Rock Star: William Lamb, president and CEO of Lucara Diamond Corp.
William Lamb pushes Lucara Diamond Corp. to think outside the box when it comes to its Karowe Mine in Botswana
When you work and travel as much as William Lamb does for Lucara Diamond Corp., your free time is often spent winding down. “I spend a large amount of time on a plane,” he said of the 20-plus hours of travel from his home in Vancouver to Lucara’s mine site in Botswana. “I love it because I have no access to email.”
Instead of squeezing in even more work, Lamb uses his flights as downtime to catch up on personal reading. He suggests Good to Great (by James C. Collins) for those looking for a good management book to add to their reading list. You won’t catch Lamb reading that on a flight, though. “If I’m on the plane, I read the biggest load of rubbish. It helps me because it allows me to not think about work,” he said. The few hours of downtime is worth the flood of emails after each flight.
His favourite book is Magician by Raymond E. Feist. While it might be considered a poor use of time to some, Lamb has found a lesson between the lines of the fictional novel.
“Regardless of who you are, you can always create something where no one saw potential. Regardless of who you are, you can always go out and be something that nobody else saw,” he said. “And I like it for that reason.”
Think outside the box
Lamb practices similar lessons through his role at Lucara. He credits his own and the company’s success to bold moves seizing unusual opportunities. He focuses on innovation and creativity as well as drawing from a range of experiences.
As part of thinking creatively, he also pushes his team to think outside their operations. What existing technology can be transformed and adopted into diamond mining?
“Many sectors are so closed off to what is happening in the general industry that they seem to always have to reinvent the wheel instead of adopting processes,” Lamb said. Rather than starting from scratch, look at what can be modified. “It’s not just creativity, but looking outside of the box. Then going to take a look at what someone else has in their box.”
At Lucara, the team approaches operations from a collaborative perspective.
“It’s making sure that people are an integral part of everyone else’s department instead of just placing people into a single box,” Lamb said. He’ll pick up a hammer to chip away at the rock, so he can understand the challenges his team faces. When investors ask questions, he gives answers that he knows are true because he has experienced it first hand.
“We are part of their team, and they are part of our team. That works out well for us in terms of decision making but also having a united front,” he said.
This management style is reflective of his own big-picture way of thinking. “The internal desire to go out and assess where my discipline fits into the larger picture has always been one of the key aspects of what I want to do,” Lamb said.
Management by Magic 8-Ball
Lamb’s management style is possibly more creative in Lucara’s corporate office than it is on site in Botswana.
“I like to think that Lucara is a fun place to work,” Lamb says. Everyone in the senior offices has a Magic 8-Ball on their desks, gifted to them by Lamb. He calls it management by Magic 8-Ball. “I want to empower my employees to think like the Magic 8-Ball.”
“When you need to make a decision, you need to understand all the potential outcomes to make a decision," Lamb said. "Once you’ve made the decision, you need to understand the possible routes to get it back if things don’t work out.”
The Magic 8-Ball is a symbol of risk management. It’s understanding the consequences of actions and learning how to reach the intended outcome.
His grand-scheme focus and his balance between creativity and practicality make it clear why William Lamb has been recognized in the diamond industry, even though Lucara is a fraction of the size of other companies. He engages with his employees and pushes the boundaries, cemented by years of unquestioned diamond mining practices.
Lamb is always moving toward the next challenge. His current challenge: “We are still trying to change 100 years of history of how we market and sell diamonds.”