Agriculture Law and Management


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Management Skills

Managers need to interpersonal skills as well as analytical skills. These interpersonal skills include communication, leadership, teamwork, negotiating and others.


Managers not only need the analytical skills discussed on other pages, but they also need interpersonal skills; they need to know how and be willing to "get along" with others.  This page addresses several managerial qualities:

  • communication skills
  • leadership skills
  • ability to facilitate or lead change
  • ability to participate as a member of a team
  • a willingness to collaborate
  • negotiating skills
  • a sense of business ethics.

The purpose of the discussion is to consider how a person approaches each of these important qualities or skills.

As each of these qualities are considered, explore how they might differ whether the manager 1) is working with an employee who the manager is responsible for supervising or 2) is working with a peer, such as the manager of a supply firm, the manager of a purchasing firm, a business partner, a lender, or a government regulator.  Is there much difference in how a manager approaches these needs depending on who the manager is interacting with?  Why?

Also as these qualities are considered, do not settle for stating the importance of these skills.  Everyone agrees these skills are imperative.  Instead, focus on how does a manager acquire and apply these skills.


Communication Skills

Purpose of communication is to exchange information, but also to persuade and influence.

Does the need to communicate bear any relationship to the trend of less independence and more interdependence in agriculture?

The purpose of communication is so an idea or information held by one person also is available to or held by another person. "How can I take an idea that is in my mind and instill it in your mind? We cannot go directly from 'brain-to-brain' so we must use some other mechanism to make the connection."


Process of communication includes 1) the sender encoding the information, 2) the message, 3) the communication channel, 4) the receiver decoding the message, and 5) the receiver providing feedback to the original sender.

  • HINT -- might the sender want to write the message first in an effort to clarify the thoughts and message?  This question is based on the understanding that writing forces a clarification of thoughts.
  • Will communication in the future not only rely on written and spoken words, but also increasingly rely on images (visual communication)?  Does advancing IT enhance the availability of visual communication?
  • How can a manager assure that the process of communication is practiced in a business setting?
  • Recall that the receiver needs to work as hard as the sender and that the receiver becomes the sender as the receiver responds to the sender.  Note that out of the five-step process suggested above, the receiver needs to be working very hard two of those steps.


Channels of communication -- the medium by which the message is sent.

  • Several examples of channels of communication -- written report, e-mail, phone call, face-to-face conversation.
  • Each channel of communication provides a different level of richness; that is, the number of ways a message can be sent during the communication, the level of possible interaction, the ability to become the focal point of attention during the communication.
  • The channel of communication that is used should depend on the message being conveyed. More serious or individualized messages require richer channels of communication.
  • It is the responsibility of the sender to determine the appropriate channel of communication.


Channels of communication (again) -- richer channels are listed first:

  • synchronous audio and visual (face-to-face, video conference?)
  • synchronous audio (phone conversation)
  • asynchronous personal message (voice message, e-mail, text message, memo, letter)
  • asynchronous to a defined group (dept. memo or e-mail, discussion board, pod cast)
  • asynchronous to an undefined group (publication, report, poster, web site, blog)


A manager must decide which level of richness is needed for the message.

  • HINT -- should the sender consider how the receiver will perceive the message; that is, if the sender believes the receiver will consider the message important, should the sender select a "richer" channel of communication?  Should the sender second consideration be the importance that the sender attaches to the message?
  • The sender selects the richness of the channel of communication based on the sender's perspective of the message and the sender's perception of the receiver's perspective of the message.


Nonverbal communication (e.g., body language) complements the spoken message (assumes that written messages do not accommodate nonverbal communication)

  • How does one manage the situation when the spoken message and nonverbal communication conflict, rather than support or complement one another?
  • What is the value of nonverbal communication?
  • Are there times when one disguises their nonverbal communication even though they are engaged in spoken communication? Why?
  • Is there a way to present "nonverbal communication" in a written message?

Listening (reading and viewing) -- the receiver needs to work as hard as the sender; ask questions; concentrate; summarize the message for the sender so the sender can assess whether the receiver understands the message.

  • How do you listen to a presentation? Do you take notes? How do you recognize the key points? Do you have to rely on the presenter's visuals or can you recognize the key points by carefully listening and thinking? How do you analyze the presenter's ideas? Do you ask questions to clarify points you do not understand? Do you provide feedback or brief summaries of the ideas so the speaker can assess whether you correctly understood the ideas? Do you accept the ideas? How do you professionally challenge the ideas?
  • How do you concentrate while reading? Do you take notes to summarize the document? Do you briefly visit the author's references to clarify your understanding of the author's ideas? Do you add your own thoughts to the notes/summaries as your ideas expand as a result of reading the document? Do you accept the ideas? How do you verify the author's ideas and your reactions?


