Are You a Great Person to Work For?

Are You a Great Person to Work For?

Farmer surveying field
Employee leadership and supervision can be learned and developed. Photo credit Troy Walz.

In a recent conversation with a ranch owner, he said they were once again looking for an employee for their operation.  It was also mentioned that employee resignations seem to be a pattern.  He then said, almost tongue in cheek, “I couldn’t be part of the problem with this situation, could I?” 

It is rare to find people involved in production agriculture that have had any significant formal training in employee leadership, supervision and communication skills.  This helps explain why those owning and managing agricultural operations frequently identify employee and family business working relationships as one of their top challenges!  The people part of production agriculture for many owners and managers is an area where they frequently feel inept and is a source of great frustration.  Fortunately, just like other skills, employee leadership and supervision can be learned and developed.

Developing the “soft skills” of communication and leadership for those supervising people in agricultural operations is one that can pay tremendous dividends.  Quality employees who are excited to be part of the business and who have bought into the business mission can make a tremendous difference to operation success. 

Dr. Bob Milligan, who has been teaching people skills to production agriculture employers for forty years, is certain the reason ranchers and farmers fail to improve their people skills is not understanding that those skills can be learned and applied. His experience with those he teaches and his clients has proven that learning and applying these skills will improve performance, engagement, and retention of employees. Investing time and energy in learning people skills will likely provide greater returns to the farm and ranch operation than developing production skills.  The future success of your ranch or farm may well depend on your success in improving your people skills.

Nebraska Extension will be hosting a seminar series titled “Leading Farm and Ranch Employees” that will be held at three locations across the state this December.  This one-day seminar provides opportunities for participants to grow their employee leadership skills in the following areas:

  • Understanding of one’s “default” leadership styles through use of the Leadership Style Self Disclosure Assessment.  This tool helps participants see the methods of leadership that they are likely to utilize with people they supervise.  It also highlights which leadership styles are appropriate for individual situations.
  • The importance of active listening in employee working relationships.  Active listening helps to create an environment where effective communication occurs and trust is built.  Ways to exercise active listening with employees will be discussed.
  • Examining alternative forms of feedback to use with employees based on circumstances and job performance. Quality feedback requires three – not the usual two - forms of feedback. Appropriate feedback with employees is critical to helping them make needed adjustments to accomplish desired outcomes. 
  • Facilitating a work environment that encourages employees to be engaged can make a tremendous difference in the quality of their work and job performance.  Skills and behaviors that supervisors use to engage employees in the success of the business will be discussed.  

If you or someone you know would benefit from developing employee leadership skills, plan now to attend one of the Leading Farm and Ranch Employee Seminars to be held in O’Neill, Valentine and North Platte, December 17-19.  Dr. Bob Milligan will provide training and share resources that can help agricultural employers grow their people skills.

To register for one of the workshops or for more information, please see the Leading Farm and Ranch Employees Seminar press release.  If you have questions about the program, please contact Aaron Berger, Nebraska Extension Educator, at 308-235-3122 or