Tom Wall
Tom Wall
Editor's note: The following article appeared in the September issue of Dairy Herd Management.
Earlier this summer, David Letterman retired after 22 years at the helm of The Late Show. Each night, Letterman delivered his “Top Ten List,” showcasing his writers’ witty, sarcastic and sometimes ridiculous sense of humor. Most nights, only half of the items on the list got a laugh from the audience, and ironically, the No. 1 item on the list was almost never all that funny.
Whereas Letterman had a full team of funny, top-notch writers coming up with 10 items each night, I’m hardly a writer, and not very funny. Nonetheless, in an attempt to pay homage to Letterman’s contribution to late-night television, I’ve come up with my  “Top Five List” for dairy managers.
From the home office in Bolt, Wis., here are the “Top Five Signs You Need to Change How You Manage Your Employees…”
You wait a few weeks to show new employees what you expect. 
You’re busy and you’re not sure if the new employees are even going to stick around. Since they have so much to learn, you figure they should probably get acclimated for a few weeks before you try showing them the right way to do their job. Unfortunately, if you or one of your managers doesn’t show them what to do and how to do it from the start, they’ll come up with their own solution. By the time you show up, it’s often too hard to break bad habits and establish good ones.
You make lofty promises without thinking about how you’re going to keep them. 
When you really want or need to hire someone, it’s pretty easy to say whatever it takes to close the deal. Unfortunately, it’s even easier to forget what you said. Just like a career politician, you can’t possibly remember every conversation you have and promise you make. Your employees, on the other hand, hardly ever forget. To improve your forgetfulness and your employees’ selective memory, grab a pen and paper.
You say things like “I don’t really care… just make sure you get everything done on time.” 
Most people in management roles will understand what you’re trying to say. Basically, everybody has a job to do, and it’s critical it gets it done before the next shift comes in. Unfortunately, that’s not what your employees hear. They hear, “It doesn’t matter how you do it or if you follow the protocols… all I care about is that you find a way to get done on time.” They will find a way, and it won’t be what you had in mind.
You think you shouldn’t have to tell someone what to do more than once.
When was the last time you saw an ad for Nike, Coca-Cola or Apple? After being market leaders for generations, don’t you think they could just save their money and quit reminding us to buy their stuff? Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. If you have kids, you’ll know firsthand that turning off the lights is almost impossible to remember. 
Being a manager is no different. One of your most important jobs is to ensure your people make a habit of doing their work correctly. You know what needs to be done, and it’s your job to remind everyone to do it. 
And, the No. 1 sign you need to change how you manage your employees…
You believe employees should have the same drive, dedication and discipline as the owner. 
As a manager, you’ve invested your time, energy and money into building your dairy farm. It’s never been a job for you; it’s your life. The phrase “blood, sweat and tears” isn’t just a saying, it’s your reality. So why would someone who can easily quit tomorrow and move on to something else think like you do? 
Being a dairy manager is a lot of work. Although you’ve probably mastered most of the jobs, your biggest challenge continues to be convincing people to move in the same direction as you. Fortunately, you’re used to overcoming obstacles. 
Just like The Late Show, your dairy has survived and thrived for a long time. It’s another new day, and the show must go on.
Dairy CoachTM Tom Wall helps dairy managers create and implement simple employee management systems that work. For more coaching tips, visit