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Chore Finding a Talented Manager
By Kevin Spafford, for Farm Progress Magazines
The search for the ‘right’ next generation leader is almost a universal quest among family agribusiness owners. Though incredibly successful in business, most parent owners struggle to differentiate between age-ready and management-capable when it comes to their own flesh and blood. All too often they assume DNA is enough to ensure success, and make leadership appointments according to birth, rather than what’s best for the business and the capabilities of the candidates.
When I first began to work with “Sid and Marcia Barnes,” the selection of their eldest son, “Mike,” for a major role in the organization was already taking a toll on the business, and the family was becoming weary. In their son’s defense, he had done everything his parents asked---completed college, worked off-farm for three years, and received satisfactory job performance reviews. He waited until there was an opening, and then applied for a starting level position in the family operation.
Since Mike was the heir apparent, it was Sid and Marcia who early on encouraged him to consider a management role. It was their idea to begin transitioning major leadership responsibilities to their son as soon as possible. Whether he became overwhelmed or just wasn’t capable will forever be anyone’s guess. Suffice to say, he wasn’t an effective leader, business was declining, employee morale was suffering, and the banker was asking questions. But what happened and could it have been different?
Given the situation and, even if a person can’t readily identify the skills and abilities necessary to lead, you can describe the behaviors of a strong manager. And of course, it’s easier still to cite the accomplishments of a great leader or point to the results they’ve generated. In regard to behaviors, for instance, a talented manager:
- Invites a team approach and encourages participation.
- Makes decisions based on desired outcomes.
- Acknowledges the challenges, but doesn’t let obstacles get in the away.
- Develops positive, productive relationships built on mutual respect.
- Recognizes responsibility and accepts accountability for team results.
For Mike, I recommended a professional development plan. To use Gallup terms, Mike was a talented Motivator despite a weakness in forming Relationships with others. To fully develop his strengths and improve on other capabilities a written plan may include these steps:
1. Use an objective leadership assessment, measure your character.
2. Review your current job roles/responsibilities and assess how that position addresses your leadership capabilities.
3. Identify structured and non-structured opportunities for development, using:
a) Educational programs
b) Work related experiences
c) Professional and personal achievements
4. Commit to serve in a community, industry, and/or professional organization.
5. Create mentor relationships as both mentor and mentee.
Published as "Finding Talented Managers is Not Easy", by Kevin Spafford for "Farm Progress Magazines", July 2015.
Photo courtesy of Heidi Anderson at Legacy Livestock Imaging
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