As a manager of a business, you have a lot on your plate. It’s easy to fall into the trap of performing the same tasks you’ve always done, even though your role has changed. How can you be an effective leader when there are a dozen fi res to put out at any given time? Begin by recognizing your primary role.

“Make talent a strategic initiative,” says Allan Gray, director of the Center for Food and Agricultural Business at Purdue University. “That’s not a leadership course we’re sending people to. A strategy of talent management starts at the top.”

The challenge is that for many leaders, communication on all fronts is a skill that must be learned in the middle of a stressful environment.

“It’s very easy to roll it down and cascade that pressure through the organization,” explains Lou Solomon, CEO of Charlotte, N.C.- based Interact, a communications consultancy. “Leaders are sometimes low on prioritizing what can be the very thing that drives results, and that is the human connection.”

To build critical relationships with your team members, start by understanding the things you do that drive them crazy.

Workers at U.S. companies share common concerns about leadership, according to a recent poll by Solomon’s Interact agency and Harris Poll. Top frustrations include a lack of recognition for achievements and a lack of time spent with employees.

“That is just a direct indication of priority,” Solomon says. “If there is not time to walk the floors, be visible, speak to people, be available, those things make people feel terribly disconnected. It’s not that leaders are bad people; it’s just that along the way, so many of them were recognized for a talent with numbers and operations, not people.”

Agribusinesses face similar challenges, Gray says. In his mind, key problems facing business leaders in the agriculture sector are:

• The need to improve performance management skills, tying employee performance to the goals and objectives of the company.

• The need to correct poor performance in the workplace so high-performing employees remain engaged and productive.

• The need for leaders to transition from a technical doer of tasks to a manager and coach of people.

Lead responsibly. Gray advises leaders to become better at delegation of responsibilities. Also ensure your team knows you don’t have all of the answers, Solomon adds.

“Let go of an image of invulnerable perfection,” she says.

This article was featured in the October issue of Ag Professional. 

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