I find farming to be a fascinating industry. There is a beauty and calmness to be seen as you drive by a field of growing crops. Underneath that calmness are highly skilled workers, complicated machines, and a focused plan and team to bring it all to life. Today, we’ll look at how our leadership can benefit from being more like a farmer. 

Successful farmers lean into diversity


As a child, I grew up down the road from a peach orchard. Every couple of years there would be news stories of the family and workers starting controlled fires in barrels around the orchard in hopes of keeping the blossoms alive when a severe cold front came through. Sometimes they were successful and some years there were virtually no crops at all. Their entire success or failure rode on one crop and its return on investment was totally out of their control. 

Many successful farmers leverage the power of diversity to better protect their income and also strengthen and increase the value of the land that they own. An example of this is crop rotation. A farmer may plant corn, and they know that the corn takes a lot of nitrogen out of the soil as it matures. Instead of using valuable resources and money to replace the nitrogen after the harvest, they may plant beans in the same spot after the corn is harvested. Beans add nitrogen naturally back to the soil and produce a second layer of income from the same plot of land. 

In the same way, a leader gets more value out of their team when they invest in diverse thoughts and experiences in others. A team composed of the same life experiences, talents, and behavioral traits as each other is like the peach orchard; susceptible to critical failure with just one misstep. A diverse team on the other hand fills in the gaps of the other person, adding value in their own unique way. 

They pull crops at the right time


The time to pull crops can be tricky. Pull too early and the crops haven’t matured/ripened enough and you lose a good bit of value. Wait too late and the crop can be ruined. We all know the speed of business is extremely fast in today’s market and everybody wants things now, including leaders with their expectations for their employees. I could share many examples where I’ve seen a leader promote a person or expand their responsibilities too early resulting in that person leaving the organization and a mess behind them. 

Remember that your people are all growing at a different pace and a timeline that worked for one may not work for another. Slow down, nurture, and support your people on their timelines to help ready them for that next evolution in their work responsibilities and careers. 

Farmers hate weeds just as much as you


No leader looks forward to the problems that happen on the team, just as a farmer hates seeing weeds pop up despite the amount of work that they put in beforehand to prevent them from sprouting. Weeds (problems) are going to happen. Just like a farmer must remove the weeds to maximize their crop, a leader must remove obstacles and problems so that a team can thrive. 

It’s important to be proactive in addressing issues that you see – communications, behavior, and performance among the top themes before they grow into larger, work-stopping issues. Think back to a time when you had to deal with a big conflict or issue involving another person. More than likely you can draw a line back to when the issue had presented itself but had not yet manifested itself into the big issue it was when you finally addressed it. Farmers also know checking on weeds, isn’t a one-time activity, they have to constantly check for new ones that pop up overnight. In the same way, it’s important to consistently check in on your team and do health checks to make sure things are running smoothly, and new problems haven’t popped up in a new spot. 

Farmers are disciplined


On the surface, farming may seem easy – throw some seeds in the ground, wait, collect the crops, and make money. In reality, farming is hard work requiring a very disciplined person who is strategic, a master of time management, and a good people leader in order to turn over a successful crop in a season. If you remove any of those three traits from a farmer the likelihood of being successful drops significantly. You’ll also serve yourself and others well by modeling the same disciplined mindset and leadership style. Previous shows that can help with strategic thinking, time management, and people leaders include:

Follow the farmers’ way of life by being a disciplined leader who is patient and caring with your team, while making sure that you have a diverse mix of talent. You’ll see your team grow and mature in a healthy way and will reap the benefits of your leadership for years to come. 

Make a better tomorrow. 
-ZH