Jorge Cristerna Medina
Dirección de Operaciones
MULTILED SA de CV

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What Did I Say? Why Accurate Communication Is Important

By Jorge Cristerna | Mon, 05/16/2022 - 13:00

Mining is a matter of people working with people. As such, there is an important element that needs to be very accurate and, sometimes, it can even be the difference between a safe operation or a fatal injury: Communication.

Mining requires a lot of people working together in different areas, with different activities and one common goal: a safe, efficient and profitable operation. This sounds easy, pretty easy indeed. In reality, it is more difficult than it sounds.

No miner works alone. At the very least, we work in pairs, taking care of each other the entire time. This is the part where it gets very interesting.

All miners have their own thoughts, feelings, beliefs and values, their own body, energy and behavior. Together, we share a relationship with shared meaning, empathy and a lot of different perspectives.

We have the same environment but different systems and technologies, according to each of the activities needed in mining, social rules and also policies.

Just by reading this, it is obvious why sometimes it is not as easy as it sounds to work like a high-performance team.

It is true that we have a lot of techniques and tools to improve how we work together (personality tests and performance evaluations, for example) but the first big rock that improves how we work together is accurate communication.

Almost all of the mistakes made when we work together (not only in mining but everywhere in the industry) come from poorly managed communication.

Accurate communication has very practical benefits, such as an improved operation, better safety training, effective and fast responses and most of all, the creation of alliances for a better performance in whatever activity your team is working on. This directly impacts the common goal: a safe, efficient and profitable operation.

On a daily basis, adverse reactions are possible (our own or among the people we’re communicating with), so we have to learn to build a dialogue and avoid dealing with other opinions by just trying to be right and beating them. In fact, the whole “I’m right, you’re wrong” thing is very dangerous for a high-performance team.

To do that, it is our responsibility to create a safe place for people to express their ideas, to improve their performance without defensive or offensive attitudes, to share experiences as a optimization tool in our communication and, most of all, using the feedback from our people to develop and lead to an improved operation.

Feedback improves our daily performance and allows us to share new experiences and suggestions. It also acknowledges work well done and stimulates a good performance. Also, analyzing every deviation after its correction so it never happens again can also be helpful. 

Every company should have its own performance evaluation (daily, weekly, monthly or annually), according to the employee’s activity. I´m not talking about RITs (Start of Shift meetings) or Pueble” (town hall) but a very robust system to follow-up on our team members’ performance related to everything that matters in our activity, then letting them know where, why and how they can improve. This follow-up should be continuous.

So, please, avoid sending emails when direct communication is needed (no one can assure you that every email you send is read or understood). Also avoid giving orders all of the time: communication needs to be open and from both sides if we want it to be effective.

If we do not seriously consider feedback, it may affect our career, our team productivity, our sense of community, our partner’s career and even our health and that of others.

The key is to stand up, to listen carefully to your team, to converse, to solve problems, to come to agreements and get results, better results and then, do it all over again, always.

Accurate communication requires accurate feedback, so information needs to flow freely within the organization, from bottom to top, top to bottom, and from side to side, although the important part is exchanging information, not the direction. Every opinion in your organization is or may be important.

A constant flow of ideas will help you and your team come to better solutions. If your solution is based on your team’s needs, the commitment it creates will accelerate your results so, even in the worst moments, don’t be silent. Even making big decisions with high stress and difficult emotions is better when we use accurate communication as the main tool to optimize how we work together, improving personal and group performance, solving great challenges and contributing to the development of each and every person in our organization, making mining a great place to develop the best that we have to offer.