Author: wes

Lessons from the Farm: Feed the Calf

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I’m continuing my Lessons from the Farm series today. If you’d like to get these delivered to your inbox, click here. If you’d like to read some of this year’s posts, click here and progress forward.

Today’s lesson was inspired by a Facebook post from my Uncle Bill.

Each year #65 will give birth and clean her calf, and then abandon it.
First year she had twins, so I kept her. Each year after her calves are the best in the herd.

But for one week, morning and night, I have to teach her calf to nurse and tie her back leg so she won’t kick me and the calf. I get slapped in the face with a urine soaked tail, some days dirt/ manure blows all over me and eventually she becomes the most protective mother in the herd. Charging me if I even get 50 yards near her calf.

Until then, we eat in the chute.

Have you ever considered that not every calf who is born either knows how to feed, or the mother lets it feed? So, for a rancher, the miracle of birth is followed by waiting to see if the calf is “going to take”. This takes patience on behalf of the rancher, because a new mother is rather protective of their baby.

The leadership principle here is even the best people in an organization occasionally need a little reminder of why they are serving.

There is a certain monotony we have all felt in our work. While some of us thrive on patterns and routine, even our thriving suffers setbacks from time to time.

As you lead, never forget the need to continually check in with those you are leading. Asking the 3rd question is not a license to fully surrender interest. Check in with those around you. Ask how they’re doing. Find ways to encourage them.

Even the best followers need to be encouraged, or at least reminded of why they love what they do. For #65, it means letting her baby feed. For others, it will be completely different. A great leader learns to encourage, so encourage someone today.

Lessons from the Farm: Watch the Locks

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We are continuing our Lessons from the Farm series today. Go here to read the posts so far from this year and last year.

One of the things I treasure the most about growing up with my dad as a farmer was the time we got to spend together. I remember loving to ride the tractor with him, falling asleep with my head bouncing on the window, and generally being amazed by everything that was going on.

So, when we moved back, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to take my oldest daughter with me to the farm. She turned 2 right after we moved, so she was prime age for some great memories, and some not so great memories.

One of those not so great memories came when she was probably around 3. She was old enough to know what she was doing, but not fully aware of how to take instructions.

We went out to check cattle together. It was getting late as I pulled up to open the gate, and I was a little worried about running out of daylight. I pulled up to the gate, got out, shut my door, opened the gate, and returned to the pickup to find Anna had locked the doors. With a 5 year old, this wouldn’t be a problem. Even a 4 year old could help. But at the wonderful age of 3, what followed was a very frustrating exchange, filled with a flared temper (me), lots of giggles (Anna), and finally a resolution–I got back in the pickup.

The leadership principle here? The best leadership comes from time spent together.

Think back to the beginning of my post. Why did I want to take my daughter with me to the farm? Because my dad had done the same thing. I started at a young age, and spent years learning all sorts of things.

Leadership works the same way, just often we don’t have the luxury of growing someone over a couple decades. Spend time with the people you’re leading. Take time to teach them some of what you know, and take time to learn some of what they know.

The most effective leadership I have encountered comes as a result of time spent together.

Just make sure to build trust before you get out of the pickup. Until that trust is built, roll down a window just in case.

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Lessons from the Farm: Fight Through

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I’m continuing Lessons from the Farm today. If you’d like to read some of the other posts, here are a few of them: Keep Going, Know When to Stop, Same Destination Different Paths, Work Until the Job is Done, and Don’t Leave Cattle on the Truck.

Today, let’s talk about blizzards. Not the Dairy Queen treat, but the weather phenomenon.

In 2009, my wife and I moved back to my hometown so I could start working on the farm again. We knew it was for a season, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

When I got back, I found my dad’s operation was different than when I graduated high school and moved away. He had moved more to a cattle operation than a crop based operation.

In December of 2009 we got a few truck loads of cattle, and the weather got cold. January 2010 was one of the wettest ones I remember, but it was also extremely cold for our area. That meant the wheat (the main source of food for our cattle) went dormant earlier, which meant we had to find ways to supplement what the cattle were eating.

That’s where my job started. Every day (emphasis on every), I woke up, drove to the barn, and started the process of feeding cattle a mixture of grain and molasses, that I mixed fresh that day. It was a very hipster process–fresh ingredients, fresh preparation, every day.

I’ll never forget mixing grain and auguring it into the feed bin on the pickup while snow was blowing sideways across my face. It was a very unique (and cold) experience.

Here’s the leadership principle: our success (cattle gaining weight and selling for more money) did not allow for a blizzard break. The cattle needed to be fed every day, regardless of weather, and regardless of whether I felt like fighting the weather.

Success for you in business, in ministry, in farming, will not wait because of the storms you’re facing. I’m not advocating being a workaholic, or spending so much time doing your job that you lose your identity. What I am advocating, however, is acknowledging the times when you don’t feel like doing something are precisely the times you need to do something.

