Farm-Grown Leadership Lesson 2: From the Top of the Silo — Where Getting Buried In Your Work Means Something

terry-allcorn-farm-groveIn this series, Terry Allcorn, interim dean of business and hospitality, West Campus, shares colorful accounts from his time working on an Ohio farm, bringing to life the characters and events that taught him key lessons on leadership and life.farm-lessons-2-corn-270w

It was probably the strangest employment opportunity I ever had. A silo has a spreader at the top to evenly spread silage, which is fermented livestock feed. This is done so that as silage approaches the top, it doesn’t clog the auger mechanism that carries it to the top of the silo.

Well, at some point the mechanism broke, and apparently it was cheaper for the farmer to pay me to climb to the top of the silo and spread the silage while it was being loaded from the trailer below. My gear: goggles, a mask and a pitchfork.

The first time I spread silage was the most memorable. I had to keep ahead of the incoming silage, not let the auger mechanism become clogged and avoid becoming entombed as it filled. Initially, I was able to keep pace. However, silage is not as cooperative as grain and sort of has a mind of its own.

I soon found that I was unable to keep myself from becoming partially buried while simultaneously keeping it spread. Even while spreading the silage as fast as I could, I was still up to my chest in it. Just about the time I came to this realization, the deluge stopped and I heard the farmer yelling up the silo to see if I was okay.

I took away two things from that experience. First of all, leaders must have a sense of when a person is about to be figuratively buried in their workload. Few actions will develop more loyalty among those you lead than if you are there to help them out when a deluge of work causes them to be overwhelmed.

At times, getting partially buried helps you decide what is really important to accomplish. I’m amazed how easily a task or responsibility can rapidly expand on its own if it isn’t properly managed. Getting partly buried has a way of helping us push unnecessary tasks to the side and establish clearer priorities. slice

Other Farm-Grown Leadership Lessons:

Lesson 1: Someone Has to Get in the Pen with the Bull

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