temptation to simply respond for the sake of responding. Make sure they are finished.
3. Question for clarification- Not only does this show that you care about what they are saying, it helps flesh out what they are really trying to convey.
4. Listen without interruptions- Let them say what they need to say and give periodic nods that you’re actually paying attention!
There’s an important caveat to note here. Sometimes, when a person is frustrated they may have an exceptional idea but not communicate it effectively. For the leader, this means that when someone angrily makes a suggestion that you don’t simply dismiss it out of hand because of the tone. You need to ask follow up questions to get to the root of the idea and to convey to the person an open dialog. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you need to tolerate insubordination. Generally, you’ll find that asking follow up questions will help diffuse the frustration and empower the individual to act.
I was at the center of an episode like this once when I frustratingly complained about my company's corn trading program in front of the man who not only started it but was also the president of the company. The statement was born out of total frustration as I wanted to grow the trading program in a different way than what we were currently doing. The statement didn’t go over well and I can’t blame him for being upset. However, my underlying logic and the strategies I had in mind were legitimate. Further discussion would have been productive. It’s important for leaders to recognize when a follower needs to talk something out.
Even when there is no anger or frustration there’s no doubt that everyone has felt that they’ve been simply dismissed at one time or another; and it’s safe to say that nobody has enjoyed the feeling that accompanies it. In fact, the most common reason for employees to leave an organization is not pay, but a perceived lack of appreciation and recognition. It’s a small thing but simply listening to people can mean the difference between retaining top talent and losing it.
The goal is to not simply listen, but to make your people the center of your attention. Pay attention to their words and actions. Take heed of morale and intervene if necessary to improve the environment. A leader who truly places his people first will receive better performance and a much more loyal following.
On December 15, 2000 at a press conference the University of Southern California football program announced the hiring of Pete Carroll as the new head coach. It was a surprising move considering Carroll’s coaching history. Not only was he fired from two previous head coaching jobs in the NFL after unsuccessful stints, he also had exactly zero years of college head coaching experience. In fact, he had been out of college football for 17 years before being hired by USC.
The announcement was met with, at the very least skepticism and often with outright opposition. Carroll was derided from every angle by boosters and fans. He was laughed at and it was generally assumed that he would fail. So, what did he do to turn the program around? More importantly, how did he adjust to improve his own effectiveness as a head coach? Carroll found his own, authentic leadership identity.
Coach Carroll realized that what he had done in the NFL didn’t work for him. During a period of intense introspection and self-evaluation, he became aware that he lacked a core set of real values to guide him in his role as head coach.
"Are you willing to adjust your focus to create the changes and reach the potential that you already own?" ~Pete Carroll
He read a book by the legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden. Carroll was surprised and inspired by the fact that although Wooden’s teams won 11 championships, the first didn’t come until his sixteenth season. Coach Carroll, taking one of Wooden’s strategies began a process of thinking through his core beliefs and committing them to writing – resulting in a philosophy he communicated widely and leveraged at USC. He developed a strong mindset of goals and values. His goals were very clear and specific: Beat UCLA. Beat Notre Dame. Win the Rose Bowl. Win the National Championship.
The result: huge success on and off the football field. The wins didn’t come immediately though. It was an incremental process as his new philosophies were instilled in his followers. Carroll went 6-6 in 2001, his first season at USC. Then the wins came. 11 in 2002 and 12 more in 2003. During his tenure at USC, Carroll went 97-19 including 7 consecutive AP top 4 finishes and National Championships in 2003, 2004 and 2005. He developed community service programs in Los Angles and created the Win Forever Company. He found a personal philosophy that not only worked for him but was authentic. It was genuine and received sincerely by his followers. In a nutshell, Carroll was true to himself.
An article in the Harvard Business Review said it perfectly:
“No one can be authentic by trying to imitate someone else. You can learn from others’ experiences, but there is no way you can be successful when you are trying to be like them. People trust you when you are genuine and authentic, not a replica of someone else.” ~Bill George, Peter Sims, Andrew N. McLean and Diana Mayer
That’s what we’re talking about when we say leadership identity. It’s about utilizing your strengths, experiences and personality type to become the best leader you can be. In order to become your personal best as a leader, you must first recognize that you have the capacity within you to make it happen. You don’t need to be someone else. You don’t need to imitate someone else. You just need to gain clarity into your personal style and see the value in it as a growing leader. Agricultural Leadership, LLC can help you gain confidence in your own leadership style. We look forward to working with you!
