SEYDOU KANE

Managing Director | Eaton Africa

WHAT DO YOU THINK MAKES YOUR TEAM SUCCESSFUL?

  1. My team is customer-focused and remains attentive to customer needs at all times – it’s an extremely competitive environment and the South African and global economy is not great at the moment.
  2. Accountability – it’s critical that each team member takes on their fair share of what needs to be done.
  3. My team is continuously encouraged to be inquisitive – ask questions – so that we can enrich ourselves to optimally serve our customers.

HOW DO YOU INCLUDE INNOVATION INTO YOUR STRATEGY AND FUTURE OUTLOOKS?

The approach here is to ask ourselves two key questions:

  1. How is this innovation/ technology linked to our vision?
  2. What will it do for our customers? i.e. Microgrids

HOW WOULD YOU ADVISE OTHERS TO DO THE SAME?

I would advise others to constantly challenge and question the status quo and push their organisation to think expansively. Our energy sector’s infrastructure and processes are very traditional, and the rate of change today is incredibly fast – therefore, the ability to leapfrog is key but won’t happen without us challenging the norm.

WHAT ARE YOUR TEAM’S GREATEST BLIND SPOTS?

Scenario planning – how we anticipate the reaction of a customer or competitor. We often tend to believe more often than not that we have the best practice in place; however, inevitably this is something that is not long lived as competitors will come in and provide a similar and more appealing product offering, particularly with a global influence on the trading of products.

HOW WOULD YOU SHIFT THAT LEARNING TO ADVICE FOR OTHERS IN THIS INDUSTRY?

As an industry, we need to embrace unpredictability and disruption: the advent of smart products and Internet of Things (IoT) as an example can completely change the usage and impact of many products. A typical circuit breaker could monitor the level of power usage in a household and help determine the health level of the occupants, making that breaker a key tool for an insurance company.

HOW DO YOU SELECT WHO TO PARTNER WITH?

I always like to start with the endgame in mind – identify the desired outcomes at the start. Secondly, it’s important to have the buy-in of all stakeholders; if there is a misalignment with the strategic intent then it isn’t going to work. Lastly, I always push to drive pilot projects. Failing early is something that I advocate for.

When all three of these core pillars are aligned, then we have a confident base on which to start the partnership or project.

WHICH OF YOUR LEADERSHIP SKILLS WERE THE MOST DIFFICULT TO DEVELOP?

Efficiency. At Eaton, we have a leadership model with a certain number of characteristics – one of them being efficiency. You are required to eliminate waste at all times and increase productivity. This is, as you can imagine, not as easy in practice as it is in theory. However, with the right technology and consistency you can improve on time management and efficiencies while achieving a work-life balance.

WHAT’S THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSON YOU’VE LEARNED IN YOUR CAREER?

The power of networks. Ultimately, business is about people, despite how frequently we talk about technology and products. Building relationships with people, engaging in a meaningful way is so critical when doing business. This for me is an important aspect I want my team to invest in.

“As an industry, we need to embrace unpredictability and disruption”.

WHAT’S THE BIGGEST RISK YOU’VE EVER TAKEN?

Many years ago, I ventured into entrepreneurship and I failed. For various reasons it didn’t work out. Today, I look back and cherish the learnings that I acquired. I also have immense respect for other entrepreneurs that I may not necessarily have had prior to taking that risk.

WHAT IS YOUR ‘SECRET SAUCE’ FOR FOCUSING ON THE GOAL AMONGST THE NOISE?

It is critical to focus on what you can control – noise is noise – customer acquisitions, currency exchange etc. A lot can change but you must remain centred to navigate the noise around you. You need to be comfortable with ambiguity. Right now, things are far less black and white than they used to be.

As leaders, we should empower our teams to make decisions where they feel comfortable without having 100% of the information required. Many organisations today are driven by short-term gain; but in a region like Africa, you cannot lose sight of the mid-long-term goals. There are some risks, the road is sometimes bumpy but the end result is worth it.

WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE IN THAT OTHERS DON’T?

I am an Afro-optimist. Considering the current socio, political and economic conditions it’s a diffcult stance. However, there is so much innovation and positive energy throughout the African continent.

“Many organisations today are driven by short-term gain; but in a region like Africa, you cannot lose sight of the mid-long-term goals”.

WHAT TREND IN THE GLOBAL ENERGY SPACE DO YOU SEE BECOMING INTRINSIC TO THE OVERALL POWER NETWORK?

There is going to be a massive shift to the customer. Consumers can now pick and choose their power – cost, load and demand. Utilities will have to adapt to ‘prosumers’ (producers/consumers) who will hold the ability to decide going forward. Looking at the network of the future, you may not need major generation assets as capacity will be available from self-generation in millions of homes. The energy market of the future will become a dynamic and complex interconnected web for the utilities to manage.

WHAT INDUSTRY CHALLENGE KEEPS YOU AWAKE AT NIGHT?

Safety. My teams deal with power 24/7 working in high-hazard environments that put them at risk at any point in time. Making sure that every person gets home safely at the end of every day is a constant worry. A culture of safety is something that we instil and empower within our teams

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