You might call Dr. Larry Cole the U.S. poultry industry’s psychologist. He has probed the industry psyche for over two decades, making a practice of asking penetrating questions aimed at making poultry companies and growers better at their jobs.

Cole, who conducts grower relations seminars for U.S. Poultry & Egg Association, challenged attendees of the Poultry Production and Health Seminar to assess their competencies and get better at their jobs.

His questioning of the attendees, many of whom were poultry company personnel responsible for managing live-production programs, included, “How good are you at your job? Are you good enough to get better?”

Critical to this challenge is the individual manager’s awareness of his/her competence – or lack of it. The unfortunate truth is that too many managers rise to the level of their incompetence and then are the least aware of it.

Cole encouraged the industry managers to continually assess their own strengths and weaknesses and seek input from supervisors, peers or growers. Managers need to identify and work on their own behavioral and emotional blind spots.

“Become a student of yourself,” Cole advised the poultry managers. “Examine your thoughts, feelings and actions. Become a sponge to soak up feedback. Open yourself ... whatever you learn is OK.”

Cole’s core message: Successful management and performance boils down to people. “What business are you in? It’s not poultry ... it’s the people business. Success in people determines business success.”

The poultry complex should be considered a university that teaches the technical and interpersonal skills needed to be successful, he said. This requires leadership, which starts with every manager.

Cole’s recommendations for poultry companies included the following:

-Every poultry complex should offer training on how to speak and write in ways to maximize relationships.

-Regularly scheduled training should address both technical and people skills.

-Every manager should have a personal improvement plan involving both technical and people skills.

-Every poultry complex should have a personnel improvement plan. People skills are too valuable to waste. People are too valuable to lose.

How good do you want to be?