Think HBR

Let's talk with Hennie du Plooy

Hennie du Plooy
1. In a few words tell us about your current role.
I have the privilege of leading the team at Port Waratah Coal Services. The simple description is that we load coal ships, but the complexity and diversity of what we do is astounding. My passions are leadership and our licence to operate. Success in business is about people, so leading in a way which engages everyone in the business is key to our success. We aim to secure our licence to operate by earning the trust of the community that we will strive for excellence and actively demonstrate the shared value that flows from an industry like ours. I believe that as leader
I have a personal responsibility in this and I truly enjoy engaging with our many stakeholders.
2. How have you reached this point in your professional life?
All my roles have been in or related to mining. I have been fortunate with the opportunities I received and have always been willing to take on different challenges: from copper, gold and uranium in South Africa to gold in Cobar in western NSW to coal in central Queensland. Most of all though, I believe that advancement has come through recognising that you can’t be successful on your own but that achievement comes through the teams you lead and are a part of.
3. When you’re not at work, where can we find you?
In the last year or so I’ve become more active: early mornings you can find me running along our beaches and the foreshore; or cycling and standup paddleboarding in summer; yoga once a week has become a routine and golf on Saturdays. All to make up for enjoying our local restaurants so much!
4. Where do you find inspiration?
A range of things inspire me: good leaders who are successful over long periods – unfortunately the lifecycle of performance has gotten shorter and shorter as the rate of change has accelerated.
In my professional role – the everyday challenge of bringing together the various strands of what we do in a way that makes sense to our team.
Many of our community organisations who do so much with so little – in business we can learn a lot from them about resourcefulness and commitment.
A desire to provide my family the opportunity to be their best.
5. What advice would you give to someone just starting out in your field?
Learn, learn, learn. Always look for opportunities to learn, and be ready to learn from anybody – I have learnt as much from the operator of an underground drill rig as I have from a government minister. Be willing to take on challenges you know little about.
Respect, value and care for people – most of all those closest to you.
6. What’s something most people don’t know about you?
I have soft spots for classical music, maths and quantum mechanics. Receiving a standing ovation as a member of a symphony orchestra is a memory that will stay with me forever.
7. How would you like to see the Hunter evolve over the next decade?
I hope that we can find a way to build a regional future that makes the most of all our diverse resources and skills – from the mining and equine industries to the defence and technology sectors.
Too many people with little to lose want us to forego the benefits of our natural strengths like our resources industries.
I don’t believe we can afford to do this; we should be thinking about how we build on our strengths and experience to prepare for a future that will bring more change and disruption than we can imagine.
Those of us in the ‘old’ industries have a responsibility to reach out and demonstrate our willingness to make a lasting contribution. To me personally, it would be sad indeed if one day we had to look back from the future to find that all we had left behind was a few holes in the ground.
8. What’s your favourite Hunter restaurant/café/bar?
We have so many fabulous options: coffee at Groundup Espresso in Carrington, sitting over the water at Scratchley’s, pasta at Coal River in Darby Street, fine dining at Subo, pizza from the Ori – I can go on and on…
9. Are you reading anything at the moment?
I always have a few books going at the same time. My favourite at the moment is ‘A Numerate Life’, a memoir of the mathematician John Allen Paulos (comes with lessons on maths and life).
10. Do you have a favourite sport or team?
The Queensland Reds