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Editor’s Note: Writing the book on Canada’s farms (2)

Two issues ago, I asked, what would it look like if the business section at Chapters was crammed with books about our farmers?

Business books are popular for a reason. It’s easy to mock them, I know, especially the ego strokers that get written so breathlessly by ghost writers who understand there is only one reader who matters… i.e. the person who hired them. It’s easy too to scoff at the latest buzzword-of-the-month hardback, and the books that really seem to belong more in the self-help aisle than in business.

For all that, however, it bears repeating. Business books are popular for a reason, and the reason has a lot to do with the nature of business itself.

There is an art (some would say a magic) to business because success depends on such a large number of traits and characteristics working together to keep the ship balanced.

Business takes courage, but it punishes foolhardiness. It takes imagination, but it punishes anything except the tightest of grips on reality. It takes insight, it takes iron-fisted determination, it takes endurance, it takes insight, it takes intelligence, it takes leadership, it takes… well, you get the picture.

Business takes the full person. But none of us are “the full person.” Psychologist Pierrette Desrosiers wrote for us in January that when researchers recently studied “great” versus “not great” business leaders, they found that the great leaders excelled in two areas. They ranked very high for being task oriented, and also very high for being so people-focused that others wanted to work with them and achieve great things.

But not both. Fewer than one per cent of the great leaders actually scored above average in both the results-focused and the people-focused categories. Instead, the business leaders were lopsided — as everyone usually is. They were well above average on one score, and below average on the other. A mere five per cent of great leaders managed to be even average in both.

It’s just more proof of why insight is so crucial to business success. No one knows it all. We are all looking for the secrets that will let us put the complete package together.

It’s why I think a defining characteristic of good business managers is that they know how to say “Ah ha!” It’s like they have a special receptor so that when they hear the advice they need, it goes instantly to the core of their brains.

Hence the success of business books, which only need to deliver one flash in order to be successful.

If I could add an ambition to agriculture’s already busy agenda for 2016, it would be to get more farmers on more business panels, and to get them integrated into more business organizations and think-tanks this year.

Things are going on in agriculture which ought to be watched in the rest of the economy. Business thinkers are leading our farms who can share the foundations of their success.

Books about farmers should line the shelves at Chapters, and the business world should learn what farmers have learned, that it is possible to become as sophisticated as this new age demands, and to keep your values.

Am I getting it right? Let me know at [email protected].

About the author


Tom Button is editor of Country Guide magazine.


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