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Make Mentoring a Priority on Your Dairy

Sara Schafer

June 16, 2021

Look at the decision makers and leaders on your farm. Are they all around the same age? Do they all have the same experience level?

If so, you could be on the precipice of getting really stuck in your business, says Jon Acuff, an entrepreneur, speaker and author of five best-selling books.

If you really want to grow the sophistication or size of your farm, make mentoring a pillar of your business, Acuff encourages. He says every business leader needs two mentors:

  • One who is 10 to 20 years ahead of you.

  • One who is 10 to 20 years behind you.

The first is someone with a decade or two more experience than you.

“Look at the parts of your life or business you want to make a little better or enjoy a little more,” Acuff says. “Then find someone who is doing that.”

Ask: What do you wish you knew at my stage?

On the flipside, develop a relationship with someone who is 10 or 20 years behind you in age or experience.

Why? “They are seeing things you are not seeing,” Acuff says. “They are seeing things you just don’t see because of your age or experience.”

Ask: What is the new way to do this?

Why does this work?

Internal mentoring is a common best practice that well-run large companies use, explains Mark Faust, president of Echelon Management.

“Too often, though, we think of these pairings taking shape as older, higher-level managers coaching younger, newer employees on career management and the company’s internal work-ings,” he says. “However, many of the best Fortune 500 CEOs have young mentors who coach them on topics such as technology, social media, generational differences and the realities of what things look like on their organizations’ front lines.”

Look around your farm, Faust encourage. Identify pairs of people who hold roles that don’t often overlap. As part of the mentoring exercise, ask the pair to address a common frustration or issue at the farm. Their distinct viewpoints will likely uncover an improvement area.

Also, consider pairing individuals for three-, seven- or 30-day sprints, Faust says. Even a short mentorship can build lifelong connections. Set goals for the mentorship and check-in points to create accountability.

“These steps will begin the process of dialogue and development, and you can watch your people and organization grow,” he says.


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