Workplace: Fair Lessons

Many of you know, I “bleed green” – which means that I am from a 4-H family; participated in 4-H as a kid; and have volunteered for 4-H as an adult all over Idaho. A big part of the 4-H year includes learning and an “end-point” of exhibiting projects or showing animals at the annual county fair. Fair lessons abound for those of us who participated. Here are some of the pass-along fair lessons.

Deadlines. Be ready to show at The Fair or miss your opportunity until the next year’s fair. Early in my career, I was shocked by the number of workplaces that would simply renegotiate project deadlines rather than completing projects in the originally committed to timeframe. Fair lessons taught us to get it done on time or miss out this year and plan your time better next year.

Standards and Rules. Standards are teaching points. Standards create safety, consistency, and uniformity while still allowing creativity to shine. Follow the rules or be disqualified. Rules create structure that ensures safety, learning, and achievement. Without rules, a free-for-all would exist making projects more challenging to judge. Without standards and rules in our workplaces: safety would be at stake; consistent food products would not exist; clothing sizes would vary even more greatly than they already do; and so many more daily challenges would occur. Standards and rules are printed/online for each fair entry project area and project.

Participation. Participation counts. If you don’t show up, you can’t earn a ribbon or any prizes. If you don’t show up, you don’t learn lessons at the fair. Many fairs now give younger age groups participation ribbons to help them gain skills and to ease them into competitive judging. Some fairs only offer participation ribbons in certain project classes.

Competition. Competition is a part of every fair process too. Competing against other youth and their projects or animals. Competing to earn prize money and ribbons. Competing to earn a top price for selling an animal at auction. Competing to earn a spot in State Fairs and National events. Competition exists in the “real world” too. What a great opportunity to learn the lessons of competition at a young age so that deadlines, standards, and rules can be understood, met, and applied with increasing success.

Appropriate attire. Wear the correct safety gear. Put on a collared shirt. Press your clothing. Be clean. Look nice. At the fair, if you are not looking your best, you don’t score as highly as those who are when the judges come to you, your animal, or your project. These appropriate attire fair lessons apply to today’s workplace whether you work in a formal setting or in a business casual environment.

Interviewing skills. Most fairs have a judging process that includes interviews of 4-H and FFA youth members. These interviews are similar to workplace job interviews and focus on the youth and the project at hand. Learning to speak to an adult interviewer is a life skill and important fair lesson for all youth participants.

Record Keeping: Planning, recording, and reviewing. Most fairs require record books to be submitted along with projects and animal entries. These record books teach the value of planning and budgeting. The records include lessons learned and questions about whether you’d pursue the project again. The year-long documentation prompts ongoing learning, reflection and review. The record book process provided me with the writing structure I’ve relied upon to write seven books (available in a total of seven languages).

How well would your workplace “show” in the county fair? What can you improve to move to blue and purple (best of show) status?

Workplace: Managing the moments of our day-to-day business lives takes work. Together, let’s explore what issues and activities affect us every day (or some days) that we go to work. – Jana

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