I have thought of this analogy many times during meetings and last week it came up again. In this situation, the “coach” was the Dad in his 80s. The “players” included a son, a son-in-law, a daughter, and the spouse of his deceased son, plus two grandsons, a step-grandson and a key hired employee. As we progressed through the meeting, he told me what each player was thinking and saying. The player’s comments to the coach have been: I’m your child, I have been around the longest, I have the most mechanical skills, I work more than anyone else, I understand the financial part of the business, that person never talks to anyone, I show up to work every day, this person doesn’t know how to fix, that person is not a good leader, this is the way I see it, that person’s spouse is questionable, nobody can work with that person.

The "player" comments all seemed like they all looked at things from their perspective. It reminded me of the many times I had coached a sports team. Sometimes the team had lost the game and the coach was disappointed, but an individual was happy because they had played a good game. Other times the team was happy, but an individual was sad with the way they had performed.

A good coach is looking at things from all angles and the overall goal for the team to win the game. The coach is looking at who needs to do what and when they should do it and why certain things are done a certain way at a certain time. Different things affect a coach’s game decisions. Performance in practice, late for practice, someone forgetting the plays, certain players playing better together or someone with more talent in a certain area are all factors in coaching.

With farm estate planning, the coach may look at how people work together or how they take care of equipment. Do the players invest their own time and money into the operation? Do they find things to do? Are they the first one to get there and the last one to leave or the other way around? Is their vision down the road or their next paycheck?

In this appointment, there were several times I suggested a solution and the Dad would say, “oh, I didn’t explain everything, so here is why that won’t work.” I would listen and usually respond “oh, that makes sense now.” The fact is most coaches look at the big view and players look at their own view. Often if players are called out they don’t like it, but the good ones often understand that the coach is trying to make them and the team better. I can also tell you that in this farm situation the coach was ready to make pretty tough decisions that some will be happy about and others not so happy, but he was clearly doing the best thing for the team.

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So how would you critique yourself as a coach or as a player? If you’re the coach, do you look at things from all angles? Do you get stuck in your ways or play favorites? Can you communicate well? What about if you’re a player? Are you a self-centered player or a team player? Can you see the bigger picture?

What about your farm? Are the coaches and players all doing their jobs with the same goal in mind? Sometimes I think it would help if the coaches made sure to listen to what the players are saying. Other times I think it would be helpful if the players thought about the coach’s team centered view point before offering their opinion.

Myron Friesen is the co-owner of Farm Financial Strategies Inc. in Osage, Iowa. He can be contacted at 866-524-3636 or friesen@farmestate.com.