Effective Communication the key for Farming Families
What a huge success our communication and succession workshops were during May 2014! We had over 60 people attend – showing how important these issues are for farming families.
The workshops focused on the importance of good communication in any business – farming, family or otherwise. We learnt how important it is to establish effective communication so that there can be a balance between family and work.
One of the key messages was how important to understand expectations– both our own expectations and those of others. It’s also vital that these expectations get communicated to each other – much conflict comes when there is a breakdown in this step. If we don’t know what other people EXPECT of us, it’s very hard to make sure we don’t let them down. However there are some expectations that we are not even aware of – expectations that have formed mainly as part of our upbringing. If our own family had a certain way of doing something, we often form an expectation around that “certain way” and it’s not until another person does it differently that we realise that we expected them to do it “our way”. The more we understand and communicate our expectations to others the better of family businesses can function.
We also learnt about communicating on an adult level – when we need to make decisions or resolve conflict we need to make sure we not being judgmental or emotional. If we can develop good skills in dealing with situations in a rational and measured way, and maintain those skills when we’re in a difficult conversation then resolving conflict and making decisions is much less likely to lead to breakdowns in relationships.
Lyn explained that critical conversations are defined by three things:
- The stakes are high,
- Emotions are involved, and
- There is potential for conflict
That means that many of the conversations we have with our family, particular when it comes to business.ess – are CRUCIAL CONVERSATIONS! We have to be aware of communicating effectively – careless words can hurt people and damage relationships. So the better we become at communicating, without emotion and criticism coming into play the better the outcome will be of the crucial conversations that we have. We need to find ways to express our emotions, our issues and our criticisms in a way that doesn’t lead to the breakdown in family relationships – and that’s not easy!
Lyn has made a living out of helping families with these “crucial conversations”, facilitating family meetings usually when emotions are high and conflict is already present. Lyn believes that when dealing with issues such as succession, families should consider getting an expert in to help the family steer a course through these crucial conversations that will minimise grief and conflict. A third party can often ask the questions that others don’t want to ask, can approach things from an unbiased standpoint, can hear all sides without making judgements, can give people a “safe” environment to discuss things and can help families deal with conflict.
One of the most interesting parts of the workshop was where all participants filled out a short questionnaire which highlighted their personality type into 4 key types – Direct, Stabilising, Conscientious and Influencing. It was really interesting to find out more about ourselves, but also to find out more about our partners and family members! The exercise was really helpful as it helps if we can understand what makes other people tick and what we can do to improve our communication with people who are different from ourselves.
The workshops were sponsored by Upper Snowy Landcare and Snowy River Interstate Landcare, with Monaro Farming Systems and they were such a big success – thanks to everyone who attended.