Lessons from the Farm: Lost Phones

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Have you ever misplaced your cell phone? If so, do you remember the panic in the pit of your stomach? The worry about hundreds of dollars not only disappearing once, but a second time when you buy the next one?

Welcome back to our Lessons from the Farm series. For the month of April I have been blogging about leadership lessons I learned from the farm. If you’d like to catch up, click here to read one of my favorite posts from last year, or click here to read some from this year. You can also subscribe to make certain you don’t miss a post.

I still remember losing my first phone. I had moved back and been working on the farm for a less than a year, when it happened. I was in a corral loading cattle on the truck with my phone in my pocket, and I went to get in the truck and my phone was not in my pocket.

I spent what felt like an eternity retracing my steps, hoping against hope to find my beloved Nokia (that’s right, it’s been a while). But the reality was if it had fallen out in the corral, it was likely buried under a mixture of dirt and dried manure, fully trampled by a sufficient number of 750 pound cattle. If it had fallen out while driving a 4 wheeler, it was anywhere over the span of about 2 square miles.

The feeling as I pulled out that day still sticks with me. I was in mourning over the loss. That may seem melodramatic, but we’ve all been there.

The leadership lesson? Things will go wrong. You will lose church members, or an important client, or a key business account. You will make a mistake and worry about where you went wrong and what you could have done differently. And that’s okay. It’s natural, even.

But leadership means you have to get in the truck and move forward. The business of the day doesn’t stop because you need to take a break. Mourn the loss, grieve the mistake, learn from it for next time, but avoid the temptation to dwell on it.

I could have spent all day looking for my phone. And I have heard stories of people who keep looking and find it. But sometimes we have to cut our losses so we can maintain our gains.

What loss are you mourning right now? Are you still dwelling on it? If so, take steps forward. Learn from it. Let it shape how you approach situations differently the next time. I took much better care of my next phone, believe me. Do the same in your leadership.

Owners and Hired Hands, pt 2

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As a follow up to last week’s post on the difference between owners and hired hands, today’s post is going to shift gears, for a moment. But before reading further, you need to read this post.

Jesus was the ultimate example of an owner teaching hired hands to become owners.

If you think about Jesus’s interactions with the disciples in the Gospels, he was constantly preparing them for a day when he would not be there.

The disciples, however, were slow learners. They regularly missed the point (see the Sons of Thunder), or only made sense of what was happening much later.

But, when push came to shove, in Acts we read how the disciples were able to step up when the situation called for it. Jesus prepared them for the leadership call they were going to face.

In your leadership, I’m not saying you have to be Jesus. But one of our strongest goals should be the desire to help people moved from hired hands to owners.

In ministry, this means equipping people to find a place to serve, and to allow them to serve!

Some of my favorite conversations are with teenagers when I tell them they have the freedom to make a decision and I’ll deal with the followup, or that when they are serving their way, I don’t have to worry about what they’re doing.

Leadership means bringing other people into ownership. But you have to extend the invitation. Find the people who are willing and ready to serve, and test the waters.

Lessons from the Farm: Owners and Hired Hands

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As a teenager growing up working for my dad on the farm, I started to realize there were some differences in how we viewed the operation. I worked because I had no choice (and got paid for it). My dad, on the other hand, approached the farm with a different mindset.

Welcome back to our Lessons from the Farm series. For the month of April I have been blogging about leadership lessons I learned from the farm. If you’d like to catch up, click here to read one of my favorite posts from last year, or click here to read some from this year. You can also subscribe to make sure you don’t miss a post.

Now, back to the difference between my dad and I.

I was able to work and make some money on the farm when growing up. In fact, I learned the value of keeping track of my hours, what a long work day looks like, and so much more.

But can you guess what I never did: I never lost sleep wondering if the farm was going to make money. I never made a decision on what revenue stream to pursue. I really never worried about whether or not a rain was coming.

My dad, on the other hand, did all of that and so much more. Why? Because he was the owner and I was a hired hand. There’s a difference between the two.

Today’s leadership lesson is simple: as a leader, people around you are not going to be as invested in the success of your leadership, ministry, organization, or business as you.

