Being a Great Team Player in the Precision Agriculture Game

Only great team players who are great teammates, have the potential to get championship results. Each player on the team has a position to fill and a job to do. Great team players are successful because they understand the systems approach required to win. If teammates played only from their own perspective, and not in alignment with the other players, the result would be complete chaos.

We’ve all seen the results of this on the farm. While on-farm technology should never be considered a game with no consequences to real life, the same foundational components of championship teams are required for winning in profitable technology adoption.

In the precision agriculture industry, it’s often hard to find great team players. Even more challenging is getting great TEAMS to work together. Yet for producers, the owners of the farm team, this is a critical, under-recognized requirement for the success of technology on-boarding and adoption.

When a single player on the team doesn’t perform, the organization is required to fill that position with a stronger player who can perform at a higher level. In the process of developing our business we’ve had to look at who we are as players, what our abilities are as individuals, and how we can deliver value to a progressive farm team. Below are some points we have to recognize in ourselves to become invaluable team players:

Know the game: Every producer is a different person with different goals and objectives. It is important to know what they consider to be a win. There is no time for estimating or assuming. In the early stages of relationships, intense communication is required to make sure everyone is thinking with the same mindset, knows the goals and objectives, and can identify fundamental barriers and weaknesses to overcome — all details great teams know, prepare for, and implement. Why? Because these are the fundamentals. Standing before the Green Bay Packers with a football in his hands, legendary coach Vince Lombardi said these words, “Gentlemen, this is a football.” Six months later, the Packers went on to win the championship. Legendary basketball coach John Wooden took a similar approach to the fundamentals by teaching his teams how to tie their shoes.

Being well grounded in the fundamentals allow us to think bigger to the potentials we have within the team and the playing field (the farm). If we don’t identify the foundational components — the team’s current mindset toward technology, the team’s ability and desire to implement technology, equipment capability, water access potential, etc. — we’re not positioned to succeed.

To go along with the fundamentals identified, we also need to know the goals we want to accomplish. If any single teammate is not onboard with the owner’s goals and objectives, there is little to no chance for a win even with strong fundamentals. It all ties together.

Know strengths and weaknesses: Every player on a professional team knows their strengths and weaknesses. However, they didn’t learn this overnight and it required coaching to really identify the strength. Why? Because as good as we “think” we are, it’s important to gain different viewpoints and/or perspectives when preparing to play the game. No one can know or do everything perfectly. The best of the best players know this, learn to adapt, and continually seek out ways to improve themselves and those around them. Improving those around you is key to team success.

Know your position: When personal strengths are identified it’s easy to recognize your place on the team. Yet how often in agriculture do we see individuals and companies attempting to play more than one position? How often do we see individuals playing a role that is not in their strength zone? You will only be average in that approach so what is average? Answer: The best of the worst, or the worst of the best. Honestly, I don’t intend to be either. To be the best, we MUST stay focused on the position in which we can excel. Anything less will not allow our position to become great.

It’s also important to listen to the owner and other players to gain feedback about your position. In your position, regardless of how great you are, if you cannot, or will not, sync with the other players on the team, the entire team will lose. This is called being coachable. I remember experiencing this in high school. I was not a great (not even a good) football player because I lacked the desire and talent. But I remember two very talented individuals from surrounding schools who were highly talented and had intense desire. However, they knew they were talented and they knew their personal ability exceeded the other players on the team. Unfortunately this was also their weakness. They were unwilling to help the other players grow and excel. This resulted in their teams losing consistently for two years.

Learning how to practice: Until you truly know who you are and what your role is it’s really hard to know how to practice and master your position. This may sound crazy in terms of precision technology, but I’ve personally found this to be a primary key to my own personal success. When we decided several years ago to pursue only one primary objective at CropMetrics, our ability to understand our position in precision agriculture began to change. As we began to focus, it became very clear where we needed to practice and master certain skills and abilities within our team. As we began to focus on and practice our own positions, we all began to improve. This has and is taking time. Have we mastered each position yet? By no means. Do we KNOW what skills need to be practiced to improve, ABSOLUTELY!

Becoming recruitable: In precision agriculture knowledge and skill is important. But is it MOST important? After 17 years of being in the precision ag industry, my answer is no. I’ve met so many skilled and talented people who are un-recruitable. Why? Because they’re not team players. Regardless of how great a person is, if their leadership and followership skills are not equal, they probably will not fit into most teams. Yes, leadership, skill, and talent are key components but if we’re unwilling to follow the lead of the team owner, the producer, we’re not going to be recruited for the long term. We may be given a tryout, but we may not get on the team. To get on the team we must master the skills of recruitment.

In wrap up, I’d challenge all my friends in the industry to analyze themselves and ask themselves the following questions:

  • In what ways could I be considered a team player?
  • In what ways am I practicing the skills necessary to win in my position?
  • In what ways am I building up the other players on the team?
  • What is the one primary thing I can do to become more capable of being recruited into more teams?

At CropMetrics we’re defining these skills ourselves so we don’t have all the answers. But we do know this, our ability to connect and work with everyone involved in our clients operations (interdependency) is vital to success. We’re extremely grateful for the teams we get to be a part of and we’re looking forward to the day when we earn the right to be a player on your team. Thank you.

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