Are you tired of ‘putting out fires’ every day?

When you’re leading a farm operation – especially during the growing season – it can feel a lot like what this farmer said: “I feel like I’m putting out fires – all day long!”

He’s not talking about literal fires, of course, but figurative ones that can seem to take up nearly all our time and energy. Often, when you’re the leader of the operation, everyone else knows that there are certain decisions and problems that will need to go to you because the buck stops with you.

However, that can start to go to extremes when every problem people encounter seems to be coming back to you for an answer or a solution. That’s when the “fire-fighting” starts to happen – when all you’re doing in a given day is putting out those fires – solving all the problems.

Time + energy

The best way to help keep this from happening? Start by realizing where your time and energy as the leader is best spent. Where will your time, attention and energy move the needle most in terms of your operation’s overall financial success?

It’s quickly apparent that the leader’s time probably isn’t best spent fixing every issue that employees or others in the operation encounter during a given day of operations. So what can leaders do?

Three actions

  1. Determine what types of problems/issues warrant your attention right away, and which don’t. Take some time to make a list of the types of problems that create figurative “fires” that you then must take time to put out. Sort them out into the types of things that do require your immediate attention as the leader, and the things that probably don’t. You might consider factors like the dollar amount of the decision or problem, whether it’s creating downtime in the operation, and so on.
  2. Consider who could address the issue or decision besides yourself. Often, there are others in the operation (who may be closer to the problem in their work than you) who can work to solve it. Certain problems could be solved by the employee who encountered the issue in the first place. Work to train employees about what types of decisions or problem-solving steps they should take before contacting you or other leaders. Also – do you have a successor leader or someone you believe may be leading the operation in the future? They can become the new point person for issues and decisions that aren’t on your “top priority” list where you need to be the decision-maker.
  3. Let go of the drive to “do it all.” If you’re a farm leader, you probably hold a mindset that’s driven by responsibility. After all, you own the operation and are ultimately responsible for its results. But taking that to the extreme can lead to burnout for yourself – as well as underdeveloped talent and responsibility-taking in the other people who work in your operation. This probably means the need to consciously take a step back and work on empowering others to learn how to call some of the shots, at least some of the time.

What are your marketing goals?

Many farmers say that grain marketing isn’t their favorite thing to spend time on. Yet grain marketing is one of the top business drivers impacting the level of success that the farm operation can experience.

Farmers have found that working with our market advisors has helped ease their minds. The advisors help farmer clients with planning and execution around marketing decisions and help keep them up to speed on the current rapidly-changing grain market situation – and how it impacts their operation.

Get a free week-long trial of our marketing information service (MarketView Basic). Your free trial includes regular audio and video updates, technical analysis, recommendations and more. Learn more about our market advisor programs and offerings at

The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Farm Progress.

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