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HERd Management: Let them make mistakes

Katie Dotterer Pyle for Progressive Dairyman Published on 24 February 2017

Constantly looking over your shoulder, criticizing every little detail, never being happy with your efforts, creating additional un-needed stress – these are just a few things micromanagers do to others. This often results in the person being micromanaged feeling devalued and untrustworthy.

They begin to think the time and effort they give just doesn’t matter anymore. It negatively impacts a person’s self-esteem. Micromanagement is not good for anyone and especially not good for the future or success of any business.

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I’ve experienced several different management styles over the years and have learned not only how to treat employees, but also how not to treat employees. Like most, I’ve felt the effects of micromanagement at one time or another. I was micromanaged so much at one job, I ended up not really caring about what I did anymore because it was never going to be to the satisfaction of my superior.

I felt as though as hard as I tried, my work would never appease my boss, and I began to feel unappreciated. It made me question my abilities and competence, which led to a decrease in my confidence and motivation to complete my work. If you’re trying to build a great team, micromanagement will destroy it instead.

One of the best people managers I’ve worked for is my dad. I know what you’re thinking, “Well of course! He’s your dad.” Actually, I think working for a family member is a lot harder than working for a non-family member.

You’re held to much higher expectations (sometimes too high, in my opinion) in order to set examples for the rest of the nonrelated staff. There were two things that made my dad great at managing people:

  1. He’d let them make mistakes.

  2. He’d ask the person what they could’ve/should’ve done differently instead of just flat-out telling them or criticizing what they did wrong.

This initiates better discussion of why the mistake was made, coming up with a solution to fix the mistake and how it could be prevented in the future. Don’t get me wrong, Dad wasn’t perfect; he lost his temper every now and then, but the man had a lot of patience – something I’m still waiting for.

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Let them make mistakes. I know you’ve heard the phrase, “We all learn from our mistakes,” but really think about it. Sometimes a person needs to learn what they did wrong and why, but not be criticized for it every time. We’re all human; it’s inevitable we’re going to screw up at some point, especially when learning something new.

Growing up on my family dairy, I tried something new almost daily and my dad encouraged it. When learning something for the first time, Dad would give me some initial instruction and then I was on my own to conquer it. He knew I wasn’t perfect and was going to make a mistake at some point; some worse than others …

Like the time Dad put me in the big Allis-Chalmers 440 to operate the manure dragline. After giving me a crash course in the mechanics and process, he left me to spread manure all afternoon. I didn’t think I could mess this up, but I sure did. After a couple of hours, I noticed the manure hose starting to make a figure eight and then watched in horror as it started to kink. I radioed Dad right away to tell him we had a problem.

He was angry at first, but then asked in amazement, “How in the world did you do that?” I explained my process and instead of just yelling at me, he asked some questions that made me realize my error: Why did you turn this way instead of that way? What did you do when you reached the south end of the field? What should you have done differently?

He then proceeded to straighten the mess out, making sure I was part of the solution. Even though I was the laughingstock of the farm for a few weeks (I like to think they were just jealous of my artistic manure line creation), I learned valuable lessons – like how NOT to kink the manure hose, and how to treat people when they make a mistake.

Another time, at the age of 18, while helping haul haylage, I was forced out of the dump truck I learned to drive in and into an older triaxle. Even though the truck was old, it was a new process for me to learn. It had a harder clutch, a slightly different shifting pattern and the tailgate latch was different. Again, Dad gave me a super-short crash course, emphasizing how to latch this particular tailgate as it was very different. Well, I forgot, and when I was being loaded by the chopper, haylage started coming out the back. Dad asked what I did wrong and made me go over, just as he had, how to properly latch that tailgate.

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I managed to successfully latch it for the next few rounds but then forgot again. My dad’s solution to that? I had to fork all the hay off the ground back into my truck. I never forgot to latch it again. The quote, “You can never make the same mistake twice, because the second time you make it, it’s not a mistake, it’s a choice,” rang true in this instance.

Mistakes are often the best tool we have to teach others. Seize those opportunities and make them into teachable moments, not degrading ones. Walking on eggshells and being afraid of your boss’s reaction to something you did doesn’t help a person’s confidence – it shatters it. Let your employees and family know making mistakes is acceptable, as long as the same one isn’t made twice.

Managers aren’t perfect either. I never realized how much patience Dad really had until I became an employee manager. I help manage the team here at Cow Comfort Inn and try my best to follow Dad’s lead. It can be challenging, but my past experiences have helped me. Here’s to hoping that patience finds me some day soon.  end mark

Katie Dotterer Pyle
  • Katie Dotterer Pyle

  • Dairy Producer
  • Cow Comfort Inn Dairy

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