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Forget the title, on with the job!

Dan Korff, Future Farmers Network Chair, challenges us to consider circumstance, culture and the work environment as the bigger influencers of people’s attitudes in their roles, regardless of their age.

When I was jackerooing one of the most memorable pieces of advice given to me was ‘wherever you end up, don’t be afraid to get on the end of a grain shovel’. I was an aspiring merino man, not a wheat farmer!

This was in northern NSW in the wet harvest of 2009 during a high pressure period of a silo bag bursting! Everyone was tired, weary and just wanting harvest to be over, but this day, everyone – from the Operations Manager to the Jackeroos - chipped in to sort out the problem. No blame, no whingeing, just working to get the job done and the setback resolved.

The advice has certainly stuck with me, and I think the reason why is because of the way in which it was delivered.

Generation X & Y are well known for their perceived ignorance to authority, for challenging traditional management structures, and for wanting ‘it’ all now, but I constantly challenge this, as with many things in life – the negative elements receive the most publicity. Circumstance, culture and the work environment – I believe – are much bigger influencers of people’s attitudes in their roles, regardless of their age.

I’ve seen some situations of people being spoken to or treated appallingly; I’m yet to see a major gain come out of such situations.
Dan Korff, Future Farmers Network Chair

The advice above was given to me at the end of that night, as we were having a beer and something to eat back at the homestead – in a way that was inclusive, appreciative and showing support for my future in the industry. Yes, that was one situation and I know that all situations are different but the following all made for this to carry so much more weight than it otherwise might have: the problem was identified and a solution implemented to resolve it; everybody in the team took ownership of the problem and contributed to fixing it; I was not being lectured or spoken down to.

Some senior people in that instance would have left it to the junior staff to sort that out as they had other things to do, but the key here is that the operation was a farming one and that grain on the ground was the product being produced and although in the scheme of things it was a small amount, large quantities of anything are made up of individuals.

I am in no way disregarding that hard conversations need to be had at certain times, and that not everyone will have the right attitude in any given situation – some people have to be properly reprimanded or let go - but I know as a whole, we can do a better job of making these assessments and creating more effective communication between people in all levels of our agricultural businesses. I’ve seen some situations of people being spoken to or treated appallingly; I’m yet to see a major gain come out of such situations.

‘We awaken in others the same attitude of mind we hold towards them’ (Elbert Hubbard, 1856-1915)

Dan Korff is Chair of the Future Farmers Network. This article first appeared in The Land, Fairfax Ag Media, "Dirty hands no loss for a boss".

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