John C. Maxwell noted in his book Good Leaders ask Great Questions the importance of the idea of building others up. He suggested asking yourself this question: “Am I building people, or am I building my dream and using people to do it?” There’s a stark difference between the two. Leaders recognize that people building is their most important calling. If they empower and develop their people, the enterprise will grow as well.
Maxwell also said that one of the questions people subconsciously ask of their leaders is “Can you help me?” The answer to this question is at the crux of servant leadership. For leaders, the question isn’t “Can I help you” but “will I help you?” In order to attract the best people as followers the answer must be a resounding YES!
To assess whether you are in the business of building people, you might ask yourself some follow up questions.
· Am I setting my people up to succeed?
Do you give your people the tools they need to be effective not only in their current positions but in future positions? In people building you must look beyond the present. You might have the best people in the world. Are you willing to help them grow beyond your influence?
· Do I support or stifle their career and personal development?
Are you willing to see followers move on to better opportunities? When someone asks for a letter of recommendation to you resent them for it or are you genuinely happy to do it? If you’re reluctant consider this: there’s actually very good reason for you to encourage your people to grow to their highest career potential, even if it’s not within the ranks of your organization.
General Electric is widely cited as a leadership development organization. Dozens of former GE employees have gone on to run a variety of Fortune 500 and other publically traded and private companies. And GE continues to produce leaders at an amazing clip. What’s in it for them? Well, for starters they have become a destination employer for top talent looking to grow themselves. They subsequently have a massive number of very high producers in their ranks. When one person moves on there are two other people to fill their spot. But that’s not all. What would you expect the attitudes of those former employees is like toward their former employer? It’s easy to see that they leave with good feelings and a willingness to work with GE
· Do I encourage and instruct my people through challenges?
Clearly there are boundaries in individual relationships but every leader should, at the very least help their people with challenges that fall within the realm of their authority. A leader who is aloof and seemingly ignorant of the challenges that their people are having on behalf of the team’s shared vision is not only guilty of not building his people to their highest ability, they are stifling the team’s progress. People need to feel that their leaders care about the struggles they have. They will be most successful when leadership not only recognizes their challenges but offers assistance to overcome those challenges.
Each week, I have a special meeting with my children that always excites and energizes them. We call it our “Failure Meeting.” Each family member in turn gets to announce a failure they’ve experienced during the week. The kids all excitedly announce something they’ve tried and failed at. Then, my wife and I each describe something we failed at that week. Every week, this meeting seems to generate enthusiasm and motivation for everyone in the family. Failure has become our favorite word. Why? Because we respect that learning anything worthwhile is a process and failure is a necessary and educational part of that process.
Learning leadership is no different. Concepts are learned and applied through trial and error. Learning leadership is an ongoing process with new skills learned and refined over time, not in a single day. Those willing to put forth the effort, time and work to develop these skills are the individuals who will experience the rewards that come with it. Indeed, there is no such thing as failure, only feedback. Thomas Edison famously quipped when asked about his thousands of ‘failures’: “I haven’t failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
As you study leadership concepts it’s important to ‘test’ them out yourself. Though the great John C. Maxwell observed 21 leadership laws, he also recognized that each individual leader is quite different. Your own leadership style will dictate how to apply those laws in relationships with your followers. Testing the concepts is critical.
In our failure meetings, after each person announces their failure they then must come up with something they would do different next time they attempt whatever task it was they failed at. A new method, strategy or behavior that might change the outcome. We follow up in a later meeting to discuss how the change went. And what if that new method, strategy or behavior doesn’t work? They refine it again and again if necessary. Success is inevitable.
Remember, learning leadership is a process. It will take a great deal of feedback (failure) to become the leader you wish to be. Don’t give up! Look for new ways and press forward. Always keep an open mind to learning new things and don’t fear the process.