Energy Programme Manager | The GreenCape Sector Development Agency
WHAT DO YOU THINK MAKES YOUR TEAM SUCCESSFUL?
Having recently celebrated my fifth work anniversary in the corporate world, I am blessed with the team that has walked this journey with me. I had a lot of people to learn from during that time and the four main things that have driven success in my team have been: diversity, focus, talent and fun.
I am learning the value and importance of understanding each team member’s personality and unique motivators. I think these are at the core of driving a culture of collaboration within the team. In the space that we work in, where teams are so diverse – from engineers to economists through to social scientists and architects – valuing individuals has a major impact.
HOW DO YOU INCLUDE INNOVATION INTO YOUR STRATEGY AND FUTURE OUTLOOKS?
For me, innovation is not something that only happens in a brainstorming session or ad hoc when you are designing something. I think it’s more of who you are as an organisation. It’s about understanding that making mistakes is okay if you have the parameters in place to learn from them. Building structured thinking time into everything that you do – in the modern workplace, we are all running at 120% and never stopping – this structured thinking time really unlocks the space for innovation.
HOW WOULD YOU ADVISE OTHERS TO DO THE SAME?
No longer can you be a company that maintains a single trajectory with the way the modern world is shifting and changing. The ability to rapidly adjust to changing environments and new regulatory spaces is vitally important – at the heart of that is the ability to innovate.
It’s really hard to pinpoint and I don’t think there’s a silver bullet as to how you implement innovation in a company. For me, it starts with how and whom you hire, having a strong HR process is key to the ability to have innovation. Beyond HR, in cross-team collaboration, effective communication is key. Having a very good understanding of how different team members communicate and how they want to be communicated with goes a long way in helping people navigate through a project.
People have various opinions about this, but I strongly believe in running people through The Clifton Strength Finder set. This process helps people become aware of what makes them tick, what motivates them and how they currently motivate. It helps you as a leader to find out where your team sits in that space so you can tailor your leadership approach for individuals and teams.
WHAT ARE YOUR TEAM’S GREATEST BLIND SPOTS, AND HOW ARE YOU IMPROVING THEM?
I think ’blind-spot’ might be a bit strong but one thing we are working on is effective communication and limiting value loss in miscommunication. The other thing we are learning is capturing and institutionalising best practices across teams. When you are working in multi-sectoral spaces, individual teams often do things quite differently. It’s a missed opportunity to not learn across these spaces.
Knowledge management cannot be an afterthought, it has to be planned upfront and built into your project management process. That means having someone responsible for managing what type of information is captured: by asking whether it is implicit knowledge, how you are sharing that knowledge, and how it is being managed.
HOW WOULD YOU SHIFT THAT LEARNING TO ADVICE FOR OTHERS IN THIS INDUSTRY?
One is understanding how people communicate, encouraging team members to be more self-aware of what makes them tick and what motivates them. For effective knowledge management, it is setting up those core teams that will work across organisation projects to understand what knowledge is being captured, how it is being captured and creating an organisation-wide approach to knowledge management.
Upfront knowledge management built into processes is key. It’s not something we do very well as humans, in general: the sharing of best practices and the articulation of how we want to capture knowledge.
HOW DO YOU SELECT WHO TO PARTNER WITH?
The alignment of value and vision is essential. It’s crucial to establish what the prospective partners want to achieve out of the partnership and how similar values can be aligned.
WHICH OF YOUR LEADERSHIP SKILLS WAS THE MOST DIFFICULT TO DEVELOP?
Delegation. I still haven’t got it. Finding the balance between operational delivery of a project and strategic leadership. It boils down to the ability to trust the team and know that they have the skills needed to deliver.
WHAT’S THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSON YOU’VE LEARNED IN YOUR CAREER?
The ability to be okay with failure. If you are going to fail, fail fast and pivot. What do I mean? Have the ability to quickly identify when you are heading down the wrong track where perhaps you need to cut your losses. If you get to a point and you see it is not working, accept the failure, and then pivot and change.
If you are going to fail, fail fast and pivot.
WHAT’S THE BIGGEST RISK YOU’VE EVER TAKEN?
My biggest risk was to start pushing GreenCape’s work into the arena of informal settlement upgrading and alternative service delivery. It was a significant professional risk because no one in the South African context has the alternative service delivery space right yet. The personal risk is that it puts the team at a large security risk. However, I believe that there is significant potential for economic and social development in these spaces.
WHAT IS YOUR SECRET SAUCE FOR FOCUSING ON THE GOAL AMONGST THE NOISE?
This goes back to the ‘work-life balance’ term. I try to structure my work so that when I leave the office, I check out of the work for the rest of the day. My afternoons and evenings are non-work related. For me that works well. To achieve that, you need a well put together prioritisation process of what’s important, what’s important right now, and what can wait and what can wait entirely.
WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE IN THAT OTHERS DON’T?
I asked one of my colleagues what he would respond to this if he were me and he said it’s without a doubt my fishing ability. I think I am a better fisherman than I am. [laughs] On a more serious note, it’s the perception that leaders have to be extroverts, which I believe is an untrue statement. A good leader can shift between being an introvert and an extrovert as needed.
WHAT TREND IN THE GLOBAL ENERGY SPACE DO YOU SEE BECOMING INTRINSIC TO THE OVERALL POWER NETWORK?
Energy storage and digitalisation. Everything from electric vehicles to behind the meter energy storage to the future of integrated smart cities. These technology spaces will be the game changers in how the industry operates. They will change everything from local government to utilities, to how we move from consumers to prosumers.
WHAT INDUSTRY CHALLENGE KEEPS YOU AWAKE AT NIGHT?
This is a tough question; the South African energy space is a rather strange and exciting space at the moment with a lot of challenges and opportunities. My biggest disruptor is trying to understand how the untapped economic development potential of this green economic development space can be shared and benefit all stakeholders across all economic and social spheres.