Basic Knowledge & Information
Successful farm managers know what’s happening in their business. They have a command of such basic facts as goals and plans (long and short-term), enterprise knowledge, who’s who in the industry, the roles and relationships between various supplies and customers, and they define their own job and what’s expected of them. If they don’t store all this information, they know where to get it when they need it.
This category includes ‘technical’ knowledge, eg. production technology, marketing techniques, engineering knowledge, relevant legislation, sources of finance, and knowledge of basis background management principles and theories, eg. planning, organising and controlling.
Good Farm Managers vary in the degree to which they can sense what is happening in a particular situation. The successful manager is relatively sensitive to events and can tune it to what’s going on around him. He is perceptive and open to information – ‘hard’ information, such as figures and facts, and ‘soft’ information, such as the feelings of other people. The manager with this sensitivity is able to respond in an appropriate way to situations as they arise. This is especially important in family farming situations where members of the family work closely together and for those farms with a number of employees.
Skills & Attributes
The job of the manager is very much concerned with making decisions. Sometimes these can be made using logical, optimising techniques. Other decisions call for the ability to weigh pros and cons in what is basically a very uncertain or ambiguous situation, calling for a high level of judgement or even intuition.
The manager must therefore develop judgment-making skills, including the ability to cope with ambiguity and uncertainty, striking a balance between the necessity at times to be guided by his subjective feelings without throwing objective logic completely out of the window.
One definition of management often cited is ‘getting things done through other people’. This definition may be inadequate, but it does point to one of the key features of the farm manager’s job – it requires interpersonal skills. The successful farm manager develops a range of abilities which are essential in such activities; communicating, delegating, negotiating, resolving conflict, persuading, selling, using and responding to authority and power.
Even on properties with little or no employees, these skills are essential for dealing with other family members, contractors, shearing teams, agents, neighbours, etc.
The farm manager’s job involves a degree of emotional stress and strain, which arises as a natural consequence of working in situations involving authority, leadership, power, interpersonal conflict, meeting targets and deadlines, all within a framework of a degree of uncertainty and ambiguity.
The successful farm manager needs to be sufficiently resilient to cope with this. ‘Resilient’ means that he/she feels the stress (they don’t become thick-skinned and insensitive) but are able to cope with it by maintaining self-control and by ‘giving’ to some extent, but not so much that they become permanently deformed.
Effective farm managers have some purpose or goal to achieve, rather than merely responding to demand. They cannot plan everything carefully in advance and, at times, they must respond to the needs of the instant situation – but when making such a response the effective farm manager manages to consider the longer term.
They relate immediate responses to overall and longer-term aims and goals, whereas the less successful manager responds in a relatively unthinking or uncritical way to the immediate pressure.
This category of ability also includes such qualities as seeing a task through, being dedicated and committed, having a sense of mission, and taking responsibility for things that happen rather than ‘passing the buck’ to someone else or blaming aspects out of their control eg. weather, government, banks.
By ‘creativity’ we mean the ability to come up with unique new responses to situations, and to have the insight to recognise and take up useful new approaches.
It involves not only having new ideas oneself, but also the ability to recognise a good idea when it is presented from another source.
9. Mental Agility
Although related to general intelligence level, the concept of ‘mental agility’ includes the ability to grasp problems quickly, to think of several things at once, to switch rapidly from one problem or situation to another, to see quickly the whole situation (rather than ponderously plough through all its components), and to ‘think on one’s feet’.
Given the hectic nature of farm management work these are particularly necessary qualities for success.
Data collected by observing and interviewing farm managers show that a significant proportion of the degree of their success can be explained by the presence or absence of habits and skills related to learning.
Successful managers are more independent as learners; they take responsibility for the ‘rightness’ of what is learned, rather than depending, passively and uncritically, on an authority figure (a teacher or an expert) to define ‘truths’.
Successful managers are capable of abstract thinking as well as concrete, practical thought. They are able to relate concrete ideas to abstract ones (and vice versa) relatively quickly. This ability – which is sometimes known as a ‘helicopter mind’ – enables the manager to generate their own theories from practice, and to develop their own practical ideas from theory.
The ability to use a range of different learning processes is necessary for farm managerial success. Three such processes are:
(a) input – receiving expository teaching, either formal (eg. on a course) or informal (eg. teaching by a colleague or adviser or mentor);
(b) discovery – generating personal meaning from one’s own experiences;
(c) reflection – a process of analysing and re-organising pre-existing experience and ideas.
Successful farm managers are more likely to have a relatively wide view of the nature of the skills of management. For example, they are more likely to recognise the range of managerial attributes as presented in this model, than to believe that management is a unitary activity, involving, for example, dealing with subordinates (ie. needing only a certain set of social skills) or simply involving basic decision making.
Whatever the farm manager does is in some way affected by their own view of their position, their role and by their goals, values, feelings, strengths, weaknesses and a host of other personal or ‘self’ factors.
If then, a manager is to retain a relatively high degree of self-control over their actions, they must be aware of these self-attributes and of the part they are playing in determining their behaviour. The successful farm manager must therefore develop skills of introspection.
(Source – http://www.mindshop.com.au/Agridata2.nsf/85255e6f0052055e85255d7f005ed8bc/ef976f2b8b185a7cca2568b600580941?OpenDocument)