Current Progressive Dairy digital edition

0909 PD: Key to success

Chuck Schwartau Published on 05 June 2009

While attending a workshop for developing supervisory skills, a speaker offered the following: “The key to success in business is to help other people be successful in their jobs.”

I found that statement interesting. So often the success of a business appears from the outside to be the result of hard work, initiative or innovation on the part of the owner. On the reality television programs, it often appears the successful contestants are the ruthless ones who run over others to benefit themselves. That opening statement seems to be completely contrary to what we see in other areas.



The difference might be how one views leadership and his or her own role as a leader. No business with more than one person involved, and this includes dairies, can operate successfully without considering the work of the others involved and helping each other succeed.

The opposite of the cooperative effort and helping others succeed is competition. If the various people working on a farm are always competing with each other, how likely is it that the “system” makes great progress? One employee could be working to make his or her own work easier without realizing it could have the opposite effect on someone else’s work. That is where the leader comes into the picture.

A leader on the farm takes into account how each activity impacts the work of others and the total farm. The leader looks at the entire system and understands the interrelationships of each subsystem to others.

On smaller farms, the leader and the workforce are often one and the same. The owner is the operator and the majority of the workforce, along with family members. For many years farms have been quite successful in this model. Over time, however, farms have grown to include others as part of the workforce and sometimes as part of the management team. It is no longer sufficient to be a good “cow-man” and operate a successful, larger dairy. Now it takes a leader who can see the importance of each person’s work, communicate that importance to the employees and motivate the employees for success.

The leader has to help each person understand the relationship of their job to the work and eventual success of the other employees and the system. Greater understanding can then lead to higher performance expectations. No longer is a task or a person isolated from others. It is a part of the whole. Part of helping others to succeed is preparing them for the tasks at hand.


• Do you have the right employees on the team?

• Do your employees know what is expected of them?

• Are employees trained and re-trained to do the tasks in the same manner day after day, leading to consistent performance?

• Are employees provided with the necessary tools, equipment and supplies to do what is expected of them in a quality manner?

• Do employees know their work is appreciated?

• Are employees rewarded appropriately?


• All these things help employees succeed and, in turn, help the business succeed.

Leadership is one of three points that make up a quality system, which should, in turn, be a successful system. The leadership on a farm needs to establish and develop a high-quality workforce. Leadership needs to establish processes that ensure consistent performance. When these three aspects (leadership, quality workforce and processes) come together, a quality system can exist.

Take time to consider the leadership team on your farm. Does each person understand the role of others as well as their own? Does the leadership team communicate well with each other? Does the team have a clear vision of what it wants the farm to be and how to accomplish that goal? PD

—Excerpts from University of Minnesota Dairy Connection, September 2008

Chuck Schwartau
Extension Educator
University of Minnesota