Legacy Project: A Map to Effective Leadership

A Map to Effective Leadership ( Farm Journal Media. Illustration: Lindsey Benne )

If you don’t know where your farm business is going, you might never reach your destination. It’s the manager’s job to provide a map so everyone on the team is going in the same direction. This leadership map is composed of the following three components:


Motivating yourself and others must start with a vision for your business. I’m not talking about a vague goal to sustain, grow or build. You must define a clear and specific vision for your business for the next three to five years.

Once the you establish the vision (destination), you need to develop the mission (how you’re going to reach the destination). To accomplish that, I suggest you gather your leadership team away from the farm each year for a day or two to think, dream and plan for the future.  

Once the vision and mission are created, it’s essential to share them with the entire team. Motivating your employees to think like an owner requires a leader to share information and be as transparent as possible. Post the vision and mission in areas frequented by the employees. Take time to explain the “why” behind your business decisions. People are more motivated when they feel valued and understand their work is important to the big picture.  

Employees are also motivated by strong and fair incentive plans. Incentives are not always calculated in dollars. Sometimes a half-day off work is as valuable and meaningful as a few more dollars in a paycheck. Whatever the incentive, your team members need to believe increased performance is recognized and leads to appreciation and reward.


I believe most people want to be accountable, but sometimes leaders make it easy not to be because a measurement system, policies and procedures are lacking.

Roles and responsibilities must be clarified. Take time to spell out in writing, for each employee, your expectations of their role and responsibilities and the consequences if the expectations are not met.  

A strong performance evaluation system is necessary. Too often, especially in a family-owned business, the family member/employee is expected to read your mind and just know what they’re expected to do and how to perform. Sometimes they assume if there’s no criticism, they’re doing OK. Is that fair? Does this hold people accountable? An six-month informal performance review and an annual written review to discuss performance and mutually set goals for the next six months or year are key to hold everyone accountable.

Equally important is to have face-to-face conversations with as many of your team members as possible.   Even though you might work together every day, regularly scheduled meetings motivate and hold your people accountable. I realize this takes time, but if you’re sincere about your leadership, you will find the time. Without the face-to-face, far too many assumptions creep into the process. One short weekly meeting with your key people, complete with an agenda, helps hold you and your team members accountable to each other.


If you share the vision and mission with your employees, set goals and hold the team accountable, company productivity will improve. How can you find the time to effectively communicate and execute? Skillful time management is necessary for all
leaders. If you’re not spending 70% of your time on the people part of your business, you need to start delegating more effectively.

A quick rule, if your plate is too full, evaluate your tasks using the following system: Do it, delegate it or dump it.  

There are many tasks only you can do. However, sometimes leaders keep doing things because they like to do them and fail to delegate those tasks to others. There are other tasks no longer necessary for you to keep doing but you do because it’s always been done that way. These type of tasks should be dumped.

The key to delegation is giving both the responsibility of the task and the authority to make decisions to the delegate and requiring him or her to develop a clear and regular system to report actions to you.

It’s also important to limit yourself to no more than five direct reports.  This will improve productivity because there will be more accountability and more time for observation, evaluation and coaching.

The most critical element for increasing productivity is having those challenging workplace conversations we all tend to avoid. In a family business, particularly, it’s easy to assume things will just get better if we have a few days of silence, separation or pouting and instead have casual conversations about the weather. After all, we have lived and worked together for years. The other person knows how I feel and think so why should we talk about it?

Avoiding the challenging conversation does not solve it. In fact, the disagreement or misunderstanding usually gets worse and eventually explodes, which reduces productivity. A strong leader recognizes there’s a problem and designates a “when and where” to discuss it.

The map for leadership is simply using the values of integrity, respect, openness and fairness to create a working environment that allows each person to have his or her needs for individual uniqueness and connection with others met. If that’s accomplished, your team will be motivated and accountable, and productivity will increase.

By Carolyn Rodenberg, [email protected]

Through Alternatives to Conflict LLC, Carolyn Rodenberg works with businesses in the areas of negotiation, business development and communication.

Farm Journal Legacy Project Conference

Jan. 14-15, Hilton Chicago

Are you prepared to pass on your family’s legacy?

Dive deep into the logistics of creating a sound succession plan at the two-day Farm Journal Legacy Project conference. Experts Polly Dobbs, Paul Neiffer, Rena Striegel and Dick Wittman, with a combined 110 years of experience, will provide insight and answer questions on how to take inventory of your current situation, define fair and equal for your family and farm, resolve conflict and navigate the many legal and tax tools.

To learn more or register, call (877) 482-7203 or visit TPSummit.com.