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Earn your respect daily

Andy Junkin for Progressive Dairy Published on 26 August 2021

What is going on in the mind of your partner when they are about to hit that alarm clock?

Are they thinking about what has to get done today with excitement or just hitting snooze and getting another 20 minutes sleep?

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What they tell themselves in that first five seconds of the day will dictate where your farm is going to be in five years.

About seven years ago, I got a very late-night call from a hatchery near Fresno, California. The father had to make a decision. “Should I fire my son who has been only home from college for a few months and really not working out, or should I fire a very loyal, hardworking employee named Joe who’s been my right-hand man for 12 years?”

The family had a very large multispecies operation, and the son had been given the responsibility to manage the hatchery. It had grown significantly over the years and was too much for the dad to handle on top of his many other going concerns, so the dad thought the hatchery was the best spot for his son Nick to get management experience.

In the hatchery, they had 12 employees working, all of whom had blue-collar backgrounds and a few who had prison records. Mac’s son went to an Ivy League school, had been the president of an uppity fraternity and had an MBA. Mac had expected his son to work in Silicon Valley, but in his final semester Nick wrote a business plan for the farm as part of a class project and took a new interest in the family business.

Mac and Nick had completely different management styles. While Joe worked alongside the employees during a hatch, Nick gave the men instructions and then went upstairs into the office which overlooked the floor to do paperwork. Still being in his 20s and living like a fraternity boy, Nick often showed up to work severely hungover. He was the boss’s son and felt that nobody could touch him. Most days, Nick was the last one to show up to work and the first to leave. To say the least, the men did not appreciate the son’s style of leadership or mannerisms, disrespectfully calling him “The Frat Boy.”

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On a very hot day in July, Joe walked upstairs into the air-conditioned office – finding “The Frat Boy” severely hungover, asleep in his office chair and watching YouTube. Joe was fed up with how Nick was taking advantage of Mac and riding on the coattails of his father’s legacy. Joe completely lost his temper, and he kicked the kid’s butt.

Nick called the police and then fired Joe, as well as two other key employees who often worked alongside Joe. That week they had a lot of orders – and without those three key employees, it would be impossible to pull off what they had to do. Hence, the late-night call from Mac.

I got out to the farm within 72 hours and asked Nick why he thought he was having these problems with the employees. He said, “I just couldn’t get any respect around here.” He told me the men respected his father and they should grant him the same level of respect because Nick was their boss. He felt the men were walking all over him and his dad wasn’t helping matters by chewing him out for delinquency in front of the men.

I didn’t say much. I focused on continually asking Nick, “Why did this happen?” It took about 20 minutes for him to explain the situation again and again until he admitted to himself he was partially responsible for what had happened. The word respect kept coming up again and again, and each time I heard it, I wrote it down in my notebook. I wrote “respect” 23 times that hour. Finally, he caught what I was writing down and the conversation pivoted around this word. It went from an attitude that his father and the men needed to show Nick more respect to the need to earn respect. Before the hour was up, he wrote down the phrase: “I’ve got to earn everyone’s respect daily.”

In one hour, Nick’s worldview completely changed by him simply sounding out his thoughts.

For the month after that, he had to text that phrase to me every morning when he woke up at 4 a.m. and each day as he left his job. Religiously. The key condition was that if he didn’t text me or on any day couldn’t meet the terms of the phrase, he had to go find a job somewhere else. This seemed a little extreme, but I made him quickly realize that no matter where he worked, at the hatchery or as someone else’s employee, he had to earn his respect with whomever he worked with, supervised or worked under.

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Behind the shop a year later, Nick told me, “Each day when I wake up and go to hit that snooze button, I hear the words, ‘You’ve got to earn your respect daily,’ and it drives me to get my butt out of bed.”

Motivation and self-improvement is an understated critical component of any family farm. Can you answer the question, “What is going on in the mind of my partner when they are about to hit that alarm clock?” end mark

PHOTO: Mike Dixon.

Andy “Caygeon” Junkin’s niche is helping stubborn farmers work better together. Like podcasts? You can listen for free to his audiobook Bulletproof Your Farm on your cellphone while you work. Go to Agriculture Strategy or call (800) 474-2057 for more information.

Andy ‘Caygeon’ Junkin

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