Informal communication within a group -- cannot stop it; do not spend too much time trying to stop it.

Can the network of information communication be used in a positive way by providing correct information to the network? Does providing accurate information counteract inaccurate information that may be disseminated through informal communication? Does providing information to all members of the group (rather than to just a select few indviduals) counteract inaccurate informal communication?


Barriers to communication and overcoming them ("noise," interferences, bias, preconceived notions, conflicting signals, different interpretations of a signal, different "levels" in the hierarchy)

  • What can be done to overcome a barrier to communication?
  • Do cell phones and other communication devices increase the "noise" (that is, interruptions)?  Can the "noise" from advancing IT be managed if persons are willing to do so?


Additional thoughts about communication

A manager needs to be able and willing to explain "why;" this statement implies that the manager "knows" the "why" and is able and willing to communicate it. When others understand the "why" or the reason for a particular decision or course of action, they are capable of making more specific, detailed, or subsequent decisions.

A tractor operator who has been told and understands that the purpose of a particular tillage practice is to prepare the soil to minimize erosion is then able to assess how the tillage practice is proceeding and adjust the activity (perhaps change the depth or speed of operation). Without this information, the operator might assume that the purpose is to prepare the soil for planting and till the field in such a manner that it is more susceptible to erosion. Or the uninformed operator may not even think about the outcome of the operation and simply drive until the field has been covered. With an explanation of why the practice is needed at this time and the necessary outcome of the practice, the operator is able to work towards that objective without the manager 's direct supervision throughout the operation. Note, however, that the manager made the overall decision in this example; that is, the field needs to be tilled at this time to minimize soil erosion. That decision was not left to the operator.

  • A manager must be able and willing to encourage and allow others to offer their thoughts.
  • Managers must be able to recognize when to "empower" others and when to make the decision themselves.

The sender must consider how much the receiver already knows about the topic. As a general rule, assume the receiver knows less, rather than more about the topic. Restated, as a sender, provide more information, rather than less -- but keep the information concise.

A manager must be able to logically organize ideas; for example, a sender should carefully consider the points that need to be conveyed and then present them in an order that allows the receiver to understand the overall topic.

How does communication differ if the other party is internal (partner, owner, supervisor, worker) rather than external (customer, lender, supplier, competitor)? Can a person (such as a lender) be "internal" for some topics but "external" for other topics?

Types of business communication: phone conversations, e-mails, letters, formal proposals, presentations (visuals), informal meetings, formal meetings (parliamentary procedure), promotional brochures, web sites, negotiations, reports.

  • What practices will you use to assure effective communication?

A web site that may be interesting: "Leader Communication Strategies -- Critical Paths to Improving Employee Commitment" at


Leadership Skills

Are leadership and management the same?  How?  Why?  Is one of these concepts "pushing" someone to a particular point while the other concept is "motivating" the person to a particular point?

What is leadership? How does leadership differ from management?

Leadership traits -- ???

  • Visionary leadership; transformational leadership (state a vision, shape values, trust colleagues, build relationships, involve others)

Does leadership come from "position power" or "personal power" (expertise, respect)?

Additional Thoughts about Leadership

  • Leadership is not limited to guiding employees. This section poses the challenge of leading among peers; the topic of leading employees is addressed in another section.
  • You become a leader when you are willing to work towards a goal that benefits others. Those who will benefit from the leader's efforts will likely allow that person to be the leader once the beneficiaries understand and accept that the leader is doing something that will benefit them.
  • A person will not be allowed to lead if their actions are only for their own benefit.
  • A challenge for the potential leader is to pursue a goal that benefits the group as well as him- or herself.
  • The benefit for the leader or the group does not need to be monetary; it could be self-satisfaction.
  • Another challenge is that each person may define "benefit" differently; some may view the goal as acceptable only if the benefit provides them a monetary reward, while others may strive for a benefit in some other form (such as a better community as a result of the project). The variety of definitions not only challenges the potential leaders, but also the existence of the group.
  • One aspect of being a leader is the challenge of the group goal setting process; that is, the process by which a group sets its goals.

A question a leader needs to be ready to answer for others in the group is "why should we let you lead us; what or how will the group benefit from your leadership."

  • Note the critical role of communication within leadership.
  • Note that also embedded in this thought process is the critical role of leadership within the modern definition of management.

