We sat down with New Zealand Young Farmers board member, Chloe Belfield, to chat about having the confidence to put yourself out there, building your leadership skills, the benefits of being young in your career, and seeing where the road takes you.
Long-time member Chloe joined New Zealand Young Farmers (NZYF) at the age of 17. Now 24, she’s settling into both her board member role and as a Business Improvement Lead at Fonterra. At the moment, life is full on as she and her partner Cory moved back into the Waikato area last year and are busy planning their upcoming wedding (February 2023), all while running their newly launched fencing business.
Chloe explained, “I've been through different Club roles with Young Farmers as a member in different regions. With my full-time job at Fonterra, there has been exposure to skills that can be applied to governance, so I started thinking it might be good to apply these. It’s busy timing but it's been a good challenge because I figure the timing is never right for things, you just have to give them a crack.”
“...the timing is never right for things, you just have to give them a crack”
“I've been a Business Improvement Lead for seven months now, and working with Fonterra for four years. The job I'm in is something I never thought I would expose myself to but when I moved home to Waikato, I wanted a change and took a risk stepping into a different role, which has been good with very interesting projects. My day-to-day role depends on what projects we've got going. At the moment, I manage our wastewater irrigation projects on farms across New Zealand. Some of my work role skills transfer to my work as a board member with Young Farmers. There’s a lot of budgeting and figuring out where we're at, preparation work, and communication involved.”
Building leadership skills
Building on her leadership skills, she says being able to look at things from a different perspective is critical, especially in the boardroom. “We have people on the board with different skills for that reason. But sometimes, it’s just as important to understand where everyone's perspectives are coming from. And with communication, you need to be able to get your point across without causing conflict. When I compare these skills to my job, I have to have some tough conversations with people. If we go over budget with a project, I'm the person that has to talk to the contractor about it. Or if the project is not stepping into the timeline you have to have the guts to bring things up.”
On the NZYF board, she sits on the HR Subcommittee and is the Chair of the National Committee. Asking her what’s involved in her role as the Chair, she shared, “the National Committee has seven regional chairs and seven national committee delegates from across New Zealand. We come together twice a year plus three or four zoom meetings online. So as the Chair, I am making sure we have the agenda items that everyone's bringing to the table plus covering topics that they want to get off their chest.”
“I’m learning how to jump in and direct the conversation elsewhere to keep things moving along”
“I try to facilitate the committee discussion and make sure everyone gets the chance to have an opinion. It's quite important to ensure everyone has a chance to share because you’ll get different personalities where some people sit back and are very quiet and others will happily share.”
Being inquisitive, finding new ways of doing things
Being on the NZYF board, members receive a subscription to the Institute of Directors. She recently attended one of its events, and shared if not for NZYF she might not have attended.
“It was called ‘Future of the Food and Fibre Sector’ with speaker Ian Proudfoot from KPMG. What I enjoyed about the event was he went through things affecting New Zealand and the world right now. From COVID, drought, climate change, things like that. He made you think about what you can do about it. For example, with a recession in the future, how do you put your products into a smaller bag so that people can afford to buy it? It made me think about this in a Fonterra and Young Farmers perspective. It got me thinking about our (NZYF) membership subscription during a recession. It was really interesting!”
She finds participating on the board helps her get into an inquisitive space to look at things differently. When looking at what’s ahead for her in life, she’s asking that same question to herself.
“I’m feeling comfortable where I am, so I’m looking at what’s next for me. I am doing the Agri-Women’s Development Trust ‘Next Level’ course this year. So as part of that, it digs into what your why is. I'm hoping it will help me develop my next steps for the future.”
Having the confidence to meet new people
When it comes to putting herself out there to meet new people, she doesn’t put pressure on herself to go out and network. And she doesn’t use it as an opportunity to benefit her long-term aspirations. Instead, she’s looking at upcoming events and volunteer opportunities asking herself if it’s something she’s genuinely interested in.
“I got involved with organising events with Surfing for Farmers in Dunedin, because I like participating in the community, giving back when I can, and helping people. Through that, I met a like-minded friend from FMG. She is one of the most positive people I’ve ever met and she’s had such an impact on me. We would catch up once a week, and it was great to have someone to bounce things off, check how the week was and have a quick little carry-on. It was really awesome and we still keep in touch!”
“When I go to an event, I try to pick two or three people to talk to. If that happens, I’m quite content having those conversations and being around new people.”
As a self-proclaimed ‘extravert, usually full of beans’ Chloe knows that others may be more introverted when attending events. “My tip for people is to not be afraid of talking to new people because you can’t lose anything. Young Farmers is all about meeting new people and making new friendships. I know it can be hard going to your first event, you don’t know the people or their inside jokes but give it a couple of minutes and you’ll be good to go. You just have to get through it, have the confidence and give it a crack!”
The power of routine and reflection
With many different priorities on the go, she shared the importance of having a routine and what that meant for her overall mindset. “I try to go to the gym twice a week in the mornings, and then at least squash one afternoon, and to get fresh air. One of the things I enjoy is milking cows on my grandparents farm because it means a weekend outdoors.’
“I realised your mental health is actually important, and doing things you enjoy makes you feel like yourself.”
Thinking about what advice she’d give herself if she could go back in time to when she was just starting Uni, she said, “I would tell myself, don't be so hard on yourself. I probably still need to learn that today. I can give that advice and not take it very easily!”
She added, “you might think that you’re not good enough when you’re young. But you're still in your early phase. So my advice is taking time to reflect can really help. When I’ve just finished a board meeting and I’m on the plane heading home, I’ll sit there for five minutes and think, how'd that go? I try to get in the habit of doing this in a positive way.”
Reflecting back and looking forward
Reflecting back over the years, with her job changes and moving around New Zealand, we asked Chloe how she’s managed to stay involved with NZYF.
For me, Young Farmers is associated with the agriculture industry, so if I can go to a meeting and talk to people about cows - I’m there!”
“Staying involved is about keeping a Club going, so I would step up in different roles. When I moved across New Zealand, I wanted to keep in touch with people. And I liked that you could help with things you saw that needed help - not sit there just complaining about it, but doing something about it.”
“As for being on the board now, it’s not because I am looking for a huge governance career - I’m still figuring out where I want to go. But I’m really enjoying the learnings I have on the go, and I like how the board is in a position to keep the organisation on track.”
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