I vividly remember the first time our Wisconsin Farm Bureau Leadership Institute Class XI met back in January. That day I walked into a quiet room with nearly everyone else in the class already present. It seemed very foreign. I only knew one other person that I had met years ago, so I made a little small talk and sat down. The room still remained very quiet.
Now let’s fast forward about a month to the second meeting of our institute class on February 24th. This day was much different. When I walked into this meeting, everyone was socializing like old friends. It’s amazing how close we’ve all become in such a short amount of time. It became very evident that we have all begun to form relationships with one another. At the end of our first session, we were given some homework. Our class was split into groups of three and we were tasked with putting together a presentation on different leadership books that we would present at the second session. As the presentations were delivered, it was obvious that each were very different, but they were all well done. Now this simple task helped us build relationships between our January and February meetings because we are all from different parts of the state, but needed to work together to prepare this presentation.
At the second session, we also had a chance to hear from some leaders within Wisconsin Farm Bureau and Rural Mutual Insurance Company. Dale Beaty, CAO of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation (WFBF), explained the structure of WFBF and the affiliated companies. Wow! I never realized how the companies were all connected and I am truly amazed by the relationships between these groups. Following Dale, we heard from Peter Pelizza, CEO of Rural Mutual Insurance Company. Peter told us the long history of how the insurance company was created and explained that he joined at one of the “rougher” times. This gave him the opportunity to make the company stronger and really let his leadership shine through. Peter had the ability to convince others that he could make the company great again. He also shared, what I thought was, the somewhat complicated, but simple ways of how Rural Mutual is managed. The relationship between Rural Mutual and Wisconsin Farm Bureau really fascinated me because the companies are woven together with many unique relationships.
Elise Stoddard, Director of Organization Development at the American Farm Bureau Federation, taught us about trust and different modes of conflict, which are both important parts of building strong relationships. Something became very evident to me, “leadership” seems to be all about relationships. Effective leaders have the ability to persuade and convince others of a better way or idea to make any situation have a good outcome. Not all ideas or ways work, but learning from mistakes goes a long way. You have a choice to make a difference. By staying positive, you can have a great influence on those around you. In contrast, even just staying neutral can appear negative to some people or in some situations, so just stay positive! Building good relationships is key to making a change around us and staying optimistic will help us make a difference.
Oh, and by the way… February 24th was my 16th wedding anniversary, just one more relationship!
Peter Badtke is a dairy farmer from Ripon, Wisconsin where he milks 90 cows and runs about 300 acres of land. Peter started farming in 1987. He has been married for 16 years to his wife Lori and has 2 daughters, Kasie (13) and Sarah (12). Peter currently serves as director on Green Lake County Farm Bureau board and as chairman of Calvary Lutheran Church in Princeton.