Apr 3, 2020
NCAE Column: Looking ahead allows for proper planning, growth

Whumpf! It happened again! The third time in a month, no less!

I ride the Metro train every morning when I come into work. It’s convenient and far quicker than if I tried to drive into town. I even try to beat the rush at the train station by making it there long before most commuters roll out of bed. That way, I avoid the crush of the crowd.

Recently my morning commute requires me to navigate around folks in the station, seemingly so captivated by what’s transpiring on their smartphone screens they can’t see me walking toward them until they run right into me. This happens regardless of how I try to dodge and dance around them.

Their heads are down, glued to their screens and they seemingly have no peripheral vision. Thrice in a month’s time people have run right into me! Good thing I’m not of diminutive stature, as I’ve not been knocked over … yet.

Then, to top it off, they glimpse up from their phone momentarily to glare as if the incidental contact was my fault, not theirs. What’s up with that?

Perhaps it’s a sad sign of our times. And, maybe we see something akin to this behavior in leadership these days regardless of the entity.

What do I mean by that? When someone’s focus is so targeted and looking down at the same time, they have no ability to see what’s coming at them. Just like me walking toward someone who is fixated on their device in the train station. They can’t see me because they are consumed by what is just inches in front of their eyes. Images on their periphery seem more like noise, than other people hustling to catch the train.

Leaders, like commuters, should keep their heads up so they can see what’s coming at them. Their heads should be on a swivel. They should be constantly surveilling the environment to identify threats while always keeping an eye out for enticing opportunities. Leaders’ focus should never be down, backward or so targeted that they are prevented from noticing the swirl of circumstance swimming past.

Unfortunately, many organizations and businesses suffer from this malady. Leadership keeps its head down focusing solely on what lies in close proximity. Or, they are looking backward as if something in the past is other than in the past. Leadership can be so targeted in their focus they only see an individual tree, and miss seeing the forest in which the tree thrives.

It can be challenging for organizations and businesses, and the individuals they represent, to get into the habit of looking forward. It’s tough to break your gaze from what you know, but it’s healthy and important to do so. Looking ahead allows for planning and growth. Successful enterprises do just that.

The National Council of Agricultural Employers (NCAE) just wrapped its 56th Annual Meeting here in Washington, D.C. In addition to hearing from a number of members of Congress at the meeting as well as the Secretary of Agriculture, members walked the halls of Congress pressing the need for Congress to look ahead.

The needs of agricultural employers cannot be met with policies and practices that are over 30 years old. That’s in the past. And, if the solutions were right in front of our eyes, we would have seen them by now.

NCAE members implored Congress to find a way forward to the future, without the constraints of the past. The House has done their part and the Senate now needs to do theirs. You can remind the Congress the agricultural labor crisis cannot be solved by narrowly focusing on what has been tried and failed. America deserves an agricultural labor policy designed for the future.

And, if you come to Washington and decide to take the Metro, keep your head up because you know that others won’t.

— Michael Marsh, president & CEO, National Council of Agricultural Employers





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