Leadership: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

The veterinarian can, with good teaching and leadership skills, help client operations maintain a stable and productive workforce. ( Brianna Chance )

He fancied himself Casey Tibbs. Purple boots, and purple bat winged chaps. He was young, talented intelligent and completely without any positive energy towards his job as pen checker in a large feedlot. The younger crew looked up to this fellow because he was talented and interesting to be around. However their performance was dropping because of “Casey’s” approach to his work.

Labor is the number one challenge to feed yards today. Therefore the problem with having “Casey” on the payroll was that he would be hard to replace.

According to the Phoenix Business Journal, if 51% of your crew is not working to their potential, about half your crew are bad apples in the making.  Based on their surveys, 17% of the work force already are bad apples, with only 32% being top level team members.

Happy employees are twice as productive, will stay in their current job five times longer and take ten times fewer sick days, than the 50% who are not working to their potential.

Bad apples are 100% the responsibility of the feedyard’s leadership. They were perhaps bad hires from the start. If you hire a pen checker who has been to ten other yards already, what makes you think he will do any better with you.

“Casey” stayed around longer then he should have. The yard leadership anguished over his firing. This, in my opinion, is universal. Three things happen, first “Casey” and his toxicity is allowed to poison the crew over time, and when he was fired, the manager stated he should have done it much sooner and the crew was relieved to see “Casey” go.

The Crew also knew that the leadership of the yard was willing to make a tough decision to make things better. Everyone was relieved. Leadership should, at this point, explain why this decision was made and give a plan going forward. It is also a good idea to refresh the vision that the leaders have towards better execution and performance.

Harvard Business Review states that there are a few important ideas that need to be followed when firing someone.  The first is, that it should not be a surprise. Protocols should allow for a review period, during which the yard explains their problems with “Casey’s” performance. This is formal, written and placed in the employees file. This should happen more than once, in most cases.  A clear job description and expectations should also be laid out for all new employees.

There are six good reasons to fire an employee:

  • Will not correct bad behavior.
  • The employee if negatively affecting others on the crew.
  • They lower crew productivity.
  • Apathy.
  • Create needless drama.
  • Carry out major violations.

A 30% turnover is evidence that a company is diseased!  It stems from unhappy employees without a strong vision from their leaders.  Poor relationships, lack of strong communications, failure to communicate and monitor expectations and perceptions that leadership is not investing in their development are all reasons people leave your business.

Hiring new people in the feedyard offers a very positive opportunity to build a better team. Morten Hansen in his book “Great at Work”, states that in the first seven seconds you will decide if you like a person or not. It appears there is a 0% correlation with liking a potential employee and their eventual performance.  For objectivity, develop questions to illuminate the personal strengths and experience of a new employee.

These questions should both be objective in nature but also behavioral questions like; what have you done in the past given certain situations?  What is their feeling on certain related work topics? Some companies have new candidates go out and shadow middle management people. This is a good idea, in that it allows for more input and perhaps a different perspective. Hiring is one of the best opportunities agri-business operations to improve!

As a veterinarian on site in a feedyard, you are close to the crew, and see and hear “the good the bad and the ugly”. If you have gained the crew’s trust, by listening and being a positive professional conduit between crew and upper management, you can be an invaluable resource for the company. An appearance of inequity and unfairness in how management treats or tolerates employees can be the source of discontent, leading to lower-than-expected job performance and higher turnover.


Evaluate and Provide Appropriate Feedback

John Maday

Bob Milligan. PhD, Senior Consultant, Dairy Strategies, LLC and Professor Emeritus, Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, Cornell University, says trainers and managers can provide three kinds employee feedbacks: positive, negative and redirection. When an employee receives a reprimand or negative feedback, they can lose confidence and begin to resist training efforts. With redirection, the manager or trainer recognizes the employee might not fully understand the task, and invests time to explain, further train and practice the skill.

Milligan outlines four levels of evaluation for measuring progress in employee training:

  1. Immediate feedback: Milligan describes this as the “smile survey.” Do employees appear to respond favorably to the training?
  2. Evaluate retention: What did the employees learn, and is it what you intended or them to learn?
  3. Evaluate behavior: Did employees favorably change their behavior as a result of the training?
  4. Evaluate outcomes: Did the training and changes in employee behavior result in positive outcomes for the business, such as improvements in animal health, lower treatment costs or greater productivity?

For more articles in this series from Dr. Scott MacGregor, see these on BovineVetOnline:

Take Control of your Time

Create a Winning Culture in Your Feedyard Crew

Build a Dedicated Team

Photo caption: The veterinarian can, with good teaching and leadership skills, help client operations maintain a stable and productive workforce.


Submitted by Maggie Wimberly on Sat, 02/02/2019 - 08:50

Hire slowly, and fire quickly.