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Good Soil!


The people we surround ourselves with are more valuable than words can often express.  Recently, an old friend popped into my mind so I reached out to catch up.  He was amazing, generous & supportive as always.  We spoke about many things but the most prevalent & surprising was workplace culture.

He spent some 27 years in the newspaper business only to be unceremoniously let go in the name of “progress”.  Their loss was another’s gain.  His one-of-a-kind voice & magnetic temperament led him to employment in radio & community relations.  His passion for people has made him successful no matter the enterprise.  At this point in his career, he’s seen it all & has always believed that to grow good grass you must have good soil.

Most organizations are good at broadcasting what they do & how they do it.  It gets a bit more difficult to align everyone’s efforts toward why they’re doing it.  This communication is a constant challenge.  The real tough job in connecting to why remains of top concern for leaders.  It’s their ability to do this that often defines their effectiveness.  There are a number of turn-around savior stories, not the least of which is Alan Mullaly when he took over Ford Motor Company.  It was a massive undertaking, but ultimately he was successful in bringing them back to life.  How did he do it?  He couldn’t have personally met everyone in such a huge company.  How do leaders change the contaminated “soil” to keep businesses viable?

“Why” is Key

There’s nothing quite as compelling as a great vision for the future, of what could be.  We all want to be part of some endeavor larger than ourselves to make the world a better place.  It’s where personal growth is inspired.  This outlook is only the beginning, it takes leaders who are willing to go first with their effort to show the way.  Leaders know you don’t create movement toward a preferred future without others deciding to join the adventure.  None of us have joined to simply go along, we join out of the trust built on why it’s worth it.  The leaders have connected our passions to a higher purpose.  Our curiosity compels us to go even when the outcome isn’t exactly crystal clear.  We’ve decided it’s worth it, plain & simple!

Invest in People

For everyone to be successful, leaders have to commit to creating the proper environment.  It starts with a total commitment to people & realizing work is always a bring your own meaning endeavor.  The key is creating the right environment where everyone has the space to realize their potential.  Leaders must be brokers of “best”; supporting a culture where everyone feels safe to bring their best & that it’s always enough.  Best is just that…best.  Connection & extension of the collective “best” inside any organization keeps the focus on comprehensive agricultural growth.  We must let go of the hope for a better past & remain forward-looking.  After all, the future is the only place where change for the better can actually happen for our companies & ourselves.

In an article a few years back, Michigan State University Head Football Coach, Mark Dantonio stated his four aspects of setting (culture) goals.  You’ll notice each of these is rooted in a fundamental belief in others & what happens when we unleash a positive culture of together!

  1. Lifelong relationships  (This matters the most!)
  2. Successful & self-sufficient  (We can’t coach players on what we haven’t taught!)
  3. Build trust to “win” with people  (Peak their natural curiosity!)
  4. Positive impact through discipline & maturity  (Structure is the key!)

Back to my friend…he is living proof that staying true to who we are is enough to get through even the most trying adversity.  By creating limitless opportunities for others he has thrived.  His example doesn’t include a multinational corporation turn-around but his impact is just as impressive.  He now leads four different radio stations & continues to create meaningful progress in a seemingly “old-fashioned” medium.  He serves to inspire employees & millions of listeners every week.  What he has done for others is his legacy!

Organic farmers aren’t plant farmers they’re soil farmers.  They know that if they don’t take care of the soil it won’t matter what they plant.  Likewise, we must be intentional about the culture we foster because it’s always shifting, good or bad.  The intention we give to it keeps a healthy culture.  Who we are & what we do matters!  Take time to recognize the best efforts of those you lead; what’s rewarded will be repeated.  If we keep doing for a few what we wish we could do for everyone it will inspire amazing results!

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The Extension Foundation was formed in 2006 by Extension Directors and Administrators. Today, the Foundation partners with Cooperative Extension through liaison roles and a formal plan of work with the Extension Committee on Organization and Policy (ECOP) to increase system capacity while providing programmatic services, and helping Extension programs scale and investigate new methods and models for implementing programs. The Foundation provides professional development to Cooperative Extension professionals and offers exclusive services to its members. In 2020 and 2021, the Extension Foundation has awarded 85% of its direct funding back to the Cooperative Extension System, 100% of funds are used to support Cooperative Extension initiatives. 

This technology is supported in part by New Technologies for Ag Extension (funding opportunity no. USDA-NIFA-OP-010186), grant no. 2023-41595-41325 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or the Extension Foundation. For more information, please visit You can view the terms of useat

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