If you are leading a dairy farm enterprise, you already know how important your people are to the success, and ultimate sustainability, of the operation.
Robert Milligan is a former Cornell agricultural economist and current senior consultant with Dairy Strategies, LLC, a business that specializes in leadership and human development in the dairy industry. According to Milligan, the success of a dairy business comes down to its people, and the success and satisfaction of those people depends largely on you, their manager.
“You have to work very hard to develop an environment – a culture – where employees feel comfortable sharing their ideas, concerns and feelings,” Milligan advised. Often, he said, employees are reluctant to communicate their ideas because:
- Many are naturally passive and not open with anyone in their lives.
- Many have past experiences that have “taught” them that they should not be open at work.
- Many just flat-out have not learned how to engage in meaningful group discussion, and thus are reluctant to do so due to fear of failure.
Milligan suggested one of the best phrases you can use as a coach is, “Tell me more.” It is a simple expression that conveys to a reluctant employee that you are interested in learning more about their idea, concern or feeling. It shows you are genuinely concerned and have respect for their opinion and perspective.
His advice is reinforced by the Forbes magazine Coaches Council. In an articlefeaturing input from their members in various sectors of American business, contributor Ali Merchant said the phrase “Tell me more” is a great example of a versatile question that never disappoints. “When asked genuinely, it signals your interest in the [person’s] story and opens up space and psychological safety for them to express their mind,” said Merchant. “In addition, it’s a good way to challenge them to dig deeper and cut to the heart of the matter.”
You can sign up herefor a free subscription to Milligan’s dairy business management newsletter, LearningEdge Monthly.