Adopting practice change
Host: Chris Brown | Date: 28 Nov 2018
People tend to see farmers as one large group of food and fibre producers. But have you ever thought about what different individuals they are? How would you encourage these independent, self-sufficient people to adopt change or innovate?
Agronomist Cam Nicholson is passionate about providing advice to boost farmers’ profitability and productivity, and one of the keys he uses is to work out the personality types of his clients.
Everybody learns and responds differently, Cam says, and over the past 15 years he’s developed his assessment of farmers based on the temperament typing of the Myers Briggs Type Indicators (MBTI) and the work of Queensland psychologist Rod Strahan.
Cam says farmers break up loosely into four types:
- SJs, or ‘the dependables’ – love what they do, very reliable and methodical. They need a good reason to change.
- SPs, ‘the doers’ – a bit like the dependables but they work at a more frantic pace and tend to not quite finish off jobs.
- NFs, ‘the pioneers’ – first to try something, adopt new technology quickly, love to think strategically about big picture, take risks.
- NFs, ‘the team builders’ – they farm with intergenerational change and the environment in mind, and both males and females contribute equally.
About 80% of farmers fall in to the first two categories - about 55% are dependables and 25% are doers. In the Australian population overall, the dependables are 40% and the doers account for 15%.
The balance are the pioneers and the team builders, who together make up about 20% of farmers. In the Australian population there are only 15% of these types.
The trick to providing advice, Cam says, is to pick the temperament type by asking the client questions, assessing their answers and observing how their farm runs.
This works both ways. Cam says farmers should identify their own personality types through simple testing online, so that they know their strengths and how they’ll respond to pressure or making decisions.
Then find complementary personality types within the business, he says, or bring someone with the necessary skills in. Ditto for involving women in the decision making, as that helps to balance out the way in which decisions are made and information gathered.
And while it’s difficult to change the personality type you’re born with, you can choose to work in some areas that aren’t natural to you, rather than continuing to work in the same way.
While there’s a bit of conjecture over the actual split, Cam believes that the influence on temperament types is 40% genetic, 40% what you learn in the formative years aged 12-15, and about 20% the crowd you hang out with.
And funnily enough, there’s not a lot of difference between the average Australian farmer in his/her 50s and 60s, and the younger digital natives coming through – they’re young, but inherently conservative, he says.
While it took him 15 years to learn this, Cam says he’s spent the following 15 years sharing his knowledge with others and becoming a more effective advisor.
Cam Nicholson, Nicon Rural Services
03 5258 3860 or 0417 311 098
GRDC Project code: SFS00028B
Was this page helpful?