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“If you can’t connect with your employees, you can’t communicate with them.”

Before joining Sasol in 2015, Bongani Nqwababa was no stranger to hefty corporate positions which required strategic thinking on a grand scale, coupled with a steady hand and cool head in a crisis. His roles have encompassed being the Finance Director of Anglo American Platinum Limited and Eskom Holdings, CFO at Shell Southern Africa, non-executive director of Old Mutual PLC and Chairman of the SARS Audit Committee. However, it was at Anglo American Platinum where Nqwababa encountered one of his biggest leadership lessons in crisis management, precipitated by a 3 month strike in 2012, a 5 month strike the following year, falling platinum prices and a workforce reduced from 80 000 to 50 000.

What he learnt during that period stood him in very good stead years later, when Sasol experienced a strike. Nqwababa’s approach was that the company had to prepare for the long road – not a short trip as some executives might have been tempted to view a strike. In his words, “…prepare, prepare, prepare, because the crisis is likely to be bigger than you think.”

As it turned out, his experience was invaluable in preparing Sasol and navigating the company through the strike, while fulfilling customers’ supply needs.

In this Quick Insight, extracted from a full length interview, Nqwababa shares his learnings regarding employee, community and union management, communication, and the advance preparation required to see a large organisation through a crisis.

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