Saturday, January 31, 2015

A lesson in leadership

I was recently asked to write a blog post for the Loddon Murray Community Leadership program - here it is below :)

A lesson in leadership ….

Dianne and Gary Bowles from Cohuna are strong advocates for the dairy industry.
Dianne and Gary Bowles from Cohuna are strong advocates for the dairy industry.
Dianne Bowles of Cohuna describes herself as a professional dairy farmer, a Board Member at the North Central Catchment Management Authority, and a Director of Murray Dairy. She is also a graduate of the Loddon Murray Community Leadership Program (2012).
Over and beyond her many public roles she recently discovered that her leadership skills were required closer to home.   Di is our first guest blogger for 2015 and we thank her for sharing her story.

Sometimes just one little thing can cause you to lose focus on what you are trying to achieve.
My husband Gary and I own and run a dairy farm in Northern Victoria. Gary has lived here all his life, me for only the last 9 years when I married him. Consequently even though I have learnt an awful lot about dairy farming, there are still things I can’t (or choose NOT) to do.
Recently, Gary became ill with chest pains while we were doing a routine vaccination program with our calves. He kept placing his hand on his chest and looked quite pale.
Naturally as a caring wife I kept nagging him to stop and that I would take him to the hospital. Of course as a stoic farmer – he wanted to keep going and get the job done!
Thankfully caring wife won and we headed into our local hospital.
Cohuna District Hospital is a great facility with caring staff and we also have a fabulous GP in Dr Peter Barker. He met us at the hospital as I had rung through, and after several tests diagnosed pleurisy and not a heart attack – which I was MOST relieved about. However he recommended that Gary stay in hospital until late evening when further test results would be back. This meant that he wouldn’t be home to milk and to do various other jobs that were required. Also his blood tests had to be driven to Kerang (20 minutes drive away) for urgent testing.
For those who also know me – I’m an organiser. I was delegated the job of driving the blood to Kerang which was fine – in the time it took me to drive there and then back home, I had organised all I needed to – both in my head and by a couple of phone calls (yes I used hands free). Arrived back home feeling confident and organised – I can do this I thought to myself.
Thankfully a friend had fed out hay for me and fetched cows from the paddock ready for milking. Our Saturday night milker arrived to help with the milking and I set the shed up once as the cows arrived. I don’t think I mentioned that it was 43 degrees on the day so needless to say I arrived with the cows hot and sweaty. I had also fed calves and set up electric fence in the paddock for that nights feed for the milkers.
So as you can see although busy I was ticking off my list nicely and I was feeling quite proud of myself. The herd arrived at the dairy and I went to turn on the sprinklers to cool the cows down and couldn’t work out how to do it- Gary had recently changed the set up for this and I didn’t know how to do it.
For some reason this was the proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back”. I had got this far quite confidently but now it seemed to me all was lost. Now I’ve completed the leadership program, led groups, chaired some pretty volatile meetings and couldn’t managed to wet my cows back on a hot day – FAIL!
So what did I do? Sat down on the step and cried. Worker came to ask if I was ok – said I couldn’t work out sprinklers – he had a look and couldn’t work it out either. He then asked me what to do?
There must have still been a small spark of leadership somewhere left in my brain – as I racked it for what to do. Finally came up with what we had done in the past before sprinkler system was installed – I turned on the hose and manually hosed down the cows (whilst crying and receiving sympathy from the cows)
For me this was a real lesson in our leadership journeys – we think we are travelling along well – we are ticking off our lists and boxes and achieving what we want to when quite often all of a sudden one little thing shakes our resolve and we feel like throwing in the towel.
My message to you is – don’t let it! Think of a plan B, C or even D and carry on! You never know what can be achieved unless you try.
And yes Gary is ok – tired but ok, and I now know how to use the sprinklers (it was just a lever).Di Bowles cows portraitNB:  And for any other aspiring dairy farmers in the North-Central region of Victoria, please note that dairy scholarships are generously offered by the Gardiner Foundation each year to the Loddon Murray Community Leadership Program.

Thursday, January 1, 2015