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How to Lead a Highly Successful Mining Team



February 8, 2021 - What is the secret to leading a successful mining team? Here are 9 things you need to know.

How often do we hear chief executives and managers say things like “our secret is our people”? It’s almost a cliché. It’s also not quite true. 

The secret is never just people. It’s never just having the best possible people, with the right skills, experience and attitude, in the right jobs at the right time. It’s also about how those people work together. It’s about teams, and team dynamics. 

So much of mining is collective. We have to work across disciplines, across departments, even across companies, to achieve collective goals and bring projects to fruition. Good teamwork is integral to success. 

So, how do you do it? What is the secret to leading a successful mining team? Here are nine things you need to know.

1. Hire the right people

There’s an old joke that has a driver stopping to ask a farmer for directions. 

“How do I get to [insert a town name here]?” the driver asks.

“Well, I wouldn’t start from here,” the farmer replies. 

Building a team can feel a bit like that. If you have the opportunity, give yourself the best possible chance of success by hiring or onboarding the right people. 

This means understanding what skill sets are needed to get the job done and achieve your goal, then bringing on the best candidates you can find. Of course, not everyone has the luxury of building a team from scratch, but where you do, focus on hiring well.

2. Establish your goals

When you have your team together, establish your goals early — and make sure everyone on the team is clear about what they are. Everyone should be clear about their role in achieving that goal, including their specific responsibilities. 

Write it up in big letters on the bulletin board, if necessary, as a daily reminder. 

Set and mark milestones. Keep everyone in the team up-to-date on progress, regularly.

3. Have a clear understanding of roles

Everyone on the team should be clear about their role and responsibilities in achieving the milestones and goals you’re working towards. They should also have a very clear picture of everyone else’s roles and responsibilities.

4. Encourage clear and open communication

Ideally, everyone on the team should feel able to speak freely – offering input, insights, advice and critique. This is sort of a “free market” approach to collaboration — allowing for robust discussion, with the best ideas rising to the top and providing the optimal solution. 

In reality, teams can easily descend into silos and fiefdoms, with people operating alone or protecting their own patch. Tempers can flare, offences can be taken and cool heads don’t always prevail. 

Establish the ground rules of communication early. Create a safe place for ideas to be thrown around. Have a regular group check-in, to ensure everyone is on the same page and still all pulling in the same direction. 

Here are some ideas for ensuring good team communication: 

  • Have a short weekly check-in. Perhaps a stand-up meeting, of no more than 15 minutes, just so everyone knows how you’re tracking, and the goals for the week.
  • Send out a regular newsletter. This is a great way to ensure everyone is up-to-date but can feel a bit top-down.
  • Regular roundtable meetings. Perhaps this is a morning tea in the boardroom once a month, or maybe it’s Friday afternoon drinks in the Whatever it looks like, it’s a great idea to have a regular catch up where everyone can say what’s on their mind and throw around ideas.

5. Broaden horizons

No one in a team knows everything. Everyone has something to contribute. Collaboration is a learning opportunity and everyone on the team can learn something new from someone else. 

Avoid silos, build camaraderie and grow the skill sets of your team by encouraging them to learn from one another. If one team member is weak in one area, team them up with someone who is strong in that area, so they can work side by side and learn off each other. 

The more everyone knows about all the various roles and skills on the team, the more useful they are. You’re creating all-rounders – which can be very handy when someone has a day off or leaves the team.

6. Know what’s missing

Whether you’ve built your team from scratch or you’ve inherited it, chances are you’ll know quite early on which skill sets you’re missing. Being able to identify that and acknowledge it is a skill of good leadership. Good leaders don’t just know their strengths, they know their weaknesses, too. 

Where you have expertise that’s missing, don’t be afraid to acknowledge that and bring it in — whether that means growing the team permanently, sending someone off for training, or outsourcing a particular function.

7. Create bonds

This is not to suggest your workspace needs to look like an MCG locker room ahead of a  match — but it certainly doesn’t hurt to focus on building a bond between members of your team. 

Find opportunities and ways to create a bond between team members. This is very important early on, as bonding creates cohesiveness. But meeting milestones and goals is also a good opportunity to celebrate, to create an environment where everyone can share in the achievement together.

8. Build trust

To build trust, lead by example. Show your team members you trust their abilities and respect their work. Mentor, rather than micromanage. Praise a job well done. 

Invest time and attention into each team member. Ask yourself: 

  • Have I checked in with them enough?
  • Do I listen to them with an open mind?
  • Do I show them enough appreciation/respect?
  • Have I shown them empathy when they’ve needed it?
  • What support do they need? And have I supported them enough?
  • Have I given them enough encouragement/praise?

9. Have a bit of fun from time to time

Teamwork in mining can be hard. It can be dirty. The hours can be long. But (and forgive us for paraphrasing Mary Poppins here) in every job that must be done, there should be an element of fun. 

Find some time for everyone in the team to just enjoy each other’s company — to get to know each other outside of the work and find connections and commonalities they didn’t know about. 

Find ways to introduce an element of fun into the daily grind, too. Maybe it’s a team footy tipping competition, or having a ping-pong table set up in a spare room somewhere. Whatever it is, fun is a great way to refresh the brain and improve creativity and productivity while simultaneously creating a great and inclusive culture people want to be a part of.