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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

"Staying Focused During Challenging Times"

By now every County Extension Agent in the state knows that Texas AgriLife Extension Service is currently facing some challenging economic times which has necessitated a staffing realignment.

This past week has certainly been challenging as I carried out the difficult task of informing those agents, staff members and commissioners courts of the realignment of their Extension positions. It is extremely hard to inform four highly productive agents of the elimination of their position due to no fault of their own. I understand that the morale of agents is very low, but we must work together to continue to provide assistance to our clientele of District 11. During challenging times, agents need to be confident in their leadership, that shows a clear and concise plan for the future!

The following are strategies that we have previously discussed but are certainly worth revisiting as we think about dealing with challenging times;

- Prioritize or re-prioritize. Agents should establish clearly defined goals and ensure that they are  focused with  priorities that align with Texas AgriLife Extension’s Strategic Plan.

-Develop the leaders. During economically challenging times leaders are critical at every level of the organization. These are volunteers in your program that you should invest in their capabilities and leadership. Developing volunteer leaders and cooperators, within your county has a positive impact on morale and productivity. It will also keep your volunteers looking forward with a futuristic focus.

- Don’t reconsider whether you will conduct training; rather, reconsider the method of training delivery. Contemporary methods for delivery provides an alternative way to eliminate costs. Delivery methods such as teleconferences, virtual or remote classrooms, e-learning and podcasts can help to optimize training while avoiding the costs of travel and accommodation.

-Focus on Program Outcomes. Ensuring that programmatic efforts result in measurable programmatic outcomes is critical during economically challenging times.

- Renew focus on communication. Our programs need agents that are confident during challenging times to communicate to clientele that there is a plan for the future.

-Explore methods to increase and diversifying funding sources such as grants for county programs.

-Focus on clientele satisfaction. Clientele talk to each other, elected officials, donors, foundation directors etc. The most effective interpretation is provided by satisfied clientele who voluntarily communicate how Extension has impacted them in a positive manner.

-Focus on program interpretation. The formula for support of elected officials includes good programming, program visibility, and effective interpretation.

As an agent told me yesterday, what concerns me most is the loss of one of my Extension family members. I too am concerned for those four agents, however, their is always a place for good hard working people, I am confidant that these individuals will be able to find another position within our agency or in another area of their choosing. If you have any questions please give me a call.  DM