Craig manages four Waikato farms and 13 staff for FarmRight, which oversees the management of farms owned by the New Zealand Super Fund. Craig says that pre-FarmRight, his previous management style in earlier roles on smaller, individually owned farms, left a lot to be desired.
“Back then, the little things really used to annoy me. I used to bark orders at staff. I didn’t recruit properly either.”
He also tried to be ‘everybody’s mate’, instead of focusing on being a leader, he says.
Listen and learn
At FarmRight, Craig’s goals are to do the right thing as an employer, keep staff health, safety and wellbeing on track, get the right people on board, and support them to grow their skills and dairying careers.
“My motto now is ‘communication is the key to all success’. I make sure I’m around for my staff as much as possible and I listen to them and help them sort out what training they need.
“We have weekly staff meetings and daily management system meetings. I retain staff by recognising what they do – we have a board where we write up who’s done something outstanding. For anything that needs attention, we write up a ‘counter-measures sheet’: what the problem is, how we’ll fix it and what date will it be fixed by. I’m also open with my team about my own failings, so they can be open about theirs. Every mistake’s an opportunity.”
“My biggest motivation is to see staff safe, happy and progressing in their career – that really drives me,” says Craig, who asks his staff every day “what would stop us going home safe?”.
He also focuses on his team’s work/life balance, taking them to twilight golf, the races and fishing whenever the chance arises: and they appreciate it.
“I’ve got a staff member who said to me the other day, ‘I don’t want another job, I want to stay here’. I said, ‘sweet as, man!’.”
Although FarmRight use its own internal consultant, DairyNZ consulting officer (CO) Euan lock has also been involved with Craig through discussion groups over the years. Euan describes him as “one of the outstanding staff managers” he’s seen, reaching the finals of the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Good Employer Awards last year.
“Farmers like Craig are an important part of ensuring dairying’s overall reputation, as well as encouraging more people to see dairying as a great opportunity.”
Check out Farm Gauge
Farm Gauge is DairyNZ’s farmer self-assessment tool. It’s available online at dairynz.co.nz/farm-gauge
This article was originally published in Inside Dairy April 2019