New Year’s Day 2016 Edition: The Farmer’s Tale

How Far Can You See? 


To begin the New Year, let’s kickoff with a theme sturdy enough to carry us the next 365 days and then some.  It’s a leadership theme as old as time, and one we learn from watching the farmer.  I grew up on a farm and from firsthand experience can testify that farming is a unique mix of science and faith brought together in the backbreaking crucible of hard labor.  We spent our youth plotting to escape it, and the rest of our lives hoping to find a way back to it.

But what is it that a farmer really does?  Let’s take a farmer that grows grain.  Does the farmer have to instruct wheat to be wheat or corn to be corn?  Certainly not…when the seed is planted, it’s in the seed’s DNA to become whatever it is intended to become.  The farmer’s role then isn’t to instruct something to do what it already knows to do…the farmer’s job is to create an environment where a seed can become all it was meant to be.  Through proper tilling, nutrition, and protection, the seed will in turn yield a bounty in the season of harvest.

Have you ever worked in a leadership environment where you felt like wheat being told how to be wheat when the environment necessary to flourish was lacking?  If you have, you were probably as productive as the environment allowed but didn’t reach your full potential.  I’ve made this mistake as a leader and in a moment of candor everyone in the leadership business would have to confess the same sin in chorus with me.  In general, we have well-meaning intentions and want to set people up for success but sometimes for a number of reasons lose sight of what is truly needed from us to produce success.

As we commence a new year with expectations of great accomplishments, take a look now at your approach to leadership and see if you are appropriately focused on creating an environment where a crop can flourish or you’re leaving potential untapped because you’re telling corn to be corn rather than focusing on the environment.  Specific areas to think through in assessing your environment are infrastructure, communication, processes, compensation, training, professional development, and the intangibles of letting people know they are genuinely appreciated.

Take the wisdom of the farmer’s tale to heart as you charge out of the starting blocks in 2016.  To experience a surge in productivity, focus on creating an environment where greatness grows and trust that if you do, the seed that represents the people in your organization will reward your faith with a competitive advantage and a culture that sustains excellence over time.  Start now making this the year you reap the reward of thinking and doing; it’s what a Critical Doer would…do!

Happy New Year and best wishes for a prosperous and fulfilling 2016! 


Reminder:  you can get automatic updates from The Critical Doer by using the subscription widget at the top of this post.  You can also follow on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.  I also encourage you to let me know what you think of the posts or share a story of your own using the comments section or email me directly at [email protected].

Updated: January 1, 2016 — 1:15 pm