In November, the 2022/23 PIP (Poultry Industry Programme) cohort gathered at the NFU HQ at Stoneleigh Park for the third event of the year. This time, leadership was the focus.
Now usually, getting 12 agriculturally-minded youngsters to sit still for eight hours in a classroom is quite the challenge. Luckily, Alistair at Cedar Associates took the ‘lead’, ensuring that the day was informative, interesting and engaging, with a mixture of theory, self-reflection exercises and group activities.
Managing or leading?
Fuelled by bacon sandwiches, we kicked off the day with an insight into leadership, which included some self-reflection around our personal, work and career goals.
We were taught about the importance of keeping these goals ‘SMART’ (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time orientated) and then actions were set out in order to achieve them.
Next, we discussed the differences between leadership and management. Put simply, we manage things and lead people. Success involves a combination of the two, balancing the right skills for the situation.
Communication is key to working together
One activity, a particular favourite among the group, furtively named “the spies”, involved each individual receiving a statement written on a piece of paper.
Without being able to write the statement down, or read each other’s statements, we were instructed to work together to decipher the meaning and work out the answer to a “question”.
This task really sharpened our communication and organisational skills, with different personalities within the team showing themselves, and natural roles and structures of the group forming subconsciously! I felt as though the task did well at simulating a real-life situation, and led onto some theory about the stages of a group: forming, storming, norming/reforming and performing.
Finally, we discussed some of our personal leadership experiences, together in small groups, and offered each other suggestions on how to tackle them more effectively. It was interesting to hear different approaches to the same situation, based on the different behaviours and leadership styles we had previously discussed.
Be personable and you'll influence your team
Understanding my leadership style, my role within a team, and how to adjust behaviours for individual situations, has been of utmost importance.
In the current climate, with costs soaring and margins tightening daily, we find ourselves in a world where effectiveness has become an essential element of business survival. Motivating your workforce and boosting productivity will lead your team towards the long-term goals of the business.
Strong and effective leadership can positively influence the people in your team, allowing them to realise their potential and develop new skills. This, in turn, will help to get the most out of them.
Personally, my biggest take-home message was that emotional intelligence is one of the most important elements of successful leadership.
It is important to be personable with your team, and offer support.
I would highly recommend a leadership training course to anyone interested in progressing as a manager at any level. I know I speak on behalf of everyone when I say that we took some key lessons and advice back with us across the country to our various farms and businesses!