There has never been a greater need for teamwork within our workforce than there is today, nor a more demanding use of my time than that of speaking on the subject of teamwork; about the importance and value of all of us working together! As the economy continues to struggle, the size of the work force continues to dwindle…

There has never been a greater need for teamwork within our workforce than there is today, nor a more demanding use of my time than that of speaking on the subject of teamwork; about the importance and value of all of us working together! As the economy continues to struggle, the size of the work force continues to dwindle. This means the same amount of work needs to get done with fewer people and less hours; making the challenge of success far different than it has been in the past.
 
 
 
This is as true in agriculture – particularly livestock operations – as it is in any other segment of labor-driven enterprises. Though the pitch fork and shovel have been replaced with skid-loaders and the like, there is always waste and inefficiency caused by a lack of teamwork and the non- selective positioning of attempting to put a square plug in a round hole.
Before considering any important personal management decision you should first tum to your dictionary which defines teamwork as: (A cooperative effort) team: (A group on the same side – a group organized to work together) teamster: (One who drives the team).
 
The term ‘teamster’ conjures up old memorable times back on the farm, and more importantly it serves as a reminder that it is a term that has been long forgotten by most. For those that still remember, you know what it was like to drive a team of horses that didn’t pull together. One horse would want to ride with you on the seat while the other did all the work. If that wasn’t bad enough, the lazy horse may have even further complicated the situation by kicking and nipping at the one that was trying to do it all. Not much has changed, as we still have people that want to participate that way; just sit back and let the other person do all the work; contributing to personal aggravation and total company chaos.
 
In the “good ol’ days” we called it keeping the tugs tight. For those that don’t know, the tugs are the part of the harness that attaches a team of horses to the load it’s pulling. You can imagine what it would be like when the team didn’t pull together. It was total frustration for the teamster and the work efficiency was reduced to half or less. Sometimes it was actually worse than it would have been to have had only one horse. Obviously the job was designed for two (sometimes 4 or 6) horses, so it wasn’t feasible to consider the option of only one horse. However, on occasion, I’ve seen it happen when frustration takes precedence over common sense and the well-being of those around you.
 
Professionalism, however, is the key to making corporate work force decisions. There are too many hiring decisions made without regard to how that individual will fit the compatibility of working with a team. All-stars are often a hindrance if they don’t fit the mold, or the position of his caliber has already been filled. This doesn’t suggest that you shouldn’t always be looking for the best, but it does mean that a hiring management plan with well defined positions (job description) should be the objective of every new hire. This is fairly common in most organizations. The uncommon part is that of compatibility, how each works with the other. Like a good athletic team, it requires excellent coaching and top management to put a winning team together.
 
Planning is still the most crucial ingredient of teamwork. Like that of a livestock marketing plan, if just one piece is missing the whole plan will fall apart. Livestock marketing seminars are still my focus, but as the twilight of time draws closer there is great satisfaction in relationships derived from an atmosphere of teamwork, where the plusses are multiplied by the exponent of infinity. Success is no accident – it takes everyone! It takes everyone with the same goals and objectives, without regard for personal gain and recognition. As difficult as this may seem, when you put the company first and your co-workers in a compatible supportive position, success is inevitable.
 
Recipe For Success:
One Part Belief
One Part Honesty
One Part Preparation
One Part Teamwork
(Mix until blended into the person you want to be)
 
Note that teamwork is an important ingredient in this recipe. To be an island unto yourself with your own agenda, is being part of the problem rather than part of the solution. Problems are simply opportunities looking for solutions, and when approached in that manner, you separate the people from the problems. Good people make mistakes. Mistakes can be fixed, but good people are your most cherished commodity. To have the leadership qualities to distinguish the difference may be the “bond of trust” that makes the greatest contribution to effective teamwork.
 
There is no place for anger in the work place; however it is often the outcome of poor judgment and misdirected placement of blame. Therefore, when it seems unavoidable, it is wise to direct your anger toward problems – not people; to focus your energy on answers, not excuses. Your strength is in your character, and problems bring out the true test of character.
Character is what you do when no one is watching. It is an intrinsic value that becomes one’s greatest motivation of excellence. It is the measure of people’s accountability to themselves. You’re strength is in your character and it starts and ends with building the other person up. It’s called teamwork! The greatest hope of any company is the collective individual character of each and every employee.
If you want your people involved and functioning as a team, make sure the individual has a significant role in affecting change. Change is inevitable and should be welcomed with an open mind and a sense of supportive working conditions. This is best interpreted as letting your people participate in making not only small decisions, but also major policy changing decisions. There is nothing like input to produce output!
 
Every change – big or little, seismic or insignificant – starts with someone who decides to do something differently. Don’t dampen this kind of spirit, as creativity is the defeat of habit by imposing originality and change. “But it has always been done this way” is the most shallow form of thinking known to the work place. It stymies growth and discourages people from becoming all they could be and thus limiting their contribution to the company.
 
The company’s duty to its employees is to manage as if limits to their ability do not exist. The best return on your investment is your people! Teamwork starts at the top where everyone is treated as though they are more important than you. This includes budgeting of all resources to reflect the priorities of your work force. But, the most important attributes of your people can not be measured or counted. You can only have an inspired and engaged work force if it is fueled by a positive attitude and everybody is pulling their share of the load.
 
Ken E. Knight is the author of the “Knightro Report”, a nationally syndicated livestock-marketing column, which is featured in this publication on a regular basis. Mr. Knight is a graduate of North Dakota State University, with a major BS Degree in Meat and Animal Science and a minor in Communications. In addition to being a professional auctioneer, public speaker and livestock judge, he brings many years of corporate level meat and livestock market management and expertise to the industry for which he now serves as an independent voice of shared knowledge and experience.
 
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For more in-depth information regarding the topics that have been touched upon in this report, Knightro conducts livestock marketing seminars on a regular basis. To schedule a seminar, auction, judging, or speaking engagement, please contact Ken Knight, Knightro, W11911 County Road FF, River Falls, WI 54022,   phone toll free 1-877-KNIGTRO, phone 715-262-8480, fax 715-262-8480, e-mail [email protected]t; or contact the Midwest Farm &Livestock Directory, P.O. Box 998, Fort Dodge, IA50501.
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