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A Winter Challenge for Your Team

For the busy farmer, winter is a time to catch up with a multitude of maintenance, infrastructure and office jobs. Things that get put off during the busy season and jobs to prepare for the next.

We are right there with you.

Today on our farm, fences are being built and trees are being planted. The winter sun is shining and life is pretty good.

This “quiet” period is also an excellent time to regroup, create a healthy team culture, build relationships and set a course for the coming season. A great place to start building this healthy team culture is by introducing the concept of “Above and Below the Line" behaviour and leadership.

Curious about what this means? Need a refresher?

Take some time as a team to watch the graphic video below. It paints a powerful picture and challenges us on where we are leading from.

When we are operating from space "below the line" we have a strong need to be right and judge others harshly. It may look a little like this:

  • we hear blaming an excuses

  • our attitudes become problem centric

  • ego focused with negative language eg. “that will never work”, "It’s not my job”, “we’ve tried that before”, “this is too hard”.

  • linear in thinking

  • can only see one way of doing things

Sound familiar?

Sitting in this space life becomes hard - for you and your team. When we are in this space, we see problems and limited solutions and, consequently our stress levels increase and our energy goes into a negative spiral.

You would agree this is not a comfortable space to be working!

A far brighter space to be living is "above the line". Working in this space brings us energy. When we are here we know we have choices - even on a hard day. We know that life is fun. It looks a little like this:

  • we see positive behavior on our teams

  • team members take responsibility and accountability is evident

  • our actions are proactive

  • everyone owns their mistakes

  • language is positive and supportive

  • we are flexible and we can cope with change

  • we look for solutions

  • we work as a team

A team working together above the line is in the zone!

So, what puts us below the line?

Fatigue. Hunger. Discomfort.

How often does that describe the condition of things during a hard day in the thick of calving? The good news is that there are practical ways to overcome these triggers.

Tips for setting ourselves up to stay Above The Line

  • Consciously look for the things that are going well

Set your team a challenge everyday to see and comment on three good things that people are doing well. What we focus on is what we see. If you want to see more of what is great, look for it!

  • Keep a sense of humour

Lance, my husband is so good at this. He can see the humour in almost everything, it keeps things light, breaks tension and helps us to reset the mood.

  • Avoid hunger

We don’t expect a motor bike to run on empty, neither should we! Keep some healthy snacks in strategic places. Nuts, fruit, cheese and crackers, at the shed, in the ute, at the workshop. It may not be possible to get back to the house for a meal so top up your energy.

  • Make sleep a priortity

The intense calving period is a defined period of time- it doesn’t last forever. During this time make some sacrifices that allow sleep to be priority.

What about when things get tough and our thinking and behaviour slips?

You are totally normal.

Know that we are hard wired to drop below the line and when the going gets tough, this is our default setting. It takes a change of thinking and conscious action to get back above the line and this is where our preseason preparation comes in.

After watching the video, spend some time brainstorming as a team for behaviours that play out for us when we are working both above and below the line. By getting clear on how we want to work together and what the behaviour and language looks like we create awareness.

This gives us an ideal reference point.

Other practical tips to help one another stay above the line

Discussing the language that we will use when things go pear shaped and giving others permission to call us on our below the line attitude/behaviour is powerful stuff.

For example, back in primary school, my teacher had her class let her know if her petticoat was showing. We simply had to state “it’s snowing down south". Discrete and understated, it gave 10-year-olds permission to mention the unmentionables and an opportunity for Miss to readjust herself.

As a team, come up with a word or phrase that is the shortcut for asking where we sit in relation to the line. A simple statement that makes us stop and readjust our position, our thinking, our language.

Here are more tips for your toolbelt:

  • Stop​

Take a deep breath or two - it's surprising how this basic function goes out the window when we are stressed.

  • Let Go

Let go of the need to blame circumstances or others.

  • Reframe the situation​

Ask yourself -- what's the opportunity here?

  • Talk it out.

Be curious and ask questions, lots of questions.

  • Listen carefully ​

Expect to hear different ways of doing things.

  • Look for lessons

When it is time to review a situation with your team look for lessons and opportunities to learn.

When we lead by example, we will grow a team that is confident, proactive, self reliant, accountable and forward thinking.

The first step in changing our behaviour is creating awareness. After that? Living above the line not only makes your life easier -- it's contagious.

Katherine Gillespie owns a farm with her husband Lance in the Manawatu.

Katherine also founded GrowForte, a leadership development organisation passionate about building community through communication, collaboration, and leadership.

Katherine has completed several post grad courses, including Agri Women’s Development Trust First Steps & Pathways, and the Kellogg Rural Leadership Programme.

Her strong belief in interpersonal connection, leadership, and community has pushed her to continue coaching others in these important skills.

Read more here: Grow Forte

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