A few weeks ago, we opened a dialogue on Critical State which is defined as “the point at which something triggers a change in the basic nature or character of the object or group,” or to paraphrase: something can be referred to as being in a critical state when at the point of significant change.
Inability to communicate is, in my opinion, the greatest single cause of breakdown in relationships of all types and sorts. While many other factors come into play, and often bear most of the blame, the primary cause is communication and its lack thereof.
There are virtually countless books, courses, and resources dedicated to improving communication in almost any circumstance: marriage, parenthood, employee, co-worker, sibling, etc. etc. I have only read a minute fraction of what is available on this topic, so I cannot offer insight as to which are most beneficial. But, like you, I have a lifetime of experience in communicating with others. It is fair to say that all of my communication experiences could use improvement, because to say otherwise would indicate that there was, at times, perfection in my communication interactions. Let’s be honest, there is always room for improvement.
Here are some of the most important relationships in your business that need solid communication:
Often times, when hearing banker-ese or legalese, we tend to not ask that which we do not know or understand for fear of appearing, well let’s say it, stupid. Many people have signed onto something that they did not want, nor did not understand because they were unable to communicate their questions, their fears, or their outright disagreement. The future ramifications of a lack of clarity in matters of borrowing or of law can be monumental.
When I was still in banking, I had a husband & wife client where the wife would apologize for asking what she called “stupid questions” about the terms and conditions of their borrowing package. She could have silently signed her name to the documents and fretted over her lack of confidence in what she just did, but instead she chose to ask. For her own clarity, her own comfort, and her own peace of mind, she asked. For that, I was grateful; it strengthened our business relationship. When I told them I was leaving the bank, she hugged me saying “I’ve never hugged a banker before!” I replied with a wink, “I’m not REALLY a banker; just a farmer who’s working at the bank!”
Everybody is rowing their own boat in life. It does your business no good whatsoever if your employees are not rowing in the same direction as you. Setting goals and expectations for your team, and sharing the overall business goals with your team can carry significant weight in efforts to get everyone “rowing the same direction.”
I’ve learned about a number of farm businesses that have taken the proactive approach: involve the team in goal planning, provide regular feedback, reward good performance. The most successful farms treat their employees not like employees, but rather like trusted partners who have a vested interest in the success of the business, and communicate with them accordingly.
Family and/or Primary Relationship
I will go on record saying that all “problems” in family and/or primary relationships will trace back to communication. Whether communication be the final straw or not, communication likely led to the behavior that became the final straw.
I was very impressed in meeting a young farmer earlier this year. When he came home to farm a decade or so ago, with his would-be wife, his father made clear with him and his non-farming siblings how the farm would transition. There was no ambiguity; no one could complain; there are no hard feelings today. Consider how things could be today when we acknowledge how successful this farmer now is, and how much wealth he has built in his operation…lack of communication could lead to unreasonable demands from family members, and the potential for critical state.
Does fear ever affect your communication? How do you manage it?
How would you rate your ability to share positive feedback versus negative?
From the Home Quarter
Lack of communications, or an inability to communicate, will lead to critical state in a sneaky kind of way. If one doesn’t notice that communication is breaking down, over time it will snowball into a major issue. Everybody has a breaking point. It’s usually wise not to let things get that far, not matter which relationship we talk about.
About this article
This article was published in the Growing Farm Profits WeeklyTM newsletter on July 26, 2016. Growing Farm Profits WeeklyTM provides topical and pragmatic business management tips and tools for Canadian and US farms and farm business managers. Visit http://www.growingfarmprofits.com to learn more.
About the Author
Kim has a unique ability of fostering strong business relationships by building trust quickly and easily through his genuine care and interest in the well-being of everyone he speaks with. Kim holds a Certified Financial Planner (CFP®) designation, a Bachelor’s Degree in Financial Services, and a lifetime of on-the-farm experience. After nearly a decade in the financial industry, Kim knew he could bring greater value to farmers by being independent, unbiased, and unrestricted in how he serves his clients. Follow Kim on Twitter at @KimGerencser.