Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Women in agriculture learn how to power up their communication

Kathy Davis

If you picture attendees of a Women in Agriculture conference learning how to fix a tractor or take soil samples, think again -- at least regarding this year’s conference held on March 19. 

Participants of the 2016 Women in Agriculture Conference, gathered at the
Olympia site in the Natural Resources Building.
The 600 participants who gathered in 28 networked sites across five states learned about a skill essential to any industry – interpersonal communication. More than 20 participants attending in Olympia were hosted by WSDA at the Natural Resources Building. Christina Harlow with USDA was the site facilitator, and the whole event was emceed by Margaret Viebock, director of Chelan and Douglas counties WSU Extension.  

The morning speakers, Wendy Knapp and Michael Stolp of Northwest Farm Credit Services, presented a personal assessment model called DiSC®. By reviewing the four behavior styles in the DiSC® personality profile, conference attendees better understood their own communication tendencies and how they affect others. 

During group activities, participants identified themselves with one of the four styles and joined
others like them to discuss what works and what doesn’t when interacting with those having different styles. Based on the DiSC® descriptions, I joined a table of others with the “Steadiness” profile. We related and joked about our similar personality traits and how we cope with those in our lives who function differently. 

Another activity presented real-world examples, such as marketing your product to a restaurant or securing financing. Groups brainstormed how to approach different personalities to achieve these goals. 

One of the unique challenges in agriculture is that business partners are often family members. Michael and Wendy pointed out that work conversations around the dinner table or at the truck tailgate may not yield desired results. 

The afternoon’s keynote speaker, Shelly Boshart Davis, talked about how her family’s farm in Tangent, Oregon, has used the DiSC® assessment to improve their relationships and their business. Her extended family and all permanent employees have taken the assessment. 

My own favorite take-away of the day was the notion that various communication styles are like ingredients in a recipe. The key to the success of a business, family or team is to respect each individual, strike a balance and blend accordingly.