When the Stockgrowers Leadership Series was launched in January, fourteen young members of the ranching community gathered from across Montana to embark on the inaugural 12-month journey to improve their skills and learn more about our industry. Now four months into the program, the class participants are enthusiastic about their progress and even considering different perspectives about what leadership means in their career roles.

During the month of February, Leadership Series participants were challenged to consider their personal brands of leadership. This included identifying their own strengths and how those play into career goals and aspirations to contribute in the ranching community. The goals and leadership statements submitted by the class represent diversity in our ranching communities, and reflect their goals to collaborate and build a brighter future for our industry.

For their March meeting, the class met in Helena where Jay Bodner, Natural Resources Director for the Montana Stockgrowers Association, led the class through exercises to demonstrate the principles of running an effective meeting. This includes planning an agenda, video conference etiquette and better understanding the principles of Roberts Rules of Order to facilitate meeting discussions that ensure all participants have an opportunity to contribute. The class then took an opportunity to learn more about how the policymaking process can be used to address issues on the local level and influence policy that guides our industry leaders. An important piece to this exercise was being able to identify components of writing effective policy resolutions.

The class then participated in discussions to communicate better with our audiences, both within and outside the ranching industry. Important elements include greater awareness of how our word choice, listening skills and non-verbal cues can impact how our message is received by others. These skills can be used in a number of situations, leading local organizations or aiding to moderate disputes on hot topics in order to have more effective conversations.

On the second day of the meeting, the Leadership Series class then joined the Montana Stockgrowers’ Board of Directors for an update from the Montana Department of Livestock (DOL). On hand to answer questions about Department changes and outlook were Board of Livestock cattle representative Nina Baucus, DOL Executive Officer Mike Honeycutt and Brands Enforcement Division Administrator Leslie Doely. The group received insight into how the DOL is working to address recent and current challenges faced by the Montana livestock industry.

To wrap up the March meeting, the class spent time learning about other areas of the agriculture community and information to benefit their careers in the ranching business. Krista Lee Evans visited with the class, sharing her experience and lessons learned as a business owner and Executive Director for the Montana Agricultural Business Association. Evans answered questions on important topics in the larger agricultural community including water laws, biotechnology and general ag policy. Ty Wells from Montana Livestock Ag Credit then closed the meeting by providing an overview and answering questions regarding the structure of agricultural banking and lending options for younger generations in the ranching business.

A special thank you goes to Montana Agricultural Business Association and Montana Grain Elevator Association for making a contribution this past month to financially support the future of the Montana Stockgrowers Leadership Series. If you would like to donate to this leadership program for young Montana ranchers, visit the Montana Stockgrowers Association website and note “Stockgrowers Leadership Series” in the comments of the donation form.

To learn more about this program, see my previous posts about the Leadership Series. I am excited to continue this program throughout the year with this class as we continue working on topics that will benefit their future in ranching. This is a great group of individuals who will not only make a positive impact in their local communities, but also across Montana and our entire industry in the years to come!

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