From the Globe to the Farm

From the Globe to the Farm: Applying Leadership Lessons to Improve Our Business

Recently I attended the Global Leadership Summit in Chicago. The caliber of the speakers and the value of their content was worthy of the 250,000 worldwide attendees. One of many highlights for me was the words and wisdom delivered by Horst Schulze, Chairman and CEO, Capella Hotel Group and Founding President and Former COO, the Ritz-Carlton Group. 

A favorite "keepers" from his session was that when a new hotel opens, Mr. Schulze (the top guy) travels to each location to lead the initial orientation of all employees. He was very clear, "I don't let just somebody train them, I train them. I make sure they understand they were not hired to fulfill a function (job), but selected to participate in a specific higher purpose, creating a culture of excellence." To demonstrate the importance of every employee, he shared, "if the person washing the dishes doesn't show up for's a disaster! If someone doesn't come to work to make the's a disaster. If the phone is not answered because someone is late for's a disaster. If I don't show big deal. You are the important one!"

In creating the spirit of excellence, four things became very evident.

1) There is a clear, expressed purpose. Team members know the personal benefits when they work together, striving to exceed the standard.

2) There is a leader who believes in the importance of each person on the team, with no one claiming superiority over another.  

3) Self-responsibility with trust was demonstrated with every team member having the authority to correct any mistake up to $2,000 without anyone else's approval. Their mission in action is, if we make a mistake, own it and start by saying, "Please forgive me."  Then correct the problem.

 4) A sense of caring and importance builds an internally motived drive to meet the premier standard. The sense of belonging creates a "helping environment." During the orientation of employees, Mr. Schulze shares, "if you do not do strive to be excellent, then I must make your life miserable ….unless you ask for help."

So, what would happen in our family businesses if our farm or ranch leader used Mr. Schulze's model? 

1 ) The business would have a defined mission with a clear focus written in words all understand. All are eager to model it consistently to their families, those within the team, those who support your business, and those who buy your products. All understand that team and personal contributions result in benefits. 

2) The leader would identify the standard of behavior and expected results. Then select, not hire, the best person to be part of the team to make it a reality. Being part of a family business is conditional, it is not a birthright.

3) The leader would trust and give authority to a team member to fix mistakes because the leader knows it was not intentional, but needs immediate correction.

4) The leader was visible and helpful, not to "oversee" but to cheer on, provide resources, correct and praise. And, the leader honored team members with more than a paycheck. The leader gave recognition, time, listening and implementation of others' creative ideas.

One of the joys of my job is knowing many in agriculture's family businesses who take new learning from other industries and seek out the nuggets they can apply to their specific needs. Learning from Horst Schulze requires looking into a mirror. Where are we at with current leadership? What needs improvement? How do we improve? Let's get started!

Jolene Brown is a farmer, professional speaker, author and champion for the family owned business. She's from West Branch, Iowa, USA, and travels worldwide sharing leading-edge best practices that have the power to increase productivity, profitability and peace of mind. Her passion combined with her fun-filled spirit and valuable information brings humor, hope and helpful ideas to the people of agriculture. For more information and to check out her speaking availability, contact her at,

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