Mining People Matters

Steve Heather

Steve Heather, Managing Director and Co-founder of Mining People International (MPi).

Why you can't afford to shirk Responsibility ...

Why you can't afford to shirk Responsibility ...

Because eventually mining executives need to feel that they’re ‘thriving’ not just ‘surviving’.   It seems many of us (me included) have spent an extended period, playing a defensive game. For some, this has changed previously happy people into doomsayers and in some cases, unfortunately, depressants. I've seen this exact a heavy toll, often ensnaring families and other employees. Therefore if we're serious about reclaiming a sense of self control and individual purpose over our lives, we surely need to make a decision that just ‘surviving’ is not enough. Interestingly when researching Leadership in times of stress and what leaders do to step out of survival or crisis mode, a regularly associated word was Responsibility. The clear suggestion was that to climb out of survival mode, we must first take personal responsibility for the mess we’re in. This can be difficult to do when;

  • The price of the commodity you produce has tanked
  • Competitors are pinching your best staff
  • The government is wrapping more and more red tape around you
  • Other companies are acting in a seemingly monopolistic manner

These things offer easy excuses to apportion responsibility somewhere else, however even though executives didn't usually make these happen, they did take their businesses down a route, knowing some of these outcomes were part of the risk profile. For those that can't or won't accept this, it will be much more difficult to move out of the defensive spiral many find themselves in. quote by peter drucker One of my guiding themes in 2015 will be to recognise and try to let go of any remaining feelings of blame, defensiveness and survival. We've started many great initiatives this past year, and next year I hope to see many of them continue to breathe new life into our business. These include technology changes, (one or two big ones, but many small ones), new marketing methods and new products. I am fairly certain they WON'T all work and some may well be incredible flops, but hey, at least it will feel as if we’re a bit more in control. There is an alternative though! That is, to wait for;

  • China to start restocking just to help our clients out
  • Competitors to start acting like our friends
  • The government to cut red tape

I'm fairly sure none of this is going to happen any time soon. Better to accept things as they are; accept your role in having gotten yourself to where you are and focus on things you can affect. The rest will take care of itself. I'm not suggesting I have all the answers here, but I AM blessed to have unique interaction with many sectors of the mining industry.  The truth is I only ever write about things that fit two criteria:

  1. I have observed them over and again in the actions of other people and
  2. I validate them as things I have seen in (and done) myself

In short I am as guilty as others. When you build something from scratch and take responsibility for it, it is very hard to let it go. The human response is to ‘cling on’ and protect your baby. That’s makes perfect sense, for a while, however there comes a time when the process of defence becomes so emotionally exhausting that it becomes self defeating. Sometimes it is better to take stock quickly, admit it isn’t working, OWN it - and get back to creating the future. In my view the mining executives who get the most credit in years to come ... Will be the ones who admitted quickly that their companies were in trouble and who took their medicine fast and early. At the time, it would have seemed expensive, but as each month passes the price of that medicine will look cheaper and cheaper! For those who are interested in more on this, Ian Berry, business coach, speaker and mentor wrote an excellent article on a similar subject earlier this year. 8 ways to move from Resilience to Remarkable.   Thanks Ian. Have a great Christmas everyone and thank you for your considered comments and overwhelmingly encouraging replies to my articles. I promise to keep trying to improve and to offer insights into management and leadership in context of the major mining issues of the day. Some of my more sobering observations this year have been aimed at assisting to draw a line in the sand, with the goal next year to shift to a tone of greater optimism as we kick off 2015. Best wishes

Steve Heather
Managing Director & Principal Executive Search
Mining People International