What is most meaningful to you about this award?
The nomination comes from employees. That’s what matters most to me.
What contributed to your winning the award?
I try to communicate regularly with staff, not simply about what’s happening on the mine, but also about what’s happening in the company and the rest of the world. This is done through regular biweekly communication sessions with management, mine workers, safety reps and union reps. My goal has been to create an environment where people have the information they need to make them feel comfortable and are therefore in a position to make better decisions.
I also think the way you talk to people is important because it makes them feel valued and let’s them know they have an important part to play in the mine. I greet and chat to people at all levels in the business every day.
I think what people really want is someone who is very much the same day after day. They look for a stabilising person who is consistent.
What is the mark of a good leader?
A good leader has to be able to inspire others. You must create a vision and a future for people and then take them down that route. Sometimes this is difficult because you don’t always know where you are going. A colleague of mine, Johan Viljoen, always says, “Let’s go as far as we can see, and when we get there we will see further.” I also believe in the importance of simplicity – the role of a leader is to keep it simple, retain clarity of vision and keep the troops moving.
What are you most proud of having achieved in your current position?
My biggest focus has been safety and the re-establishment of a safety culture. It has led us to achieving over two million fatal-free shifts, a first in the 42-year history of the mine. In effect, we have halved incidents of injury year on year. I need to give my union colleagues and our staff their due for helping to make this happen.
What gets you up every morning?
I’ve changed career at a late stage in life. I’ve moved from heading up corporate HR for the group’s Africa operations to running a mine. The challenge of accomplishing this new task gets me moving, along with the desire to get people doing the right things so the mine runs as well as it can.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
People want to know three things: What do you expect from me? How am I doing? And what comes after this for me? When you are dealing with people you need to bear these in mind. The other piece of advice is that there is no time like now. If you see something that needs attention, you need to address it immediately. Other people in the organisation see the same thing and are waiting for you to do something. If you don’t do anything you lose credibility.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome?
Taking over a business where the management/workforce relationship was not good, and turning that around.