Feb. 19 2021 12:13 PM

The virtual event provided insights from irrigation industry executives.

Landscape and irrigation professionals picked up new industry insights and leadership skills at the 2021 virtual Leadership Summit hosted by the Irrigation Association, Fairfax, Virginia. The event brought together executives and top business experts to discuss what it takes to be successful at the head of your team and projects.

Following the keynote by Kelly Schulz, Maryland secretary of commerce, four industry leaders came together on a panel moderated by John Farner, IA industry development director, to talk about how leadership affects resilience within an organization, especially while working through the COVID-19 pandemic. Part of that discussion focused on what makes it important to be involved with industry associations as a leader.

“We decided that it was important to have a voice, really,” says Jon Topham, CAIS, CID, chief operating officer for Irrigation Design & Construction LLC, Patterson, California, and past president of the Irrigation Association. Though it can be easy to hang back and let others make decisions, sharing ideas and promoting what makes the most sense for your team is critical.

The panel covered a wide range of topics, including the best methods to develop and share company culture with acquisitions as well as ways to solicit and work with feedback from team members and employees.

“I think the biggest thing in leadership is touchpoints – how we can take ourselves out of the day-to-day of leading, going back and empathizing and talking to our direct reports and our peers, and trying to find out avenues to help them be successful,” says Doug York, president and CEO of Ewing Irrigation, Phoenix.

When it comes to work-life balance and the best way to approach company structure during the pandemic, it’s important to remember that all employees have perspectives on what works for them, says Greg Hunter, CEO at Hunter Industries, San Marcos, California.

“Everybody’s experiencing this very differently,” he says. “Some people are doing well, some people are struggling.”

Even when a leader doesn’t know all the answers or is new to the industry, it can be a chance to let employees show their expertise, says Michael Hemman, president and CEO of Netafim, Fresno, California.

“It’s also a great opportunity to empower your employees, and ask your employees to provide input as well,” he says. “Most of the answers are there. They’re in the field, they’re in the manufacturing site. People are just waiting to be asked and to be able to provide their input.”

The event also featured panels on leadership communication strategies, technology and the future of global business, and success in a post-pandemic world.

For more information on upcoming Irrigation Association conferences, visit www.irrigation.org/virtualconferences.