Current Progressive Dairy digital edition

Red team: Would you make the cut?

Rebecca Shaw for Progressive Dairy Published on 04 November 2019

Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a series of blogs Rebecca Shaw is providing about female entrepreneurs and what the dairy industry can learn from them.

This summer, I fan-girled over Carey “The Vixen” Lohrenz, the first female F-14 Tomcat fighter pilot in the U.S. Navy and her concept of a red team. Emily Yeiser Stepp, senior director of the FARM Program, and I dove into what exactly is a red team, why you should have one and when it would be applicable. I’d recommend you read that first.



In chatting with Emily, we talked about what you should be looking for when building your red team, the people who you are going to call on before making major decisions like setting SOPs, building a barn, switching to a new vendor or starting a farm website or social media page.

In this follow-up edition on red teams, the tables have now turned. Imagine someone has now asked you to be on their red team. Here’s the deal – there’s a real possibility you can walk into this situation and just shoot bullets through their ideas and plans without thinking through a strategic approach. To avoid this type of interaction, I asked the people I trust most what makes them (and me) effective red team members. It boiled down to five major areas:

  1. You were invited. In this scenario, a person is being vulnerable and opening themselves up to constructive criticism. That’s not easy. Though you may feel obligated to provide opinions or feedback, if they didn’t ask you for it, is it your place?

  2. You’re knowledgeable. Sometimes, you just don’t have the knowledge or background to discuss certain topics. It’s important to be upfront about what you’re comfortable giving feedback on. This will also help build additional trust in your relationship.

  3. You’re open and honest. The positive feedback is easy – it’s when you find a problem that it gets tough. Trust that you’ve been summoned to call out critiques that others aren’t brave enough to do.

  4. You tailor your approach. Everyone is different. Take the time to ask the right questions that allow you to:
    1. Understand the personality and temperament of the person who is seeking your advice. Tailoring your message based off of how they best communicate will increase the impact and effectiveness it has.

    2. Know the why and purpose of their mission. For example, why is the farm switching over to robots? What events led them to this point? This deeper, more intimate level of understanding will help you provide more informed feedback.

  5. You’re invested. It’s simple; people know when you don’t care about them or the outcome. A bad attitude, acting distracted, or selfish intent are all very discouraging. Be aware and conscious of how you’re making people feel.

In my experience, these five pieces work best in harmony. One isn’t at its full potential without the others. Practice your approach by using the power of them combined.

Providing critical feedback is a huge responsibility. People are trusting you to have a part of their decisions and the outcome. The next time they’re casting for a red team, ask yourself, would you make the cut?  end mark

Rebecca Shaw
  • Rebecca Shaw

  • Dairy Marketing Specialist
  • Cargill
  • Email Rebecca Shaw

Additional resources: