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Farming community need to focus on personal development as well as skills

The farming community have not traditionally focused on its own personal growth, but rather on technical skills and managing a business. In a new series of articles, business coach Lisa Boyd looks at why self awareness is important in helping yourself and managing others.

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Personal growth have not always been at the forefront when it comes to farming #StartingInFarming

How well do you know yourself and does it even matter?


This is a question I often pose to business people I coach.


My advice is always clear: self-awareness is one of the major contributing factors to being a good manager.


It is also helpful within an individual, because it enables you to understand your impact on others, why you do what you do on a consistent basis, what you can do to get rid of unwanted behaviours, how to have self-control and appreciate differences in others’ behaviours.


Research has shown people who are more self-aware are more healthy, better performers in managerial and leadership roles and more productive at work.


But if gaining insight into ourselves is difficult, how do we overcome the barriers? We often shy away from making ourselves more aware because we are concerned about what we might find out.


We may feel shame or upset and not know what to do with those feelings, but holding up the mirror and taking a considered view is the best way to make positive changes in your life.


Five things to look for when you hold up the mirror

Five things to look for when you hold up the mirror

Self-awareness is about being able to identify your own emotions and feelings and understanding their effects on you and those around you.


This is the fundamental building block for emotional intelligence, without which you cannot develop self-control, social awareness or build relationships.


The agricultural sector is no different from any other business in this regard. We all need self-awareness to be great leaders and grow successful businesses.

1. Have you ever taken time to consider what you are feeling and the emotional effects of this?


Take a look at the emotions chart (see diagram) and think about how much time you live in the right-hand side compared to the left.


Do you feel worried or angry about the effects of Brexit; anxious about the looming trade deals which will impact on your farm or feel uneasy managing without subsidies?


Are you able to be positive and consider it will enable the UK to shape its own agricultural policy, could mean less bureaucracy, enabling you to spend more time on the business of farming and plan how to exploit the fact people want local British produce?


The aim is to spend as much time as possible in the left-hand side of the diagram, as these emotions will enable you to lead and relate to others in a positive way.


By being aware of your emotions, you can decide whether you want to change the emotions you generally live in.


Dr Alan Watkins is a renowned psychologist and leadership expert and famously worked with the GB Olympic rowing team.


I recommend his TED talk ‘Being brilliant every single day’ as a great way of understanding how your results depend on your performance, which depends on your behaviour. Your behaviour is driven by what you think which in turn is driven by what you feel.


Remember, the brain is a muscle and has muscle memory, so the more you practise, the more the habit will form.

2. Personal values: Do you know what is important to you?


Our values are the things which matter most to us and which guide us in all our choices and decisions in life.


In every choice we make we can see underlying values and everyone will have a different idea about what is important to them and what is worth striving for.


But have you ever consciously thought about what your personal values are, and which are more important to you than others?


Our values are influenced by a myriad of interactions, such as with family, friends, a particular culture, school, media, and life experiences.


Understanding your values will enable you to make decisions which embrace those values and help you lead a life which feels successful and rational.


Sometimes we find ourselves torn between two values we hold. If a friend came up to you with a new haircut and asked your opinion, what would you say?


Would you value honesty or does your value of kindness stop you telling them bluntly what you think?


Ranking your values in priority order will help you understand what is more important to you.


Knowing your own values is an important tool for decision making, particularly in business. If you are sure of your own values, it can help you to resist pressures you may feel to compromise those values to meet business goals.


Have you ever had to compromise your values when negotiating contracts or dealing with sensitive family issues? Constant pressures can cause you to cut corners you would not otherwise cut.


A tool I often use with my clients is the Values In Action free online tool to understand your character strengths and what matters most to you

3. Emotional intelligence: Do you know how emotionally intelligent you are?


Emotional intelligence (EQ) is now believed to be more powerful than IQ in predicting success in life, and is one of the most important factors for being a successful leader or manager.


EQ is the ability to self-manage and manage social relations. Most people I work with value ‘getting on with others’, but EQ is far more than this.


Understanding emotions in farming is particularly important at a time when you need to build resilience and think positively to enable you to problem-solve creatively. Perhaps you have diversified the business or are planning how to harness what you already have by adding value.


The value of EQ skills is as essential in business as it is in life. Dr Martyn Newman, author of Emotional Capitalists, says: “Emotions determine whether or not people will work well for you, buy from you, employ you and enter into business with you.”


As Dr Newman says, there is money in emotions and it is therefore worthwhile investing in growing your EQ.

4. How well do you cope with change?


Most of us would like the world to stay the way we like it, but change is the only certainty in life. The farming world is a prime example of volatility, uncertainty and complexity, with market volatility, uncertainty over sector funding, complex regulation and ambiguity over subsidies, labour and access to the single market.


How you perceive and deal with change is an important aspect of how you behave and lead others.


Your attitude to change will therefore have an effect on how your business develops. To be self-aware of your attitude to change, you need to consider two things:

  • Whether you believe what happens to you is guided by luck, fate or external circumstances (external control); or that what happens to you is guided by your own personal effort and decisions (internal control). You can find more information on control and a free questionnaire online (see ‘For more information’ panel).
  • Your tolerance of ambiguity: your ability to cope with new or unfamiliar situations; manage complex information; and deal with seemingly insoluble problems. The greater tolerance you have, the more you are likely to succeed. This is particularly important for agricultural businesses working in information complex, ambiguous environments, as they will cope better with changing circumstances. You can take a tolerance of ambiguity self-assessment online

5. Personality traits: Who are you?


Most people recognise everyone is different and we all have distinct personalities. Your underlying personal attributes tend to be referred to as ‘traits’, as they are fairly enduring and stable, but these traits can be consciously changed through hard work and commitment, since a large part of our behaviour is learned rather than fixed through genetics.


Most reliable personality tests will measure the ‘big five’ dimensions, which are:


Openness: how open to new ideas you are

Conscientiousness: how careful and orderly you are

Extraversion: how much you get your energy from being with others

Agreeableness: how friendly and affable you are

Neuroticism: how emotionally fragile and fearful you are


Personality assessment tools need a qualified/accredited person to test and give feedback on them, but a reputable publisher of psychometrics, CEB Global, offers practice tests for free online.


We have all met, and possibly envied, people who respond well to difficult and changing situations. These people tend to have confidence in themselves and their abilities, a sense they can exert some control over what happens and a belief things will turn out well rather than badly.


By addressing the five facets of self-awareness, you can achieve good self-esteem, a belief in your own ability to perform well and handle a variety of situations, a belief that what happens to you is guided by your own personal effort and decisions, resilience to bounce back in adversity and optimism things will work out.


The great news is all of this can be learned and developed. The starting place is to raise self-awareness of your own behaviours.

Starting in Farming

Check out FG's Starting in Farming section, all completely dedicated to helping out those who want to get their foot in the farming door.


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