Learning how to handle tough times

Bluff Station’s Hamish and Jess Murray are part of a new project to make farms better workplaces....
Bluff Station’s Hamish and Jess Murray are part of a new project to make farms better workplaces. PHOTO: FMG MEDIA
Farmer Hamish Murray now knows the importance of soft skills for his family’s high-country sheep and beef farm in Marlborough.

The trigger for this was when he went through one of the region’s toughest droughts in 2014-15.

"My cup was empty; I had nothing left to give. When I reached emotional breaking point, it was obvious that to be successful at leading others, I needed to look at myself first. Soft skills aren’t a typical priority on-farm, but they matter the most if you want to attract, train and retain the best team."

Mr Murray is sharing his experience at Bluff Station, in the Clarence River Valley, as part of a new initiative funded by the Ministry for Primary Industries to have more great workplaces in the food and fibre sector.

Knowing he had to make a change, he joined a series of coaching courses, found mentors and did a Nuffield scholarship.

He then shared this with his team.

"I worked out what I can control or change, and what I can’t. I learnt how to ask better and more open questions. We created a team, not a hierarchy. Accessing some very practical and powerful resources, improved my wellbeing, grew our staff’s self-awareness, and made our family business a better place to work."

The Great Workplaces initiative is being led by the Growing New Zealand/Primary Industry Capability Alliance (Pica) after being developed with the help of industry organisations.

Pica chief executive Michelle Glogau said the project promoted people and initiatives already leading the way.

"It’s a way to share their ideas and knowledge, and inspire other employers, managers and business owners working in food and fibre," she said.

Farmers and others could access personal stories and insights as well as leadership and coaching courses, staff training, and personality profiling.

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