By Kayla Jentz
Find yourself yawning, checking the clock frequently, doodling on a notepad, or just zoning out during your farm meetings? Kristy Pagel of Diamond V recently presented “Team meetings that matter” at the Purina/Land O’Lakes “Leading Producer Conference”, held Jan. 9-10 in Wisconsin. She gave producers valuable insight into keeping everyone engaged in farm meetings and other useful meeting tips. Here are some of her tips:
1. Have the right people present. Pagel recommended involving key advisors and influencers, including nutritionists, veterinarians, industry representatives, milk quality specialists, bankers and a qualified facilitator. Key managers from the dairy should also be present. But, Pagel warned, it is not a “come one, come all” situation: Only those who are engaged in meetings should be allowed to attend.
She also warned that if you’re in a tough spot on the farm, you must realize having a banker in the meeting means they have open access to everything that’s “in the closet.” So, having a banker present is sometimes optional, she said.
2. Communicate that everyone has a vested interest in the success of the farm. Every team member should know their role is to launch the owners towards future success, a message Pagel recommended telling your key players.
3. Ensure the meeting is a safe environment for open sharing. Team members should never be afraid to voice their opinions or concerns. Anyone who “puts down” ideas or is resistant to change should be kept in check by the facilitator. Pagel also recommended those afraid of voicing a strong opinion should start their comment with “what if?” – a softer way of bringing a challenging idea forward.
4. Make sure each member is engaged in dialogue. Everyone present is there for a reason, and needs to be engaged and actively contributing. As mentioned under No. 1 above, if team members are not engaged, they should not be present.
5. Share agenda and reports ahead of time. Team members should all be given a copy of the agenda and any relevant reports ahead of time. This allows them to come prepared. Most importantly, Pagel said, you don’t want your team members deciphering reports during the meeting (thus losing their engagement).
6. Meetings should have structure. Common roles – include a facilitator, note taker, timekeeper and challenger – should be clearly defined. The owner does not have to take any of these positions; the roles can and should be delegated to team members, Pagel said.
7. Capture notes with action items. Not only do notes provide a great history of your meetings so you can see how far you’ve come over the past year, few years, or even decades, they also allow you to capture the action items: “Who will do What, and by When”. These action items establish a plan, and having them in the notes holds people accountable for them. At a subsequent meeting, the group should be able to go through the action items from the previous meeting and get a short report from the person(s) responsible.
8. Monitor benchmarks. Is the team progressing in the direction of its goals?
9. Keep a monthly calendar/journal. Pagel encouraged all team members to keep a calendar/journal, recording any and all major events that happened throughout the month. Some examples would include days of inclement weather, switching of pens, changing bedding type, a footbath wasn’t used because of cold weather, etc. People addressing or solving problems (likely people in the meeting) need these details.
10. Everyone should have fun! Pagel recommended looking back at where you were, and how far you’ve come. This is an excellent time for the notetaker to look back and identify past challenges and how they were overcome. She also recommended celebrating when goals are met. Pizza parties, cookouts or BBQs are simple ways to celebrate meeting goals.
What not to have in team meetings
In addition to what to do to have a successful team meeting, there are also some things you should not do, Pagel said. Do not allow one person to have complete control, stifling conversation. Do not allow side chatting, texting or computers (aside from a designated person to bring up herd reports/data as necessary). Do not have a facilitator who loses focus. Don’t just talk about the challenge itself, develop a plan to deal with the challenge (think “Who will do What, and by When”). Don’t have people just taking up space in your meetings. And, don’t accept tardiness. Of course incidents will happen, but no matter who is late or why they are late, always start at your set time.
• Kristy Pagel is regional sales manager, Diamond V. Contact her via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.