How Farmers are Leading in the Time of Pandemic

Farm leadership and resilience makes all the difference

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By Jeanne Bernick

Farm business owners don’t have the luxury of putting their heads in the sand during a crisis.

They have the health and wellness to consider for themselves and their family, and the additional responsibility of safety for employees and clients who come to the farm. Add on the financial fears and uncertainty of what’s to come for ag markets during an infectious disease crisis, and daily life can be overwhelming. Grandpa never talked about how to handle this – nor how could he even have known.

Some say it feels like a constant internal conflict of making “the right” proactive decision vs. a reactive decision. The decision to keep the livestock fed today fights with the decision not to allow the feed truck onto the farm lot for safety reasons. A global pandemic does not create business as usual on the farm.

Since the start of the Coronavirus outbreak, I’ve been checking in on our clients (by phone, of course). I’ve been asking how they are doing, how they are handling stress, how they are adapting systems to be stronger and more efficient, how they are leading during tough times. The answers are strangely comforting.

For some, this crisis has created a chance to huddle up and look at their current safety systems. “We knew we needed to upgrade our sanitation and handwashing in the barns, and now employees know exactly what to do and not to do. And they are motivated to follow our safety rules,” said one feedlot client.

Another farmer I know talks about how the situation gives him a chance to brag on his team. “They are showing up every day and helping each other deal with the fear. I am so proud of how they pull together,” he said.

A farm wife I know who suffers from anxiety says the crisis has pulled her family together. They lean on each other for comfort and are gentler to each other, she says. “My husband is more caring about telling me when he is leaving the house to go to the barn and when he will be back. I’m more patient with my children because I know they are scared,” she shared with me.

3 Ways to Build Resilience in Tough Times

How can the current crisis help build resilience within your farm business and team members? Here are some ideas for stepping up leadership while dealing with a global pandemic:

  1. Practice self-care. As a leader and financially-responsible business owner, you have a responsibility to actively take care of yourself first. Just like when you fly on a plane and they tell you to “put your own mask on first”, you must allow yourself room to recharge, vent and process the fear and emotions. If you don’t have a mentor or executive coach you can call upon, you may want to consider enlisting the help of a consultant to help you through these crucial times.
  2. Communicate your leadership vision. In times of crisis, every person needs to hear from their leaders. No matter how scared or uncertain you are, you need to step up in front of your team. Be clear that the vision of your farm business has not changed, and that the world has been through many crises, and will continue to go through many more. Provide a daily plan of what employees should do and continue to practice calmness in front of your team.
  3. Work with trusted sources of information. For information on the pandemic, make sure you are following updates from trusted sources, such as the World Health Organization and state health services (not Facebook).

Additional Resources

Daily updates and helpful resources:  K·Coe Isom has created COVID-19 Resources & Updates page on our website.   This resource page provides official announcements (not proposals and speculation), important updates and industry news, and helpful resources – all in one easy-to-access location. Our experts sort through the noise and provide you with the action items, guidelines, and resources you need right now.

Weekly expert sessions:  In addition, K·Coe Isom will be hosting “Virtual Town Halls” to share the latest updates and resources on COVID-19 impacts and take live questions from the audience. Watch live and ask questions, or view the recorded sessions later.

  • Crisis Planning and Employee Communications During National Emergency – March 24th – 2:00 p.m. (EST)
  • Cash Flow, Scenario Analysis and Lender Discussions for your Agribusiness – March 31st – 2:00 p.m. (EST)
  • Look for more Town Hall topics to help your business – updated weekly.

Lead on. Remember, opportunity comes in many different forms.  Use this time to step into possibility of a better future, and be ready to flow with new way of living vs. fighting against it. Adapting to change rather than fighting it is true leadership.

Should you have questions or require additional resources, K·Coe Isom’s talent professionals can provide outsourced HR consulting to help your business and employees navigate through these crucial times.  Contact a K·Coe advisor for help.

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