Last month, we had the chance to travel to Kansas City for the Agriculture Future of America (AFA) Leaders Conference. AFA Leaders Conference is one of the premier opportunities for college students with an interest in agriculture to come together. During the conference, we talked about everything from issues facing agriculture to career planning. Below are a few life lessons we took away from this year’s conference. You can also check out the hashtag #AFALC13 on Twitter for more insights.
1. Create balance. Richard Fagerlin, Peak Solutions, reminded students to seek balance every 21 days, if not more frequently. We all have weeks that may seem a little out of balance, but for most people, every three weeks seems to be a good measure for personal balance – whether between family, friends, work or personal time.
2. Leadership is not about position, but action. As an industry of “doers,” it’s not hard for us to appreciate the difference between “well said” and “well done.” Leaders aren’t the ones who talk the best game, but those whose actions set them apart from their peers. By that standard, anyone – no matter their formal title – can be a leader.
3. Offer solutions. “If there is a problem, you are causing it, participating in it or allowing it,” said Fagerlin. So often in today’s world, we bring our problems to others and expect solutions. Turning the tables can set you apart from others.
4. Relationships require work. Successful relationships are not just strokes of luck. Jim Welch, Growth Leader, said, “Connect with people. If you do, you win.” He also shared some communications tips to help in relationships: smile, use a pleasant tone of voice, offer to be there for people and be approachable. He emphasized how technology can be a relationship killer, and it should be used wisely. Another perspective on relationships specific to families is one we heard from Ron Hanson of the University of Nebraska. He shared the nine characteristics of strong families:
- Spend time together. Use a team approach.
- Communicate and listen.
- Commitment and loyalty.
- Religious faith together.
- Know how to deal with personal crisis together.
- Focus on the positive elements even if it is a difficult situation.
- Express appreciation, show feelings and exhibit thankfulness.
- Have fun together as a family.
- Take the time to strengthen the family.
5. Get uncomfortable. Tim Clue stated it simply: “Don’t be afraid to be wrong.” Many of our speakers shared the same advice.
6. Bridge the generational gap. Millenials can be perceived as self-absorbed and difficult to manage. Being aware of how other generations perceive your age group can make you a more effective communicator.
7. Big isn’t always bad. The conference’s closing address came from legendary animal scientist Temple Grandin, who reminded us of the need for agriculture to be proactive and progressive in search of greater consumer understanding. That starts, she said, with “big” and “little” agriculture working together.
8. The best power comes from empowering others. Helping others achieve success is the best way to build trust and relationships with real power.
9. Decisions are made by those who show up, stand up and speak up. That quote came from Farm Bureau’s own Bob Stallman, who was a recipient of AFA’s Leader in Agriculture Award. In his acceptance speech, Stallman recounted how he first became involved with agvocating for agriculture – and Farm Bureau – when an issue that would have negatively affected him as a producer arose. After farmers from across his home state of Texas filled a hearing room at the state capitol, the proposal failed miserably in the Texas legislature, and a lesson about leadership was learned.
10. “The future is now.” Too often we think of the future as some far off place, when in reality, our chance to shape it is right in from of us. Success comes if you look ahead, but don’t forget to enjoy the moment.