Motivation

Motivation is a powerful force in agriculture.  Actually it’s the only force.  Really when it comes down to it, it’s motivation that gets a crop in off a field; not money.  In the end it’s motivation that makes money, not the other way around. 

Motivation is what drives a man to get out of bed at 5am without hitting the snooze button and during the day is what keeps a farmer’s mind focused on improving the efficiency of the farm, not on sports scores or what happened last night on American Idol.  The reason why farming is an industry that is dominated by families, not "wall street money" is the need for personal motivation to make farms work. 

I’ve seen sons that work for money.  They are the ones that want to quit harvesting early while their neighbors work until midnight to get a crop off.  Their father’s try to buy their motivation through increased wages, shares in the farm corporation and a new upgraded house to live in.  They try to crack the whip and throw cold ice on their sons to get them out of bed.  But the father’s don’t realize how they can’t buy motivation.  It’s from within.  They have the sailboats, but not the wind needed to sail. 

One time a father couldn’t figure out why his son couldn’t get out of bed in the morning and this mangy mutt came up with his paws and jumped on me, leaving huge mud marks on my starch white shirt.  The father kicked it.  I looked at him and said, raising a son to be a farm manager is like raising a hound dog.  Sometimes you’ve got to kick it, if it does something foolish; but if you kick it too many times; the only thing it will do is snarl at you and then one day it will just run away.  His son was snarling at him. 

In farming too often, we are only concerned about our own lives and what motivates us.  Let’s face it, often we are the narcissists whom are only concerned about our own lives, not the needs of others. In the short term, it’s easy to bark orders to employees or family members to get them to do the things you want done.  But a true leader is constantly thinking about the other family member’s needs, wants and desires.  What makes a leader isn’t job title or ownership in the company, it’s your attitude.  Sometimes a kind word, time off or listening to someone’s ideas are critical for the future.  It doesn’t mean you need to be soft on family members and every time give them what they want.  But it does mean that you got to be conscious of every decision you make and not only how does that affect farm profitability, but the long term motivation of that employee or family member.  You’ve got to ask yourself how can you motivate every family member to do more and be more passionate about the farm being as successful as you want it to be.  This requires putting “we before me”. 

If you want to have a successful business, the word “we” should be front and center on your mind.  How can you keep everyone in the business from your family members to casual employees to stay motivated on your business success and most importantly frame success in the same terms as you?   If you can accomplish this, then you won’t have to crack the whip or have daily frustration.  Everyone will be working towards accomplishing the same carrot.  True leadership isn’t barking orders and getting people to do what you want.  It’s motivating them to do what you want on their own.