I hope you all are well and healthy and getting the season off to a great start. You may have noticed that my blog posts are less frequent these days…. Well, it’s true. I’m in the process of launching the second iteration of my farm: Ottawa Farm Fresh inc. We are a peri-urban farm located 10 minutes from the center of Ottawa on federally owned land that we are leasing for 25 years. I look forward to keeping you posted on how I’m implementing the coaching and business systems concepts that I’ve been writing about on this blog on my own farm! What a privilege it is to be launching a second farm from scratch, but this time with a decade of farming experience plus 3 years of coaching/consulting perspective.
I wanted to share with you this email I wrote to one of my clients this week. To put it in context, she runs a pretty big farm with a business partner who is not her spouse. The farm is big enough that they now have a middle management team of 5 farmers. The big culture shift we are working on in our coaching is transferring the responsibility of daily operations completely to the middle management, thus freeing up the owners to focus fully on being farm entrepreneurs!
(I have changed names and details to conserve my client’s confidentiality. Just for fun, let’s call the owners of this farm Sally and Phil)
Here are some items to consider going into your first monthly leadership culture meeting. Let’s use the Tony Robbins OPA format just for fun. (Outcome-Purpose-Action)
– To create a venue/mechanism for middle management to affect change on the company culture in an intentional manner (they are doing it anyways in the daily operations of the farm, this is simply a more intentional, explicit, collective venue to guide the process).
– To refine how the group as a whole communicates and channels group wisdom.
– To get buy-in on the SOPS from middle management. (Standard Operating Procedures)
– To tap into the on-the-ground expertise and observational power of middle management to iterate the SOPS and check-lists. The use of SOPs is an inherently iterative process. They serve to codify the current best practices so that you have a common starting point upon which to implement continual improvement in a structured manner.
– For middle management to feel the sense of ownership and leadership required for them to step up to the plate and fully manage the operational dimension of the business.
Monthly leadership culture meeting. Make clear that this is not an operations meeting. This is a time to take a step back and look at the meta-perspective on how you are collectively behaving as a unit. Here are the items I would suggest for the monthly leadership meeting agenda:
1) Round table check-in: each person has 2 minutes per person on a timer to express 1 thing they are grateful for, 1 frustration/challenge/fear, and 1 element that they are excited for. The purpose of this step is to create a safe space to share freely…There is no cross-talk in this portion of the meeting (ie. you and Phil do not react to what they are saying… the same goes for the managers of course)
2) Part 2 of the meeting is a brainstorming session. All ideas are welcome, no decisions are made in this meeting. The ideas that come out of this are used by you and Phil to inform the direction of the organization. If after discussing it, you two want to change a policy or SOP to incorporate something that came out of this leadership culture meeting, you can do so and announce it at a weekly ops (operations) meeting.
Start by creating the context for this brainstorm. This collective brainstorm is based on the following premise: That we are a team that is seeking to come together and act as one organism. There is greatness in unity. Together we create a synergy that allows us to kick some serious ass!! For this to happen, we as a group need to be conscious of how information is flowing (aka communication) and what is the best way for decisions to be made.
a) What are we doing well?
b) What are the current roadblocks?
c) What would be most supportive in terms of taking our team cohesion, effectiveness, and synergy to the next level?
I would suggest having a big whiteboard with 3 columns and having someone other than you or Phil facilitating the conversation, making sure everyone is contributing, and taking notes on the board.
Limit this brainstorm session to 30 minutes.
3) End with an expression of gratitude to the team and some type of group hug or team cheer or something to end on a high note. Your role as the leader is to be the steward and guide of the group’s energy (you are Gandalf, not Aragorn) (Phil is Aragorn). Are you willing to guarantee that people walk out of this meeting with a high-energy, “Fuck Yeah!!” attitude?
Schedule the next meeting on the calendar right away (25-35 days later). Take a photo of the whiteboard and file it in google drive.
Remember, this is not an ops meeting, you have those every Monday. This is a sacred space to call upon the spirit of the team (in a spiritual manner, not in the cheesy ‘team spirit’ way).
Let me know how the first one goes! We can work over it on the phone to iterate and refine how you run these monthly team sessions.
PS: Be sure to let the team know that the Monday ops meeting has changed. The new format is that each manager will have 5 minutes to present the plan for the week and their departmental MITs. (Most Important Tasks). These need to be posted on the whiteboard at least 30 minutes before the start of the ops meeting. The ops meeting serves to plan the week, but mostly is a training session for how you want managers to be making decisions about priorities and taking leadership.