A farm team is the “back-up” resources that comprise a minor league team and can be utilized by the major leagues when deemed “worthy” and “necessary.” Known specifically in the context of sports, I’m using this blog to look at farm teams in a whole new light. Specifically, what would a farm team mean, or look like in an organizational setting?
In the context of a typical workplace, I like to think of a farm team as the people who act as your very best professional resources. A farm team can comprise individuals from one specific organization, or people scattered across several places you’ve worked. But the common thread among those who make up your farm team is that they have been the most crucial to your development as a professional and as a person.
For instance, they may inspire, teach or show you how you want to lead, who to know, what skills to sharpen, how to handle conflict and manage other people. I would even argue that many of the resources they provide are of a deeper dimension. They are the shoulders you lean on, the ears you to vent to, the safe places you go to and the true norths that guide you. Despite the obstacles of bureaucracy and politics, status quo and dormancy, and toxicity and dysfunction, they inspire you motivate you to see the success you can still create, the people you can still impact and the mission you can still fulfill. They just may be the people that provide the best laughs, lunch breaks and quality time, too.
My farm team began with a group of individuals at the place I kicked off my career as a fundraising professional. The culture of the organization was not the best (that may be an incredible underestimation), however, sometimes the worst circumstances can bring the best out of people and where you learn the most about yourself. From a skills perspective, you learn how to operate in the midst of dysfunction (that’s a pretty incredible feat), you learn you are capable of more than you anticipated and you can pull off incredible successes despite the demeaning odds against you. From a relational perspective, you realize there are people out there who are negative, lazy and egotistical, but there are incredibly compassionate, hardworking and positive people out there motivated by a mission greater than themselves (hint: the latter of these groups are who you should stick with). You will learn how to treat people and that every person, every single person, has an important and necessary role.
I bonded with people in the midst of dysfunction for many reasons – to vent frustration, to maintain sanity, to navigate the war zone, to grow my knowledge and professionalism. As a result, I not only have a group of professionals that I can go to for advice on any work-related issue, but a group of people that I get to enjoy friendship with.
Some people may be against becoming friends with those you work with, but since you spend the most time with those people, why not build friendships with them? Of course, you should maintain professional courtesy, but you should like those you work with and want the best for them, as they should want the best for you.
The best part is that your farm team never shrinks. It only expands by welcoming people who continue to help you develop and want to see you realize your fullest potential over different phases and places in your career. So welcome the people who uplift you, inspire you and better you. Call on your farm team equally in the moments of frustration, uncertainty and despair as in times of celebration and success.
I was reminded recently of the power of my farm team, as I reunited with many of my teammates for a usual get-together. I am lucky to call them colleagues and friends. We have all been through too much for the two titles to be mutually exclusive.
To my farm team friends, and you know who you are, thank you. Thank you for guiding me through a very difficult phase of my professional career, but for being the best mirrors in showing me who I am and who I can become. You’ve kept purpose and goodness as the fuel that keeps me going. Your advice, your stories, your laughter, your shoulders, your ears, your kindness, your hugs, and your love is appreciated, never forgotten, and always reciprocated.