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3 examples of Human + Kind leaders

November 25, 2020

Gary Annett, Voisey’s Bay, NL. Photo: Vale Archive.

Welcome to our 2020 Mental Health Awareness series and this year’s theme: Human + Kind. Our theme speaks to what it means to be both human and kind. To be human means to struggle sometimes, and to know that it’s okay to feel down and to reach out for help; to be kind means participating in acts of kindness and practising empathy and understanding. Kindness is noticing if your colleagues, friends or family are struggling in silence, and if they are, asking the simple yet powerful question: Are you okay? This week, three Vale employees each share their feelings about a leader who they feel exemplify Human + Kind. Read on! 

What does it mean to be a Human + Kind Leader at our company? For those who wrote in to nominate their leaders, some common themes emerged: to listen and to hear; to demonstrate respect and consideration; and to value and to appreciate their team members. In other words, these leaders strive to build strong relationships and to develop the trust people need to feel empowered to strive and excel. Identified as possessing those qualities were: Gary Annett, head of Labrador Operations; Vanessa Galway, logistics superintendent, Coleman Mine; and Peter Prinsloo, general manager, Long Harbour.  

GARY ANNETT, Voisey’s Bay, NL

Ian Coles, operation manager at Voisey’s Bay, has always felt that Gary is a good leader, but it was Gary’s foresight in dealing with the pandemic that deepened Ian’s impressions. “I knew Gary was a good leader before,” Ian explained, “but after what he did in consultation with other leaders, stakeholders and communities to prepare us for care and maintenance, I’d follow him anywhere.” 

Gary, who has been with Vale for 21 years, recognized early on how devastating COVID-19 would be if it made its way to Labrador’s coastal and Indigenous communities, remote towns with limited access to health care, hospitals and which a number of Voisey’s Bay’s team members call home. On March 15, before any Canadian cities had enacted any protocols to restrict COVID-19’s spread, Gary supported Vale’s difficult but necessary decision to ramp down Voisey’s Bay into care and maintenance. For the next 33 days, Gary, who lives in Sudbury, ON, with his family, stayed onsite, making sure that plans and procedures were in place for a ramp down that included getting 700 people off site, negotiating pay packages for employees and contractors, and communicating the full implications of a shut down. 

“You always believe your leader is going to do the right thing in a crisis,” Ian said, “but when you actually see it happen, it’s pretty inspiring. Gary pushed these decisions for the right reasons – for the emotional and physical wellbeing of not just people on site, but also for their families and the people in their coastal communities. It was a heavy financial decision but ultimately, the company and Gary did the right thing by living up to our company value, Do What Is Right. It’s what breeds loyalty.” 

It was a herculean team effort but one which Gary would more than likely describe as simply doing his job in extraordinary circumstances.  “I feel honoured to be nominated,” Gary said. “I’m so proud of the team and the relationship we have with community leaders.” 

PETER PRINSLOO, Long Harbour, NL 

Photo: Vale Archive.

Peter Prinsloo may be relatively new to his role as general manager for Long Harbour, but he’s already made quite an impression. “Peter only just started with us last December,” said one employee who wished to remain anonymous, “but from the start, he was very involved and engaging. He works to put himself in your shoes and the impact that has is very noticeable.” 

The employee noted how his openness and kindness inspires the same in others and how accessible and available Peter has made himself. In meetings, he engages with all levels of the workforce and is a visible presence in the field. Critically, he follows through. “When he says you’ll get an answer, sure enough, you’ll get an answer,” the employee added. “He means what he says, does what he says and understands where you’re coming from and what you’re saying.” The employee also noted Peter’s commitment to breaking down silos, to encouraging people to reach out across the network and to create an environment where everyone has a voice that is valued. For Peter, that approach is fundamental to his role. 

“A very wise person once told me that the two main things a leader needs to do to be successful is to provide context and to care,” Peter said. “Making time for people is my priority.” 

The employee added: “He definitely cares. We can really relate to him and he’s engaged. That’s why he stands out in my mind: he’s involved and so approachable.” 

For Peter, the nomination is more motivation for him to do even better. “I am extremely humbled,” he said, “but the feeling is absolutely great and cannot be replaced by a dollar value. I would like to thank whoever put my name forward.”

VANESSA GALWAY, Sudbury 

Photo: Vale Archive.

Vanessa Galway has been with Vale for the last eight years, and as a logistics superintendent, she’s in charge of the muck circuit, shaft and sandplant at Coleman Mine, where she works to encourage her team with daily check-ins and maintaining a positive attitude even when the muck is literally flying. 

Her efforts haven’t gone unnoticed. “I’m proud to be nominated,” Vanessa said, “and to be a part of a caring, winning team out at Coleman Mine.”

Members of her team describe her as “approachable, empathic and warm.” Like Peter, Vanessa always follows through and displays a genuine interest and empathy for her team. “She’s got a very good approach to leadership,” said an employee who also requested anonymity. “It’s a very human approach. She’s so understanding and always considers the impact on your personal life, in addition to your work life.” Crucial to her approach too is her willingness to hear any ideas presented to her. Combined, Vanessa’s approach has engendered a high level of trust within her workforce. 

“She connects so easily with people,” an employee marvelled, “and there is such a consistency in her approach. She treats everyone the same way.” 

To read the previous story in our series, Human + Kind: Making a Difference with Kindness, click here.

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