Time to reflect

Man thinking

Before we begin this edition of "MPi News", it is appropriate to reflect on what a wild ride the resources industry in Australia has experienced in just 18 months. From the massive fear and failures resulting from the GFC, more recently uncertainty around the on again/off again ETS, the on again/off again RSPT and then the news that so many terrific smart people were lost in one tragic accident in Africa.

All of this reminds us what a tough business the mining industry can be. When it is good it is often very good and when it is bad it is often very bad and as we saw through the GFC phase, the time from peak to trough and back again is considerably shorter than most other industries.

These events should serve to remind us all that planning for the future is important, but if you aren’t enjoying today and you haven’t been for some time then it is probably a good idea to try to understand why. We believe there is a wonderful home for everyone and the mining industry has this terrific knack of taking groups of diverse personalities and creating some of the most amazingly successful (non traditional) and talented teams.

Our industry probably does this better than almost all other industries and creates work places where people have fun, build wonderful careers and create success.

Our thoughts are with the families friends and workmates of all those who lost their lives pursuing careers in the mining industry in this past year. In particular the whole team lost in the air crash in Africa. From all that has been written and said they are an example of exactly what is great about this marvellous (and at times tough) business.

Look for non- traditional talent, add the glue of spirit + a common purpose = championship team.

Most of us would accept that our industry needs plenty of smart, clever, sharp, intelligent and talented individuals and that often as managers we need to meld these people into an integrated high performing team.

However at times this can feel a bit like ‘herding feral cats’ and an article I read recently reminded me that part of the problem is that sometimes our definition of “talent” is way too narrow.

It is probably a fluke that “talent” is an anagram of “latent”, but it should make you think.

Over the next few years as we move back to an apparent shortage of skilled people, perhaps as a starting point you need to take the blinkers off, particularly if you’re serious about creating a great team.

Talent should not be described narrowly as: “excelling at doing a particular thing to a high level of technical competence”, but rather it is better looked at as the unique qualities that make up every individual, which when combined with the unique qualities of other unique individuals can achieve outperformance, sometimes way beyond that achieved by a team of traditionally talented superstars.

“Create a Championship Team not a Team of Champions”. As quoted by John Bertand in his book “Born to Win”:

As recruiters we believe that every employee has a home and I am reminded by some of the most amazing success stores of mining companies created by management that focussed on a few basic principals, employed a team of dedicated but often “non traditional” (in a talent sense) types, then simply got on with the job of building a great mining company.

It can and regularly does happen, but it requires a certain style of leader, one who is open minded about the kinds of people they are willing to employ and that firstly requires them to look beyond simply the CV.

There are broader imperatives developing here in that some of the key drivers imposed on companies by the community around them are changing. Sustainability will become a much bigger issue for the business of the future. Sustainability in terms of social, economic and environmental responsibilities. These things require people to keep going and keeping going requires employees to care about things in a way that is consistent with the team and the companies goals and culture. It is only when most of a company’s employees are aligned with the company in this way, that it will be able to keep growing.

The traditional technical superstars aren’t always good at keeping going, they can get up for the 100m sprint but then they’re wasted. Perhaps an organisation needs and can afford one or two of these technical superstars, but there is a strong argument that into the future the smart leaders will figure out that to build great teams they need different things and therefore different people.

One thing is for sure, there are some business leaders out there that already get this - and oddly you don’t ever hear them talking about there being a skills shortage!