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How the C-factor impacts mining output

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There is a direct correlation between our ability to do a job, and our assuredness that we can do that very job

How the C-factor impacts mining output

There is a direct correlation between our ability to do a job, and our assuredness that we can do that very job, writes Arjen de Bruin.

American leadership consultant Kevin Eiekenberry says that the there is a direct correlation between our ability to do a job, and our assuredness that we can do that very job. He has dubbed this the ‘Confidence/Competence Loop’, which he believes are interconnected in a “chicken and egg sort of way.”

Eikenberry maintains that success accelerates when we are confident. As head of OIM Consulting, which specialises in building front-line leader capability within the mining sector, I see this very scenario played out in real life every day – and the impact it has on a mine’s output.

We recently conducted research into the operations of some of South Africa’s largest mines, and found that without any specialised training, the vast majority (78%) of supervisors were unstructured and reactive in their role execution, while less than 20% demonstrated the required proficiency in their role. And bear in mind that ‘proficiency’ is measured as the execution of daily tasks with more than 50% effectiveness – a far cry from ‘excelling’.

Why am I singling out supervisors, specifically? Because they are the front-line leaders – the heart and hub of a mine’s operation. They are responsible for executing your strategy. They lead and motivate team members to deliver on production targets. They are the “hands” that carry your culture.

The impact that inefficiency has on a mine’s bottom line is somewhat harder to quantify as there are a variety of factors that may contribute to and compound poor performance; however, in those instances where a mine engages us to train their front-line staff, we have seen a sharp uptick in production. One of our mines even reported a staggering 35% increase in the number of tonnes of gold produced. Per employee. 

The reality is that most mine supervisors have experienced a top-down management style, where they are expected to simply carry out instructions, and do what they are told. This results in a sense of reactivity – we see our supervisors waiting for instruction rather than proactively managing their workload. When we start to shift their approach to one of ownership, it becomes clear that our supervisors fear their own capability.

This is reiterated by Eikenberry, who says that “without confidence we revert to fear, and when we are fearful we don’t take any action. We get tentative, we delay and we procrastinate. When you are able to let go of fear, you take action more quickly and easily.”

Indeed, as we become more skilled, our competence grows. And as our competence grows, so does our confidence, demonstrating this chicken-egg relationship. One medical study aimed to examine the relationship between confidence and competence in the development of surgical skills. Conducted among 150 medical students who completed a two-year programme, the study assessed participants both pre- and post-training for confidence and competency.

Eighty-eight percent reported improved confidence after the training. Younger medical students exhibited lower pre-training confidence scores but were just as likely to achieve competence after training. However, it also clearly demonstrated that above-average confidence – without the necessary training to underpin it – did not equate competence. However, increases in confidence levels post-training were associated with demonstrated competence.

So how do we train for competence and confidence? Through supporting our supervisors with coaching and mentoring and giving them the correct toolsets for the job. Once these skills and tools are entrenched, we see a sharp rise in confidence/competence and ultimately production.

OIM has identified eight drivers of supervisory performance, with one of these being ‘lack of confidence.’ This factor, among others, is addressed through our programme, which, in turn, breeds confidence in critical role functions including planning, executing and reviewing.


Confidence levels before and after OIM ’s ‘Coaching to Performance’. Source: OIM Consulting

“Coaching to Performance” marries problem-solving, competency development, classroom training and on-the-floor coaching, with a focus on driving daily productivity whilst measuring real operational improvement. Upon completing this training, we have seen the percentage of competent supervisors jump from 19% to 56%.

We’ve experienced first-hand the bottom-line impact of boosting confidence through training, proving how an integration of competencies and theory through real-life coaching has the potential to lift performance.

Arjen de Bruin is Managing Director at OIM Consulting

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