A leader is persistent in achieving the goal that will benefits others (as well as him- or herself). A leader is patient in their persistence; although the leader wants to achieve the goal as quickly as possible, the leader will not abandon the effort just because the goal is not achieved immediately. Instead, the leader will explore alternatives -- if one strategy did not lead to fulfilling the goal, a leader will look for another strategy.

A person will not be allowed to lead if their strategy is not well-reasoned.

A leader develops their successor; no one will last forever but a person who is committed to the goal that benefits a group (as well as him- or herself), will take steps to assure the group continues to strive for the goal even after the leadership has transferred to other people.

A leader is not willing to have the effort end with their departure.


Empowerment (empowering others)

  • A leader provides others an opportunity to use their abilities and skills; help them understand how they are contributing to an overall goal; help them understand the overall goal.
  • A person does not need to be in a position of authority or power to be a leader.

"Everyone needs to be a leader sometime"

  • If you are not willing and able to lead at some point for some activity, you are not using your human trait of intelligence; you then are no different than an animal, plant, mineral or machine.
  • The world needs thinkers and to be thinking means you should have a thought or an understanding that no one else has and when that understanding is needed to make a decision, you are then "leading" the thought process.
  • Example -- a machine operator knows that machine, how to operate it, how to maintain it, its limitations and its capabilities. When the question arises whether to replace the machine, the operator needs to take a leadership role in that conversation to decide whether the current machine will continue to meet the business' needs in the future. Even though the operator may lead this one conversation for only a few moments, that is that person's "time to lead."
  • Others in the organization must recognize and allow others to lead at the appropriate times; for example, the business manager allows the operator to explain what the machine can do and indicate whether the machine will continue to meet the business' needs.

Leadership means knowing when to lead and when to allow others to lead.

Lead by example.

What practices will you use to assure effective leadership?

A web site that points to some interesting ideas: "Strategic Communications" at


Ability and Willingness to Facilitate Change

Forces that Cause Change

  • External (environment) -- consumers, competition, technology, suppliers

    This may be a good time to think about advances in production, communication and transportation technologies. This is also an opportunity to think about the implications of technological advances. Can those implications be explained with economic concepts such as demand, supply, and level of competition? Can these implications be discussed at both the macro- and micro-levels?

  • Internal -- experience, goals


Examples of change

  • Product -- Let's produce B, rather than A.
  • Technology -- Let's produce A by doing X, rather than Y.
  • Goals -- Let's work to have more time with our families, rather than just expanding the business.
  • Organization/structure -- Let's reorganize so M and N are working together and R and S are working together, rather than having M teamed with S, and R teamed with N.
  • Affiliations/partners -- Let's do business with K, rather than L.
  • Resources -- Let's no longer lease that land. Let's buy those three truck. Let's replace you with T.

Need for change -- performance gap. Note the role of goals, benchmarks, and monitoring in identifying performance gaps and a need to change.

Alternatively, the need to change may stem from new opportunities, not shortfalls in current activities.

"The need to change is a prediction of the future, not a judgment of the past."

Searching for ideas -- note the role of information in searching for and finding ideas.
Creating ideas -- strategy of empowerment and communication; also look for ideas from sources outside the business

Project champion -- every project needs someone who believes in it -- someone who is persistent and determined, but informed.

Reasons for resistance to change -- self-interest; lack of understanding and trust; uncertainty; different assessments, assumptions, and goals.

How to overcome resistance? Require or force change? Take the time to inform and for others to understand? What if time is not available?

Implementing change -- communication/education (professional development); participation (input and feedback from others involved in or impacted by the change); negotiation; coercion; top-down (force/require)

  • Provide collaborators a reason to change.
  • How do you help someone else accept change?
  • Can a manager help remove the risks associated with change?
  • Do managers need to explain the risks associated with not changing?

Role of training and development in creating and implementing change.

What practices will you use to assure that change is facilitated?


Ability and Willingness to Participate as a Member of a Team

As a member of a team, would one expect to always "win", "get their way" or "prevail"?


A Willingness to Collaborate

If agriculture is growing more interdependent, would managers need to collaborate more frequently?

How does information and risk (as well as the other economic resources) relate to a strategy of collaboration?


Negotiating Skills

If interdependence and collaboration are trends in agriculture, do managers need the ability to effective develop (negotiate) business agreements?


A Sense of Business Ethics and Social Responsibility

Ethics -- moral principles and values that govern behavior; different than law
Balancing social responsibility against achieving the goal of business success.

