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Lead by example to help retain good staff

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Managing and leadership are two different things, but both are needed to retain good staff and lead a successful business. 


Losing staff because you are not a good employer can be costly, says Heather Wildman, family facilitator and managing director at Saviours Associates.


A manager earning £30,000 could cost £60,000 to replace, she says. Costs soon add up – time lost by your existing employees covering work temporarily; the time and cost of finding a replacement; loss of knowledge to the business and stress and strain on the existing team.


Great bosses tend to have several traits, says Ms Wildman. They value people over money and are motivated and capable. They are also respected and respectful, inspirational and capable of leading from the front.


They are good communicators and have the courage to confront and say no when required. They also lead by example through their own due diligence and hard work.


Creating business culture


Fostering a culture on your farm that aligns with your mission, vision and values (see page 14) will help create a happy team, working towards what you want.


Doing this starts with good leadership, says Ms Wildman:

  • Have clear, continuous communication through regular meetings and one-on-one discussions.
  • Have clear business goals – discuss and share these with the team.
  • Set clear expectations about roles, responsibilities and behaviour.
  • Increase the involvement of staff in decision-making.
  • Show trust by delegating responsibility.

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Great bosses value people over money and are motivated and capable.
Great bosses value people over money and are motivated and capable.

What good employers do


Successful employers talk honestly with others about issues that affect the business. They:

  • Ensure job clarification – everyone knows what is expected of them.
  • Ensure everyone knows the priority areas and the goals to pursue.
  • Ask what will improve management and whether they need to develop their skills/knowledge and/or their attitudes.
  • Ask whether systems could be better and whether performance measurement and reward is effective.
  • Discuss issues with staff, such as change, achievements, ideas and development needs.
  • Ask if things can be structured differently and whether authority and responsibility is clear.
  • Question whether their leadership style is appropriate to the work being done and whether they could be more involving or inspiring.
  • Try to create team culture.
  • Ensure staff know as much as they need to about strategic developments.
  • Ensure senior staff – including themselves – act as good role models and mentors.

Leaders vs managers


There is a difference between being a good leader and a good manager, says Simon Haley, director at consultants SRH Agribusiness.


A manager’s role is more operational – it is about knowing what is happening day-to-day and organising what needs to be done.


A leader, on the other hand, should be concerned with the vision, goals and strategy of the business.


For many small- to medium- sized farms, the farmer may be both of these roles in one.

Simon Haley

There is a difference between being a good leader and a good manager



What good leaders do


  • Listen
    Have the emotional leadership to listen and take ideas onboard, rather than just drown them out.

  • Communicate vision
    Have a long-term vision that they communicate with their employees and colleagues.

  • Problem solve
    See problems and challenges as opportunities. Panicking about something going wrong can make people fear coming to you and telling you that something, like an accident or breakage, has happened. Being solution-orientated makes you more approachable.

  • Empower colleagues
    Empower people and democratise the workplace, rather than make demands.

  • Innovate
    Find solutions and ways to do things differently – often by taking the time to step back and look at the overall business strategy.

What good managers do


  • Manage operations well
    Understand well the nuts and bolts of how the business works – effectively plans, divides up and communicates tasks accordingly to colleagues. Does not micro-manage.

  • React to situations
    Stays flexible to changing business needs and can adapt the technical and labour resources accordingly and when things go wrong.

  • Stay calm under pressure
    Does not lose temper or panics. Keeps a cool head under pressure.

Shape Your Farming Future series

Shape Your Farming Future series

Shape Your Farming Future is a series of informative and practical guides looking in-depth at issues pertinent to farmers when planning for the future.


The four in this series are supported by The Co-Op and look at Succession, Consumer Trends, Skills and Training and Building Resilience.


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