\"TFFF\"I was lucky enough to be working with a hugely talented and inspirational group of young farmers last week as part of the Tesco Future Farmer Foundation.  This is an amazing initiative by Tesco to give something back to the farming community, investing in the future of farming, and to an extent, the future of their supply chain I guess.  They take 15 young farmers onto the year-long programme; these farmers get access to development opportunities, including business planning, finance management and leadership, as well as Supply Chain visits and a mentor. For the young farmers it is a tremendous opportunity and hugely beneficial.  I have offered up my services to mentor one of the cohort, a bright, enthusiastic and hugely inspirational pork and poultry farmer @aafarmsltd, but last week I also got the chance to share some of my experience and knowledge in a workshop focussed on leadership.

For many of the attendees this was their first real exposure to some of the leadership concepts and ideas and I was keen for them to walk away with 3 things, to:

  • Have engaged with and understand the personal leadership challenges and opportunities they face
  • Understand and be committed to some key leadership actions and activities that will make a difference
  • Feel energised and inspired to lead

The day was fascinating – the energy, interest and discussions refreshing and so very different from some of the conversations I have facilitated in similar sessions in a corporate environment. One of the most interesting insights was the prevalence of parents and siblings as role models when they were asked to describe great leadership. The\"leadership\" dynamic of working with your close family members is certainly not the sole domain of farming, but it is a very prevalent and challenging dynamic. Farming is a traditional industry that faces multiple and competing demands, the tension between new ideas and innovation led by technology, the digital economy and the influence of the consumer are often at odds with ‘the way we have always done things around here!’ The ability to lead, influence and engage an often familial workforce through these challenges place different strains on these young leaders to their compatriots in other industries.

I shared the concept – ‘if you are going to be a successful leader of others, you must first be effective at leading yourself’. If you embrace the core leadership fundamentals

  • Set Direction
  • Motivate and Align people behind that direction
  • Build the capability to succeed
  • Challenge the status quo and drive change

you recognise that these apply equally to yourself as they do your interaction with teams, staff or colleagues.

As a result of this discussion there were two elements of the day that I would draw out because they made me reflect and ponder.  The first was building on a topic I have already chatted about – Destination or Journey.  This was an interesting one, we talked about personal purpose, vision, setting life goals and breaking them down into 3 or 5 year goals and then further into goals and actions that they could plan and deliver against.  Having just joined the Strategic Coach programme myself, this is very pertinent to me and I am very clear and focussed on what it will take for me to succeed in every dimension of my life. The conclusions we drew as a group were

  • Spend time planning your future – allegedly we spend longer writing our weekly shopping list than we do planning our life. How can you expect to be successful if you don’t give it much thought? To quote Jim Rohn “If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much!”
  • Be clear about the general direction – have bottom lines that you cannot fail on and other ambitions that are more flexible. But whatever you do, don’t be constrained by ‘having’ to deliver a goal that has become unreasonable or less important, just because you committed to it. Things change over time, including our priorities.
  • Celebrate success at every opportunity, build on the things that have worked and are working and create energy and confidence – there is nothing wrong with shameless hornblowing as we discussed in my last blog.

\"will-i-am\"The second insight was created by a brilliant question from one of the Tesco team – “Richard, given that our youngest member of the group is 21, do you think you would have benefitted from this sort of thinking at that age”? Boooommmmm!! (In the words of Will-i-am!)  What a question!!!  The answer was easy, yes, absolutely and I think it is a gap in the modern education system, life and personal leadership skills are critically not part of the formal school curriculum which I think is a tragedy!

But……. it left an even more powerful question in my mind – “what would I tell the 21 year old Richard Ferguson now, after all I have learned in the ensuing 24 years?”  What would you tell your 21 year old self and who else might benefit from that wisdom?  That has got to be worth some consideration?? Go on get involved and drop me a comment.


2 responses to “Wisdom for your 21 Year Old Self”

  1. The wisdom of middle age avatar
    The wisdom of middle age

    Always happy to get involved but can I actually remember back to when I was 21? It was so long ago!

    So what would I tell myself?

    1) Just do it: Don’t put things off till later coz life twists and turns and that opportunity might never present itself again.

    2)Don’t carry the whole world on your shoulders: because you will never move forward under that weight. Don’t be afraid to share the load, it will be far more enjoyable for all concerned and actually gets you somewhere

    3) Oh and always use sun screen: the wrinkles I see in the mirror when I look at the middle aged me are proof enough that I’ve missed the boat on that one!

    1. Richard avatar

      Love the lesson about sharing the load – asking for help and support is something I have never been good at, especially at 21 when I knew everything about nothing!!

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