Growing effective managers and leaders in the horticulture and potatoes sector

Thursday, 28 January 2021

Over the last five years, we have run an Effective Managers Programme around the UK, with around 25 growers and farmers taking part each year. It is a four-day course designed to challenge and develop managers’ core leadership skills to meet their business needs.

We spoke to four carrot, onion and potato growers who took part in the course to find out what they learnt, what changes they made to their business and whether they have seen any benefits.

Please note, the answers have been anonymised for data protection purposes.

Effective planning and delegation

You know the saying, “If you want a job doing properly, do it yourself.” Well, that’s not what we believe. This course taught the value of effective delegation to help free up senior staff to make better use of their skills and time.

Grower ‘C’: “I originally took on all the paperwork when I joined the business, but now there is too much. I have shown the younger team member how to do this now, which will save me 70 hours during the peak summertime. My time is best spent planning.”

Grower ‘A’: “We recruited a new member of staff, due to looking at our skills matrix and recognising a need. She is a really motivated individual, so I have invested a lot of time training and developing her. There is potential to progress and promote her, which she has been told. This will allow me to focus on another part of the business.”

Grower ‘D’: “I have created a provisional delegation plan for next season. This has highlighted that we have some training gaps (sprayers) that we can really focus on who to allocate to. It’s an opportunity to recruit someone new or develop someone internally. I’m going to talk to the team to understand if any team members want to progress.”

Grower ‘B’: “We organise a lot of meetings, but my team don’t know why we do things in a certain way. I have now started taking my team to the meetings to understand how they run and why their role is important. I’ve started a Monday morning task list meeting; whereby I ask the team to update me on what needs doing. This has helped plan the week ahead, and reduces my time having to allocate jobs mid-week.”

Motivating a team

Designing jobs that motivate staff will create more satisfaction and result in a more effective workforce, but identifying what people’s motivations are can be difficult. Our delegates found that making time to understand what individuals were looking for from their role and seeking ways to satisfy that, reaped significant rewards.

Grower ‘C’: “We did a team-building exercise where we went to a local brewery to help break the boundaries after a tough year. We had a team meeting, followed by a couple of one-to-one sessions to get the detail of peoples’ objectives. Some people wanted to develop themselves, so we have identified suitable training courses. We've had pay reviews that have motivated some and bought machinery with help from the team. Now the atmosphere is much better; it’s amazing what one afternoon away from the farm can do.”

Grower ‘A’: “Talking is key because you find out that individual’s motivation. For example, one team member had a passion for plants and was showing their hard work, so we have put them on an RHS level 2 course.”

Grower ‘B’: “We have completed company-wide appraisals for the first time! It was a really interesting experience, with quarterly reviews and objective setting. It has helped to make January very positive and get everyone on-board. In particular, there was an individual who didn’t think they had achieved much. I was able to list 20 achievements and see the empowerment on their face. It has also led to an internal review of who is doing what.”

Improving communication

Communication skills are the foundation for effective leadership and management. Knowing how to question, and importantly listen, to staff can pay dividends. It also underpins better negotiation and can help anticipate any resistance to implementing new and better ways of working.

Grower ‘A’; “My main aim was to get some staff to agree to work overtime so that I could spread the workload. I've made a script for the meeting, with open questions and asking what motivates them. I start by investigating why they don’t want to do overtime. I have prepared some potential answers for their challenges, including more money and time back. By explaining to them how they will have an impact on the wider business, I think I will get more engagement.”

Grower ‘C’ “Keeping people motivated during a wet and quiet period is tough; we have focused on training and maintenance so we are ready to go in the busy period. We are also allowing people to leave early, to balance when the longer days come. I've personally been going to a number of events networking and building rapport. There’s a lot of change in the industry at the moment, so I need to keep on top of that.”


Interested in taking part in our management & leadership training courses? Find out more

The growers took part in our Effective Managers Programme, which lead to a professionally recognised qualification for the Institute of Leadership and Management Level 3 Award in Leadership and Management.

AHDB’s skills programme aims to train agriculture and horticulture businesses to ensure they have a professional, confident workforce, as well as helping businesses to keep pace with emerging technologies and innovation.

If you think you and your business would benefit from one of our skills training programmes, find out more and where to apply here: