Happy New Year!

According to Wikipedia, the Romans originally dedicated the first day of the new year to Janus, the god of gates, doors, and beginnings for whom the first month of the year (January) is named.  Later, as a date in the Gregorian calendar of Christendom, New Year’s Day liturgically marked the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ, and is still observed as such in the Anglican and Lutheran Churches.  In present day, with most countries now using the Gregorian calendar, New Year’s Day is probably the world’s most celebrated public holiday, often observed with fireworks at the stroke of midnight as the new year begins in each time zone.​

It is the time we traditionally make promises of things we are going to do and things we are going to stop doing.  Exercising, getting fit, and losing weight always seem to top the list.  While these are certainly good ideas for most people, perhaps there is a more important central or “core” idea that might make these naturally “fall in line” if we got that one core idea right.  Perhaps this central problem is that we do not fully realize who we are in this life.  Maybe, if we knew how important we were, it might be easier to get our ducks in a row.

Covey said it well with his chapter, “Begin with the End in Mind” of his popular 7 Habits book.  If your aim is going through the motions, getting by, making it to retirement, the New Year is just a repeat of last.  You can be thankful you had one to live, but you didn’t really live it.  If on the other hand, your goals are loftier and center on truly making a difference in your profession, your community, to your family or yourself, the New Year sets the stage for not only doing things differently but also doing different things.

Gates, doors and beginnings.  That has an optimism to it I like.  Maybe we all need to see Janus as opportunities for new discovery.  Seems to me, for too many, the tendency now is to close the gate, lock the door, and seek the safe center of what I have done in the past.  Not much of a resolution.  More like a resignation that you are not going to make a difference in your life or anyone else’s.

Be a part of something.  Move.  Do something daring.  Open a gate, a door and begin something new!  That’s my wish for you this holiday.

Happy New Year!

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A New, New Year’s Resolution: Getting back your Mojo

2015Funny how many new words have crept into the English language.  Scanning the Wall Street Journal this morning, I was struck by how this word “Mojo” is now used in leadership critiques even though it has its roots in rather base physical attributes.  Here is how an article in Forbes Magazine used the word to describe its meaning:

“Embarking on something new is the most exciting, energizing feeling in the world. We get fired up and can’t stop talking about it, at least for a while. Then, inevitably, we hit a plateau. Stagnation sets in and we lose our mojo.  For the purposes here, I’m assuming mojo refers to desire, passion, or motivation.  Here are what the best of the best entrepreneurs and venture-backed CEOs do when they’ve lost theirs.”

Hardly a utility industry meeting goes by without the keynote speakers emphasizing that the industry needs to innovate and be entrepreneurial.  It certainly seems to be facing stagnation.  Is the problem our mojo?  Boy, I haven’t heard that from the podium!

Read Forbes Article 7 Ways to Get Your Mojo Back (Yeah, Baby!)

The article points out precisely the elements I have been blogging about.  But, I think we all know down deep in our hearts that these seven ways are easy to spout but hard to actually do.  They all start with the word “change” and perhaps that is the central problem.  We really have almost no reward for change in our lives … it only represents risk.  Even if we believe in it, our critics sit around waiting for us to stumble and then point to whatever we try as a crackpot idea … when in most cases it isn’t a bad idea at all.  We haven’t given it enough time, enough resources, or studied how to improve it.

Desire and passion for change.  Nope.  Not going to happen from within the energy industry … or is it?

Then perhaps the industry needs to closely study those with mojo who are trying to change it.  What is it they see that you don’t?  How can they stay so focused on disrupting your world while you seem so content with believing it will stay the same?  Maybe then, rather than make New Year’s resolutions about weight and exercise, we should stop waiting and exercise our mojo.

I wish you all a happy and inspired New Year.

Making it a Merry Christmas in your area

christmasbusinessThe utility industry seems to have reached a watershed moment on EE … it has done such a good job that load growth has been halted, but customers are still not doing all that well.  We all seem to agree that the basic problem is the economy is not growing and where it does, it is not producing the jobs that have been lost.  So, we all seem to agree that growing the local economy is important and beneficial.

Then how about making that a priority in our local relationships?  If you have a key account program, do you have an extension to small business?  That is where we all know the growth comes from.  In addition, what are your purchasing practices?  Do you buy local where you can?  And, if you don’t because you feel the local supplier prices is higher, do you consider any premium over the lowest price being justified because the money stays in the community?

Economists all understand the trickledown theory and it has a lot of intuitive and relational value.  Money spent in the community not only helps preserve the companies directly, but also tends to support many other goods and services in the community.  This can obviously support and create jobs.

Sure, that may not help the general economy across the country, but let’s face it.  A utility’s relationship to its communities is local.  Maybe it is time that we made that a priority.  And, why not right now.  You probably have a bit of year end money to spend before they take it away by zeroing out budgets.  Why not spend it locally and make this a very special Christmas for your local vendors.

Local relationships matter, and helping the people in your communities succeed should always be a priority.  Pretty good advice for any business these days, especially at this time of year.

Merry Christmas, and thank you for your business!

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Bloodhounds vs Golden Retrievers

istock_000012615560_smallI love dogs.  While I have owned mostly mutts, I have many friends who have golden retrievers. They make great family pets. They are gentle and friendly and just love to play.  It seems they will play fetch until they drop from exhaustion … and they are unbelievably good at it. Some of my friends go to a lake in the dead of winter and the dogs will jump into freezing water to get the ball and do this over and over again all day long.


I don’t know anyone who has a bloodhound as a pet.  When we think of the Bloodhound, the images that come to mind range from the baying “man trailers” in films such as Cool Hand Luke to a lazy hound sunning himself on the front porch of a home in a sleepy Southern town.  The man trailer is the more accurate image, but it also presents a somewhat false picture of the breed. The Bloodhound is indeed single-minded on the trail, but what many people don’t realize is that once he’s found his quarry, he might lick the person to death.

The Bloodhound belongs to a group of dogs that hunt together by scent, known as Sagaces, from the Latin, which is the same root as the word “sagacistock_000047969056_smallious,” referring to the qualities of keen discernment and sound judgment. Those words are certainly descriptive of the Bloodhound’s powers of scent.  These dogs were originally used in medieval Europe to trail boar and deer.  Modern-day Bloodhounds have found careers as man trailers for police departments and search and rescue organizations. They are so skillful that their “testimony” is considered admissible in a court of law.

So, Joel, what does that have to do with the energy industry?  Well.  Simply put.  The industry likes people who are golden retrievers.  Kind, gentle, friendly, and tireless.  What we need right now are somewhat less “attractive” looking people who will tirelessly follow the scent of the customer engagement opportunity.  We need keen discernment and sound judgment.  We also need them to follow the trail of customer engagement closely before it goes cold.

I am fearful that that trail is growing very cold indeed.  Plus others seem to have picked up the scent and they are not friends of the energy utilities.  Someone is going to get to the customer.  I hope it is you.

The Quick Fix Bias

Seems we are more interested in a quick fix to any problem rather than trying to truly understand and act on the underlying reasons the problem exists in the first place. Overweight? Here is the miracle drug that claims you don’t have to change any of your bad habits! Can’t perform this or that? There’s a pill for that … but beware, and call the doctor if the results last for more than four hours.

We no longer ask the tough questions. As
soon as someone promises the quick fix, we seem prone to jump on it. Surgical strikes in Iraq will deter ISIS. Sanctions on Putin will stop his aggression. Ban the incandescent lamp and it will cure American energy policy. Promote solar and wind and we will never have to build another power plant. The list goes on.

My wife and I were talking this morning about the crisis with ISIS and the reasons this group is succeeding. It is a scary story. For a better understanding of the reasons why, check out this wonderful documentary.

This all reminds me of my early days as an engineer working on nuclear submarines under the leadership of Admiral Rickover. He was never interested in quick fixes. He insisted on getting to the root cause for each and every difficulty because he knew future funding of the nuclear navy depended upon the confidence of the American people in nuclear power. He had crystal clear focus and tolerated nothing that could threaten that mission.

While I didn’t always agree with the Admiral, I admired that everyone working under his command knew precisely where he stood and the reasons why. Rickover had the long view and the results were and are a nuclear navy that is the envy of the world. And, as the navy nuclear plant operators left the navy they became the staff of the American nuclear land-based power plant fleet. That is one of the key reasons our nuclear fleet runs so well. Thank you Admiral Rickover.

Leadership of this style seems to have fallen out of favor. We now believe consensus is the high road of leadership. Rickover didn’t believe in consensus. In fact, he despised it. Maybe we should as well.

The long view vs. the quick fix, that seems to be a central element of so many of our current problem.