Ask a Leader: To tackle the COVID challenge, Don Lindsay champions innovation amid rapid change

To tackle the COVID challenge, Teck Resources president and CEO Don Lindsay champions innovation amid rapid change.

Credit: Teck

The Teck president and CEO has also seen organizations step up to protect their employees and communities

We asked prominent members of the B.C. business community what they’ve learned from the COVID-19 pandemic—and how this crisis will change everything from work to leadership. Don Lindsay, president and CEO of Teck Resources, reveals what steps the Vancouver-based mining giant has taken to adapt to the new reality.

For B.C. businesses that have survived COVID-19, what’s the most important thing they can do right now to make themselves more resilient to future disruptions?

One of the key things that enabled Teck to manage through COVID-19 and operate while keeping our people and communities safe was being nimble in response to an evolving situation. During those first days and weeks of the pandemic, the situation was changing rapidly with new information and guidance daily. We had to respond quickly, including making the decision to transition thousands of employees to remote work overnight, and deciding to temporarily suspend our major copper project in Chile.

We don’t know what the next disruption will be, but we know that maintaining that nimbleness and ability to react quickly and change approaches when necessary will be essential to responding to whatever it is, while at the same time always being guided by our core values of health and safety.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned from the pandemic?

What has really struck me is the incredible spirit of innovation that people across Teck have brought to tackling the COVID-19 challenge. For instance, one project team at a mine site here in B.C. 3D-printed parts to make face masks, and at another site, our people sourced hand sanitizer produced by a local liquor distillery.

I’ve also been struck by the spirit of compassion with people really stepping up and going above and beyond to protect employees and their communities. For instance, operations across the province have donated medical supplies to local front-line health workers, and corporately we launched a $20-million COVID Response Fund to support critical social initiatives and increased health-care capacity in the province.

Is there one aspect of your business, or business in general, that you think has changed for good or that you won’t be going back to doing the old way? 

One of the most positive changes that I hope carries on long after the pandemic is done is the increased focus on caring for each other. This crisis has brought our people and our communities closer together, with a renewed focus on looking out for each other’s well-being—both physically and mentally—and that is something we should make a point of holding onto.

Over the next few years, how do you expect work to change as a result of COVID?

I think one of the key changes we’ll see in how we work is the increase in remote working. At Teck, we transitioned thousands of employees to working remotely basically overnight early in the pandemic. 

We’re now looking at how remote work, and digital connectivity more broadly, can create flexible work arrangements long-term and open up new opportunities for career growth and development. For example, we see it being easier for our people to connect with colleagues and stakeholders internationally and collaborate with teams in any part of the world without the need to physically travel, and that is an exciting opportunity. 

Looking ahead, what leadership qualities will be most in demand?

I think being able to adapt to change, and adapt quickly, is an increasingly important attribute. I’ve been very proud of the exceptional job the team here at Teck has done to adapt to very rapid change during the pandemic. Many factors can cause rapid changes for organizations and the ability to adapt quickly can help companies emerge stronger from changing environments, which is what we’re focused on right now at Teck.