• SNiC

Have you ever walked through a minefield?

Updated: Jun 13

Have you ever walked through a minefield?

Not a metaphorical one.

I have.

When I was Director of Finance at Mines Advisory Group (MAG).


When I joined I asked to go to the field as early as possible to understand how I might best serve the organisation. I knew that to really understand what it was like to do the work we did I needed to get out from behind my desk, go overseas and walk through a minefield. Being a Director of Finance is about more than Finance.

Cambodia was 1st

From Phnom Penh, we travelled by road to Battambang. I had a security briefing, donned my Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and walked the length of a cleared path in a minefield. Our teams were actively clearing mines in this minefield. The cleared path was marked so you didn’t stray onto uncleared land. I didn’t walk alone. It was a surreal feeling. Adrenalin surged through my veins. Although I knew it had been cleared it didn’t stop my mind wondering ‘what if they missed a spot?’ Later that afternoon I got to push the button on a controlled explosion. All unexploded ordnance found that day was buried and then safely detonated from a distance. An unforgettable experience.

Northern Iraq 2nd

I remember the HEAT. Too hot for the Mine Detection Dogs to work after 10am. I remember that same surreal feeling. More adrenalin pumped through my veins. The intensity was heightened as we had travelled from our base in Erbil in an armed convoy. About midway between Erbil and the minefield we had to get out of the vehicles and put on our PPE in case the vehicle got shot at. Walking through a minefield was a walk in the park after that.

What was I thinking?

I wanted to build strong working relationships and to do that I needed to meet my colleagues where they were at and understand the world of MAG through their eyes.

These experiences helped me have a greater appreciation of the work my colleagues were doing. It enabled me represent our work externally. I got to learn first-hand about the risks they were taking. It built bridges between Finance and Operations.

My improved understanding of the risks, the context and the working conditions helped me be a more effective Director of Finance. Spending time with the people who did this work helped me appreciate them more, helped us relate to one another better and helped me see how I could serve them best as a Director.

It was also inspirational and motivational. On the days that I was feeling stressed or exhausted reconciling or reporting I only had to reflect on one of those experiences. Immediately I could see how my work related to the bigger picture of making the world a safer place.

It’s all relative

People who have worked with me will know that one of the questions I’ve been known to ask is ‘Is anyone going to die as a result of that not being done?’. I’ll usually only ask this if stress levels are high, people are working long hours and maybe not looking after themselves or one another. If the answer is NO, it can wait until tomorrow or next week. When you are working in a minefield if the answer is ‘YES’ the chance of death is HIGH. It is all relative. In Finance there is always so much work to do. Don’t forget to rest and recharge.

Relationships Matter

Relationships are built by being present with others. By understanding their view of the world. Knowing our colleagues reminds us that we are dealing with people. Real people with real feelings. So, meet people where they are at. Communicate in a way that they understand. Strong working relationships will help you walk through any minefield….and survive.

#communication #relationships #people


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