I didn’t want to feed cattle in a blizzard. Actually, feeding them was easy. I didn’t want to do the work to prep the grain in a blizzard.

Sometimes, dealing with teenagers can be challenging. Sometimes, dealing with church people can be difficult. Sometimes, dealing with anyone can be difficult. But the moment I don’t want to do those things is exactly the moment I realize I need to do something the most.

Get out there today, fight the blizzard so you can do what needs to be done. Lead well today.

 

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Lessons from the Farm: When to Stop

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Welcome to our 2nd year of Lessons from the Farm! Click here to read posts from last year.

I grew up working with my dad on his farm. We raised cattle, wheat, cotton, and whatever else he thought would make a profit. Lucky for me, I learned a few things along the way. 

Earlier this week, I posted about not stopping when you’re trying to move forward. I would recommend if you haven’t read the first post, click here and read it before reading today. And yes, today’s picture is an authentic picture as well, just not something I did.

Here’s the thing about getting stuck. Once you get stuck, more than likely you’re not going to pull yourself out alone. In fact, in my experience, when I got stuck and kept telling myself I could work myself out, a lot of times I only dug a deeper hole.

So, today’s leadership principle is know when to stop and ask for help.

There seems to be an aura in society about asking for help. People are ashamed to do it. Often times, I’m embarrassed to ask for help. It’s embarrassing to send your boss (much less your dad) a picture of a pickup buried to the frame. It’s even more embarrassing as a 28 year old to send the same picture to the 17 year old kid who works with you.

As leaders we convince ourselves that asking for help is a sign of weakness. We are the leader, so why would we need help? Are we not supposed to be the expert? We should know better.

Or, maybe you’ve served with someone who asked for help so much you felt like all they were doing was trying to get out of doing actual work, and you do not want to come across that way.

But, when you’re stuck, you’re stuck. Scroll up and look at today’s picture again. Do you think there’s any way that tractor is getting out on it’s own? It’s not equipped to do it. The front tires alone (it’s not an all wheel drive tractor) are almost completely buried.

In leadership, the same thing can happen. We can get to a place where we’ve tried and tried to work our way out, but the truth is we have dug ourselves such an incredible hole, we have to ask for help.

Help comes in a variety of ways, but here are three:

  1. Trusted friends – Maybe all you need is a little push so your tires can grab. Trusted friends are great for this! They keep you honest, humble, and moving forward. Surround yourself with people who think differently than you, and everyone wins.
  2. Conferences – Something about getting away and being exposed to new or different ideas and concepts gets our creative juices flowing. I’m excited because next week (April 12-13, 2018), I’m going to a conference designed to help me process through specifically the struggles I’m facing right now. (If you’re a youth worker and want to know more, go here to find out more and to register.)
  3. Professional Counseling – I cannot tell you how many significant leaders to whom I listen or read have stressed the importance of counseling. Sometimes, when you’re stuck, the best step is to seek the help of a professional.

The bottom line is this: we all get stuck at some point. Great leaders know they’re stuck and are not afraid to ask for help. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but of maturity.

 

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Lessons from the Farm: Keep Going

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Welcome to our 2nd year of Lessons from the Farm! Click here to read posts from last year.

I grew up working with my dad on his farm. We raised cattle, wheat, cotton, and whatever else he thought would make a profit. Lucky for me, I learned a few things along the way.

Can I confess something? Even now, at my age, I’m not entirely sure what to do when driving through mud. I know experience is supposed to be the best teacher, but here’s what my experience taught me: don’t stop.

The picture featured today is 100% authentic. I was driving down a river bed (dry for the most part), and found myself in sand. I was going pretty slow, so I decided to stop and switch to 4×4 low.

That was my first mistake. I stopped and lost any momentum I had. What happened next is exactly what you see. All four wheels started spinning, but I only went deeper.

The same is true in leadership. You will have days where you feel like you can’t do anything wrong. And other days, you will feel like you’re barely moving at all.

In ministry, this looks like seasons where you’re baptizing every week, and then you go months without any baptisms. Or maybe your attendance is up higher than it’s ever been, and then all of a sudden you notice a steady decline.

In business, it looks different. Never give up trying to build your client list, even when you think it may be time to throw in the towel.

Don’t stop. Do not forfeit your momentum. Find the good things that are happening, and hold on to them. You may not be making the progress you want to make, but keep making progress.

Success is not a calling. Success is a result. I cannot think of anyone who became successful because they surrendered their momentum.

Faithfulness is a calling. You are being called to be faithful to what you’ve been called to do. Even when you feel like giving up. Even when you feel like you’re not making a difference. Push through.

Keep your eyes fixed on Christ, and keep going.

 

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