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Kristy Pagel, BA

Kristy Pagel, owner of Leading Edge Consulting, LLC works directly with dairies and agri-business delivering personal and professional development coaching through her expert knowledge, industry experience and relentless passion. With over 15 years of proven experience, she has gained the role as “trusted advisor” with many dairies throughout the industry. Kristy focuses on strategic evaluation of organizational structures, individual leadership coaching to build teams and a winning culture. She also provides professional meeting facilitation and trains on critical communication techniques. In addition, she serves as the Director of Business Development and Strategic Leadership for GPS Dairy Consulting LLC, as leader of the education and people development platform offered to their clients. Kristy is a graduate of University of Wisconsin Green Bay, receiving a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with an emphasis in Human Resources and Marketing. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for Dairy Girl Network and actively maintains leadership roles with multiple boards and organizations. She resides in Eastern Wisconsin with her family and enjoys many outdoor activities, volunteering and doing freelance floral design.


Articles by Kristy Pagel

Strategic Thinking and Strategic Planning: Leadership Requires BothClick to open Strategic Thinking and Strategic Planning: Leadership Requires Both

Focus + Synchronization + Execution = Success! Strategic thinking and strategic planning have significant impact on any organization and often, are viewed as one in the same when they are fundamentally different. Leadership requires both!

How Can Leaders Thrive Through Times of V.U.C.A.?Click to open How Can Leaders Thrive Through Times of V.U.C.A.?

Hey, it’s crazy out there! The daily challenges facing business owners, managers, leaders, employees, and well, let’s face it, the world we live in can easily be summed up as V.U.C.A., short for Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous. These factors make it harder for businesses to operate, no doubt, but the reality is that you can thrive through times of V.U.C.A. It’s a choice. It’s your choice to make. Thriving is an option!

Leaders Choose Whether They Want to Delegate or EmpowerClick to open Leaders Choose Whether They Want to Delegate or Empower

Delegation and empowerment are important and necessary tools for effective leadership. Think about when each is appropriate and how you are utilizing both within your organization and/or as an effective leader? When a leader delegates, it means that they give instructions to their employees and want them to act as they have been told. When a leader empowers, it means that they give their employees the responsibility and confidence to choose their path to do a specific job.

As you think about yourself as a leader, do you delegate tasks to your team, or do you motivate and empower them to do the job themselves? Is your team independent enough to be on their own or do they still need direction and instruction?

Often on a team where everyone is newer and/or inexperienced, delegation makes sense as it helps in improving time management, being more productive, and increases overall efficiencies. As an effective leader, this means that you will transfer the responsibilities to them according to their skills and job descriptions. You are the one providing instructions, creating to-do lists and directing assignments. This gives your team time to develop their skillset and their ability to learn. You are likely still focused at some level, on control, particularly if you are setting upfront protocols for what and how to do tasks and checking up on how the work is getting done. Keep in mind, this is important for a period of time, but not forever as it offers little opportunity for employees to grow. Hence, development is secondary.

Delegating is time consuming; I agree whole-heartedly and requires patience. Trust becomes a crucial component as an effective leader because you want to refrain from getting caught in the trap of continuously spoon-feeding instructions to your team. They will not have the ability to develop in their abilities. You won’t gain the space to expand your capacity nor capabilities. More followers are created through delegation over cultivating the growth and development of leaders within your organization.

Ask yourself, how much delegating am I doing and is this the culture I am seeking to provide or am I looking to have a balance of delegation and empowerment?

Choosing empowerment over delegation means that you are handing over the responsibility and providing the confidence for someone to do a specific job. In an organization’s culture where employees are empowered, this leads to increased engagement and a more creative and efficient workforce. By giving individuals the opportunity to grow and develop themselves, you will realize that they become more confident and responsible in themselves, and in you.

Empowering employees means that you have stopped spoon-feeding them, giving them greater authority over their work. This means that now they must take initiative, become more responsible and accountable. They become more creative because they do not have to follow orders.

As an effective leader, you are giving them decision-making and problem-solving responsibility. You focus on mentoring a person by seeding the potential for interest as well as developing required competencies, building skills, confidence, and capabilities. Development and growth of the individual and even the team are your primary focuses. Establishing a routine and running dialogue builds your relationship and your trust in them takes the place of your need to control.

Empowerment always comes from a noble desire to help make others grow, so focus more on how the employee can continuously get better. This, in turn automatically leads him/her to better execute tasks. It’s a win: win for you and them! It’s a bit of a mindset shift from only delegating.

Do keep a couple key things in mind; however, empowering can come at a cost too. Give consideration before deciding between delegation and empowerment as an effective leader. Consider that you might have a team member who will abuse their power when given authority. This requires you to be extra careful and keep a watchful eye out on and for them. Addressing this and providing feedback if and/or when it happens, is key.

There is also a chance of an increase in interpersonal conflict. The team got used to your leadership style and now, there will be a new leader. This different leadership might end up causing misunderstandings between employees. Additionally, while you want your employees to work independently, they must know how to work according to their expectations and training is required.

Empowering is complicated work with upfront time consumption, especially when you give problems or situations back to them to solve themselves. When you do this, you must be sure that they have both the desire and the ability to find a solid solution. If you are willing to invest the initial time and resources to develop and grow an individual and your team, it creates less work for you in the long run.

Delegation and empowerment are important and necessary tools for effective leadership. Striking a balance of when and how to utilize both within your organization will advance you as an effective leader.