Examples of ethical values and practices --

  • honesty
  • integrity (will not compromise moral and ethical principles)
  • being respectful of others, e.g., employees, customers, local and global community
  • taking responsibility when a task needs attention
  • striving to achieve the group's goals, not just personal goals
  • protecting confidential information
  • acknowledging the accomplishments and contributions of others (rather than taking credit for the accomplishments);
    accepting responsibility when something has gone wrong (rather than "pointing the finger" at others)
  • respecting others and accepting that their values, goals and practices will be different than yours, but that their practices are no less valuable
  • practicing open communication (not gossiping; informing people when they need to be informed)

Environmental impacts -- practicing sustainable resource usage by the business

Follow your conscience

Comply with legal requirements (law)

Comply with expectations of buyers, such as, "certify that your production practices, and the production practices of your suppliers, are "green"; only then will we purchase from you."

Protecting the safety and integrity of employees

"Social Accountability International (SAI) works to improve workplaces and combat sweatshops through the expansion and further development of the international workplace standard, SA8000, and the associated SA8000 verification system."
SA 8000

An ethical issue is likely to arise when our alternative or decision will have a significantly different or opposing outcome on our goals of equal priority.

"Do I reveal this unlikely (low-probability) problem that could affect our customers' health or do I not reveal this unlikely problem? Revealing the problem assures we will incur a cost (e.g., cash cost and possibility poor public relations) to assure the unlikely problem will not occur. On the other had, not revealing the problem avoids the sure cost but exposes us and others to possible costs (e.g., cash cost and poor public relationships plus health cost to customers who fall ill) if the unlikely event does occur. I do not want ill customers but I do not want to incur the unnecessary cost of solving a 'non-problem.' What do I do?"

  • cost/benefit analysis for everyone who could be affected?
  • decision maker considers only his or her long-term interests?
  • consider the impact your decision will have on others' fundamental rights?
  • make decision on basis of equity, fairness and impartiality

Personal values v. organization's values

Ethical ideas need to be personal values and practices before they will become the values and practices of the organization/business.

What is the organization's social responsibility?

  • Minimize externalities even if not legally obligated to do so?
  • Invest into the community and society even if the investment is not legally mandated or necessary to promote production and sales of the business product?
  • Recognize that business profit is not the goal, but a tool for achieving the goal (e.g., an improved standard of living for all) and that profit is not the only tool for achieving the goal.
  • Who establishes the organization's values? Who are the stakeholders?
  • Ethical leaders and workers, ethical leadership and work, formal code of ethics?

How is an organization's value implemented and maintained?

  • Economic responsibilities (goal of business is to earn a profit),
  • Legal responsibilities (goal of business is to "not violate the law"),
  • Ethical responsibilities (does a business have a goal with respect to ethics?)
  • Market-driven responsibilities (buyers may not be interested in your product unless you can certify ethical treatment of workers and environmental stewardship; this expectation not only applies to your activities, to also to your suppliers' activities)

What practices will you use to assure the business is operated ethically?

Do any of these articles help our thought processes? Ethical decision making and Business ethics -- both sites are maintained by the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, Santa Clara University.


Good Agricultural Practices (GAP)

Managers must not only consider the quality of agricultural commodities and whether the commodities can be processed into safe food, but managers must also pursue ethical and socially acceptable production practices.  An international trend is for an independent third-party to certify that producers are following practices that will assure commodity buyers as to what they are purchasing and how the commodities were produced.

Global G.A.P.

"... an initiative by retailers belonging to the Euro-Retailer Produce Working Group. British retailers working together with supermarkets in continental Europe become aware of consumers’ growing concerns regarding product safety, environmental impact and the health, safety and welfare of workers and animals.

"Their solution: Harmonize their own standards and procedures and develop an independent certification system for Good Agricultural Practice (G.A.P.)."

Global G.A.P. Code of Conduct

"... Code of Conduct underlines our commitment to certain values. It determines our daily work, the way we communicate and act within the company and with our stakeholders."

GLOBALG.A.P. Certification covers:

  • Food safety and traceability
  • Environment (including biodiversity)
  • Workers’ health, safety and welfare
  • Animal welfare
  • Includes Integrated Crop Management (ICM), Integrated Pest Control (IPC), Quality Management System (QMS), and Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP)

Question: What is the relationship between 1) consumers and food processors demanding more of agricultural producers and 2) the rise in consumer income and advances in information technology?  HINT:  consumers do not consume more food when their income rises, but instead are more selective about which foods they consume?  Information technology facilitates consumers in being more selective about their food?


Quick review:

Is there much difference in how a manager approaches these needs depending on who the manager is interacting with?  Why?

  • Managers need to be able to communicate; both in terms of sending information and receiving information.
  • Managers must provide leadership.
  • Managers must be accepting of change and to help others change.
  • Managers need to be ethical; there is more to life than profit.


The next page addresses Strategic Planning.

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