This does not mean the people you lead do not care for you. In many cases, actually, the people who surround you could be your biggest fans, but because they’re not the owner, their approach is different.

Similarly, you have arenas where you are a hired hand. You encounter situations every day where you are not the guy in charge, and your attitude is different as a result.

So, how do you manage this tension? You begin to give away ownership. At the core of the 3 questions, we learn to invite other people to become owners with us. Actually, inviting others in makes all the difference in the world. Granted, they will not likely become as invested in your success as you are, but their perspective will begin to change.

When I moved back to work on the farm in 2009, I was obviously not a teenager anymore. Over the course of my time back on the farm, my conversations with my dad began to change. I slowly moved from a hired hand to an owner mentality. He invited me along to influence decisions, to give my input, and to help guide the direction of the business. My success was tied in to the success of the farm.

Great leaders find a way to move people from hired hands to owners. You can do it, too. Find someone you trust and invite them to take a little more ownership. You’ll be surprised at the difference it makes. Chances are someone did that for you along the way, and it changed the way you think. Return the favor and invest in a hired hand.

Lessons from the Farm: Feed the Calf

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I’m continuing my Lessons from the Farm series today. If you’d like to get these delivered to your inbox, click here. If you’d like to read some of this year’s posts, click here and progress forward.

Today’s lesson was inspired by a Facebook post from my Uncle Bill.

Each year #65 will give birth and clean her calf, and then abandon it.
First year she had twins, so I kept her. Each year after her calves are the best in the herd.

But for one week, morning and night, I have to teach her calf to nurse and tie her back leg so she won’t kick me and the calf. I get slapped in the face with a urine soaked tail, some days dirt/ manure blows all over me and eventually she becomes the most protective mother in the herd. Charging me if I even get 50 yards near her calf.

Until then, we eat in the chute.

Have you ever considered that not every calf who is born either knows how to feed, or the mother lets it feed? So, for a rancher, the miracle of birth is followed by waiting to see if the calf is “going to take”. This takes patience on behalf of the rancher, because a new mother is rather protective of their baby.

The leadership principle here is even the best people in an organization occasionally need a little reminder of why they are serving.

There is a certain monotony we have all felt in our work. While some of us thrive on patterns and routine, even our thriving suffers setbacks from time to time.

As you lead, never forget the need to continually check in with those you are leading. Asking the 3rd question is not a license to fully surrender interest. Check in with those around you. Ask how they’re doing. Find ways to encourage them.

Even the best followers need to be encouraged, or at least reminded of why they love what they do. For #65, it means letting her baby feed. For others, it will be completely different. A great leader learns to encourage, so encourage someone today.

Lessons from the Farm: Watch the Locks

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We are continuing our Lessons from the Farm series today. Go here to read the posts so far from this year and last year.

One of the things I treasure the most about growing up with my dad as a farmer was the time we got to spend together. I remember loving to ride the tractor with him, falling asleep with my head bouncing on the window, and generally being amazed by everything that was going on.

So, when we moved back, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to take my oldest daughter with me to the farm. She turned 2 right after we moved, so she was prime age for some great memories, and some not so great memories.

One of those not so great memories came when she was probably around 3. She was old enough to know what she was doing, but not fully aware of how to take instructions.

We went out to check cattle together. It was getting late as I pulled up to open the gate, and I was a little worried about running out of daylight. I pulled up to the gate, got out, shut my door, opened the gate, and returned to the pickup to find Anna had locked the doors. With a 5 year old, this wouldn’t be a problem. Even a 4 year old could help. But at the wonderful age of 3, what followed was a very frustrating exchange, filled with a flared temper (me), lots of giggles (Anna), and finally a resolution–I got back in the pickup.

The leadership principle here? The best leadership comes from time spent together.

Think back to the beginning of my post. Why did I want to take my daughter with me to the farm? Because my dad had done the same thing. I started at a young age, and spent years learning all sorts of things.

Leadership works the same way, just often we don’t have the luxury of growing someone over a couple decades. Spend time with the people you’re leading. Take time to teach them some of what you know, and take time to learn some of what they know.

The most effective leadership I have encountered comes as a result of time spent together.

Just make sure to build trust before you get out of the pickup. Until that trust is built, roll down a window just in case.

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