Effective TeamsClick to open Effective Teams

Effective teams are the foundation of every successful organization. What makes one team effective while others are not is a bit complex. Effective teams are doing several things “right” starting with staying grounded to the business’s core values, mission and vision. It is what holds them together, through thick and thin.

Essential Skills to be an Effective CommunicatorClick to open Essential Skills to be an Effective Communicator

Communication…seems like it should be so simple, when in reality it is quite complex. It is essential in everything we do; everything! Communicating successfully and effectively involves sharing ideas, feelings and observations in a way that is clear, while also taking the time to listen and respond to others. When it comes to leadership, it is a core function and characteristic needed for success.

Maximizing Your Strengths and Developing Your WeaknessesClick to open Maximizing Your Strengths and Developing Your Weaknesses

What gets you going? What fuels your fire? What are you good at? What are you not-so-good at? Pause, ask yourself these questions, and seek feedback from others to better know and understand your strengths and weaknesses. Top performing leaders know and understand themselves. They are self-aware and this is part of their ongoing journey of “continually growing as a leader.”

The 3 Key Habits of Top Leaders on High-Performing TeamsClick to open The 3 Key Habits of Top Leaders on High-Performing Teams

The crossroads experienced over the last 12 months undoubtedly tested each and every person’s mindset, decision-making and leadership skills. All parts of dairy operations were impacted, especially the most valued asset: the people.

In the middle of a mountain of uncertainty and challenge, the key habits of top leaders on high-performing teams really surfaced. What was once a simple decision was now one that required additional thought, like deciding whether or not to hold routine team meetings or group trainings to developing a backup crisis plan ensuring that all the work could be completed if and/or when coronavirus surfaced on the farm. It meant figuring out and determining how to adjust to office staff working remotely while schooling their kids from home. These top leaders managed the same, yet differently.

Read more here.

Please note- this blog post correlates with an article written by Kristy Pagel for Progressive Dairy and can be viewed in its entirety at the link above. 

Leading with EmpathyClick to open Leading with Empathy

Everyone communicates, yet few truly connect.

Ask anyone to talk about a memorable leader that they have worked with and it is unlikely they will speak about the step-by-step protocol that they developed or their ability to create the annual budget. I’m not suggesting that technical skills are not important, far from it. Although very necessary, they are not sufficient alone when it comes to truly great leadership.

It is your interpersonal skills, often referred to as ‘soft skills,’ and your ability to relate to others that will determine how successful of a leader you become. You can be the most knowledgeable leader in the world, but if you are unable to relate or interact well with those around you, especially those in your team, you are unlikely to be totally effective in your role.

So, what is it that great leaders do to build strong relationships with those around them? They commit to developing and mastering the ‘soft skills’ of leadership. There are several and this commitment is an ongoing journey of learning and practice. You’ve heard the saying “People won’t always remember what you say; they do, however, remember how you made them feel.” Connecting is the ability to identify with people and relate to them in a way that increases your influence with them. A key leadership skill that advances your ability to ‘connect’ is empathy.

While empathy is a basic human quality, it often is lacking in our day-to-day lives and workplaces. According to Merriam-Webster, empathy is “the action of understanding, being aware of and being sensitive to one’s feelings, emotions, or pain vicariously as if it was experienced by themselves.” In short, empathy means imagining, or having the capacity to imagine, feelings that a person is feeling.

For leaders that have encountered some “life experiences” being empathic may come naturally and imagining isn’t needed. Here’s an example:

Imagine a member of your team goes through a tragic situation; for instance, she loses a close family member in an accident. We naturally feel sympathy for her and her family. We may send a text or write a card to express those feelings somehow. For the most part, though, we carry on and move forward with our lives.

But when we show empathy, we take more time…time to remember how we felt when we lost someone close to us (or how we would feel if we haven’t had this experience).

We think about how this affected our work and our relationships with others. Even further, we can or try to imagine specifically how this member of our team feels in this situation. We recognize that she (like every individual) will deal with the trauma in her own unique way.

Empathy has been described as “your pain in my heart.” The challenge is, as a leader, we are not always ready and for various reasons. If a leader can demonstrate true empathy to individual team members it will go a long way toward building that strong relationship and encourages an “all-in culture” for them to perform at their best. It likely will pay dividends inspiring the team to show empathy toward the leader, if and when it is needed.

So how can you, as a leader, practice being more empathetic?

  • The next time a member of your team comes to you with a problem or complaint; resist saying to yourself, “Not again. What now?” and having that negative attitude. Rather, try to think back to when you had a similar problem and if not you, someone you respect that has and ask yourself: “Why does this person feel this way? What can I do to help make the situation better?”
  • If it is a specific task or process that is causing problems to arise, try to work alongside the disgruntled team member, to better understand the person’s point of view. This does require you as the leader to slow down and it takes time. Showing empathy in this way will often motivate the one(s) you are trying to help. Not to mention the benefits this will bring to your working relationship.

Simply put, empathy begins by giving others the benefit of the doubt. When you display this pause, presence, and compassion; in the eyes of others, it makes us more human, approachable and easier to work with.

Leadership requires learning a number of skills and interpersonal (or ‘soft skills’) transform good leaders into great leaders. Empathy is one key leadership skill that will allow you to truly connect with others and likely, you will find that your ability to identify, relate, and increase your influence advances.

Transform Your Team in 2021Click to open Transform Your Team in 2021

Tune into this podcast with Kristy Pagel as she talks about one of the most powerful, yet simple, tools dairy teams can use to boost morale, empower people and take things to the next level in 2021.