Important for farm families to be on same values page

If you find that you are regularly disappointed in things not getting done the way you’d like, it could be because not everyone on the team is working from the same set of core values.

Values are core to what your farm business is and what you and your family cherish. Values are traits or qualities that are considered important and worthwhile. They represent high priorities and internal driving forces. When part of any organization, people bring their values and beliefs to the organization. There, they commingle with those of the other members to create an organization and/or family-type culture.

Business values are the operational attributes that companies (farms) seek to achieve and maintain in their performance. They define what is really meaningful to the farm. By values, we mean the qualitative goals, which the farm strives to achieve in all its activities. An example of a business value is: customer satisfaction.

Every farm has values, whether the operators are consciously aware of them or not. Another way of saying it is that a value is a statement of the farm’s intention and commitment to achieve a high level of performance on a specific factor.

In a company, the ownership group or board of directors determine what values will become core to the organization. For farms, it is the family members’ (who are actively involved in the farm) personal values that essentially become the farm business’s values.

Values describe what your farm family (and sometimes key arm’s length management) really cares about. What’s important? What gives them energy? How would you respond to a trade-off between quality and profit?

That’s really a question of value. Values guide a farm’s conduct and its relationship with the external world. They are the principles that determine how farmers (and vicariously the farm) behave and what they believe.

Effective organizations — applicable to farm businesses — identify and develop clear, concise and shared meaning of values, priorities, and direction so that everyone understands and can contribute accordingly. Once defined, values impact every aspect of the farm business.

The impact of your personal values

Personal values are made up of everything that has happened to people in their lives and includes influences from parents and family, friends and peers, education, work experiences and more.

Once defined, values impact every aspect of your life.

  • Values underpin actions in personal and work behaviours, decision making and interpersonal interactions.
  • Values provide a basis from which to make decisions about priorities in work and family.
  • Goals and life purpose are entrenched in values. If you think about your own life, your values form the cornerstones for all that you do, think, believe, and accomplish. Personal values bring definition to where and how you spend your time.

Research suggests that people make choices in life according to their most important four to 10 values. Time should be taken to identify what is most important to you, your family and to your farm. Once a prioritized set of core values has been identified, use them in making farm and family decisions. Entrench the values in value statements. People differ in their values and beliefs, even in the closest families and family businesses, so it’s important to understand where they agree and disagree.

Create impact through values and value statements

If you want the values you identify and the related value statements to have an impact within your farm business, the following must occur:

  • Everyone who is actively involved in the business must demonstrate and model these values in action in their personal work behaviors, decision-making and interpersonal interactions.
  • Business values help each person establish priorities in their daily work life. Priorities and actions must be grounded in the farm’s values.
  • Values guide every decision that is made once the values and the value statements have been established.
  • Rewards and recognition within the business can be structured to recognize contributions made that embody the established values.

Value statements are developed from the established values and define how people behave in a farm business and family. They are statements about how the farm and family will value customers, suppliers, and the internal (family, employees) and external (resources such as lenders, accountants) community. Value statements provide a basis against which actions and behaviours are evaluated.

Values are only as good as they are implemented into the farm. Just describing a value in a values statement is of little benefit unless it is implemented at all levels of the business. A value is fully entrenched in the farm business when it systematically operates on its own through all activities and job positions.

I have a simple exercise that helps farm families determine what their core values and associated statements are. If you’d like a copy, I’d be happy to send it to you. Please send me an email.

Terry Betker, P.Ag, is a farm management consultant based in Winnipeg. He can be reached at 204-782-8200or terry.betker@backswath.com.

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