Focus on personality

By Country News

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?

For agronomist Cam Nicholson, answering these questions has been a passion of his for the past 15 years.

He has spent years studying the behaviour of his clients to develop a better understanding of how personality types affect learning and business operation.

Over the past several years, Mr Nicholson said he had developed his own assessment guide for farmers, based on the temperament typing of the Myers Briggs Type Indicators and the work of Queensland psychologist and beef producer Rod Strahan.

Mr Nicholson said farmers could broadly be divided into four types — the dependables, the doers, the pioneers and the team builders.

Dependables love what they do, are very reliable and methodical and need a good reason to change, while doers, although a bit like the dependables, work at a more frantic pace and tend to not quite finish off jobs.

Pioneers are the first to try something, adopt new technology quickly, love to think strategically about the big picture and take risks, while team builders farm with intergenerational change and the environment in mind, and both males and females contribute equally.

‘‘About 80percent of farmers fall into the first two categories with about 55percent being dependables and 25 per cent being doers,’’ Mr Nicholson said.

By comparison, he said the general Australian population was composed of 40percent dependables and 15percent doers.

‘‘The balance are the pioneers and the team builders, who together make up about 20percent of farmers. In the Australian population there are only 15percent of these types.’’

When it came to providing on-farm advice, Mr Nicholson said the trick was to assess your clients’ temperament type by asking questions, assessing their answers and observing how their farm operated.

‘‘In many cases, adding women to the decision-making mix is also positive, as that helps to balance out the way in which decisions are made and information gathered,’’ Mr Nicholson said.

‘‘There’s a bit of conjecture over the actual split, but I believe that the influence on temperament types is 40percent genetic, 40percent what you learn in the formative years aged 12 to 15, and about 20per centthe crowd you hang with.

‘‘And funnily enough, there’s not a lot of difference between the average Australian farmer in his and her 50s and 60s, and the younger digital natives coming through — they’re young, but they’re inherently conservative.’’