4 Ways to Achieve Top Performance on Your Farm

( National Pork Board and the Pork Checkoff )

No matter what role you have within a company, Valerie Duttlinger, chief analytics officer at Summit SmartFarms, said everyone can play a leadership role and help impact the culture. 

“People no longer work for just a paycheck. They want a purpose in life,” Duttlinger said. “They want their job to help fulfill that. They're no longer just seeking satisfaction from the job. They want to be developed both personally and professionally.”

So what does it take to achieve a winning culture and top performance on your farm? She said 80% of what happens is the same on every pig farm – it’s the 20% that is done differently that sets the best farms apart. 

During the Alltech ONE Virtual Experience held May 18-22, Duttlinger shared four ways top pig operations do things a little differently to achieve and maintain elevated performance.

1. People first.
All people are different, Duttlinger said. What works for one doesn’t always work for the next.  

When hiring, look for skills in people that will help create a great workplace culture. Duttlinger said Patrick Lencioni, arguably a leading expert in organizational health, encourages employers to look for people who are humble, hungry and smart – emotionally. 

Avoid the three components of job misery – anonymity, irrelevance and immeasurement, she advised.

“To prevent anonymity, we need to appreciate team members for their unique contributions. Maybe that's not a technical skill. Maybe it's the can-do attitude,” Duttlinger said. “Avoid ‘hire on the spot” interviews. Take a personal interest in your team members.”

To avoid irrelevance, tell your company’s story and help your team understand their role in helping the world, she said. Finally, measure success with a “scorecard” of metrics that evaluate an employee’s role on the farm.

2. Be a coach and not a boss. 
Advocate, celebrate and guide your team to help them become better people on and off the job, she advised. Great coaches lead instead of demand. 

“They give credit instead of taking credit. They accept the blame instead of placing the blame. They ask for input instead of only doing it their way. They celebrate the wins but address the errors. And they constantly push a person to do more and to be more,” she said.

Great coaches also know that it’s important to have the difficult conversations early. 

“The longer you put off the conversation, the harder it becomes to change the behavior,” Duttlinger said. “And yet, when you let someone do it wrong over and over and then you finally confront them, two things happen. They feel like a fool. And they lose trust and respect in you.”

3. Deploy tools to win. 
Moving from an individual contributor to a manager is really hard, Duttlinger said. Help managers succeed by providing them with tools to help them understand their teams better, in addition to tools to aid in training and onboarding.

She recommended personality assessments like DISC, Myers-Briggs and Strength Finders. Her company utilizes Cloverleaf, a program that combines the results of seven assessments and coalesces that data into nine insight areas from communication styles to conflict triggers to motivation. 

“In the pork industry, the companies that are the best are doing training and onboarding exceedingly well, even delaying expansion until they have team members that are ready to fill leadership roles and they have someone ready to replace them in their existing role to prevent a loss in performance in the existing farms,” she said.

4. Create an irresistible culture. 
An irresistible culture stops the revolving door of people and ensures that they are doing the right things for the animals, she said. 

“Culture is learned behavior,” Duttlinger said. “And the good news is that the behavior can also be unlearned or changed. But like overcoming any bad habit, that takes time.”

To change the culture in a team, a farm, or even an entire organization, start with rebuilding trust, she said. Take time to truly listen to your team members and learn from them. Communicate with them transparently and admit when you've made mistakes.

Also, make sure you acknowledge a job well done. High-performing teams have six positive engagements for every one negative engagement, Duttlinger said. Treat everyone by the same set of rules.

“Work to improve the emotional intelligence not just of yourself, but of the entire team,” she said. “Help them to understand their co-workers' perspectives. And finally, give it time to take root and continue to build on it.”

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Stop Treating Employees Like Commodities