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CLIENT NEWS: Dairy Women's Network brings the art of conversation to the farm

Dairy Women’s Network is running a series of free learning modules aimed at helping those in the dairy industry coach and empower the people they interact with on a daily basis.

The modules have been developed as a result of a recent DWN survey that identified people management as one of the biggest farm challenges facing its members.

Coaching Conversations, which is being sponsored by DairyNZ, will provide people in the dairy industry with the tools to enable those around them to gain the skills and resources they need to do their jobs well. Starting November, the course will be held in towns throughout New Zealand until early 2018.

Coaching is not the same as people management, but are skills that can be used in everyday conversations with your team, partner and kids and rural professional team, says one of the course’s developers Lynda Clark.

“Workplaces have changed drastically over the past decade or so as a result of a greater emphasis on leadership and teamwork and empowering staff,” she says.  “Coaching Conversations is about moving away from a problem-solving mind set to a coaching one.”

Having a “coach approach” prepares people to make the most of their skills and use them to take action.

“Sometimes it’s very easy to get caught in the mind set of ‘I need to have input into everything’ and people like this often think that nothing will get done unless they have input,” says Clark.

“Instead, if you were to give your team the confidence to tackle a problem or situation on their own, support them to find their own solutions, and work with them to build greater self-responsibility, you’ll develop individuals who feel empowered, valued for their contribution and able to do the task in your absence.”

She says in doing this, farmers and rural employees will build a team of people who feel invested in the work they’re doing and like they’re making a positive difference.

The half-day module is free and open to anyone working in the dairy industry, and Clark says attendees can expect to walk away with strategies to implement straight away.

Clark, alongside leadership expert Corene Walker, both facilitate a separate Navigational Conversations programme, which is aimed at managers and forms the basis of Coaching Conversations. Both bring to the module decades of experience in the agriculture and coaching sectors. Clark was also DWN’s founding general manager from 2007 to 2012 and has a sound understanding of what people in dairy want from a learning module.

“On this course we will take attendees through our five step coaching model to show how you can engage with people to get the best out of them, how to conduct a coaching conversation and ask good questions, and crucially, how to coach someone without solving problems for them.”

DWN chief executive Zelda de Villiers says the skills learnt in Coaching Conversations are a valuable part of a tool kit for anyone in the dairy sector. “Business roles are changing for farmers in general, particularly given the number of complex and large-scale farms we now see. This learning module focuses on contemporary and collaborative management and coaching and we think anyone in the rural sector can benefit from being part of this.”

DWN member Katherine Gillespie (pictured with her family at her Manawatu farm), has completed the Navigational Conversations programme, joins Walker and Clark as presenters on Coaching Conversations.

Gillespie, a dairy farmer from Manawatu, is a Kellogg Rural Leadership graduate and an inaugural participant in Agri Women’s Development Trust’s pathways programme. She says she has benefited immensely from the programme and is looking forward to helping others do the same.

“Once I started applying the coaching conversations system, communication became much more interactive and I realised how powerful it is for others to find their own solutions instead of me taking on the role of solution provider.”

To find a Coaching Conversations module near you, visit and register to attend online.