Wayne Pales | Chairman, The Chapel Group | GM, Technology Strategy at Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO)

Who were your role models during the pivotal stages of your life?

I have had the good fortune to have some great mentors throughout my life but two notably stand out; Ian Evans, a childhood friend who convinced me to travel to Australia for a year when I was in my twenties. At the time, I was on life’s ‘treadmill’. Ian taught me that life is about going after the things you want and it’s OK to take risks to get them. That trip changed the entire course of my life.

My second role model is my wife, Claire. I have never come across a person with such integrity. I used to be that person who sits on the fence to keep everyone happy. Claire has taught me the importance of being honest with people and having the hard conversation early.

This article first appeared in the Global Smart Energy Elites 2019. Read the full digital magazine here or subscribe here to receive a print copy.

What do you think makes a successful leader?

I try and stick by three rules:

  1. Surround myself with people smarter than me in their respective roles.
  2. Be clear about my vision
  3. And empower my team by encouraging them to determine how we deliver the vision.

What are your greatest strengths?

I believe my clarity of purpose is my greatest strength. About a decade ago I was at a crossroads where I needed to decide if I was going to chase the IT professional path or remain focused on the energy industry – the choice was a simple one. I am passionate about playing my part in helping the energy industry work towards a sustainable planet by embracing an engaged energy consumer. It is this passion that comes through in my leadership. Clarity of purpose leaves no room for doubt in my views about the need to embrace distributed energy resources, demand response, and third-party access to energy data.

  I love leveraging
new technologies
to solve real-world
problems.”

What are your greatest blind spots and how are you improving these?

It is ironic that I have recently published a book describing the need to ensure key stakeholders are identified early and brought on the journey, as this remains my primary blind spot. I am so passionate about my goals that despite knowing the importance of bringing people on the journey, I still occasionally tell myself the story that it is OK to ‘fill them in later’. It is never OK to fill them in later!

What is the one thing in your opinion that people misconceive about your character?

I struggle with this question. I think people spend too much time worrying about what others think of them when in reality others are not giving them a second thought. I don’t believe people have spent long enough thinking about my character to misconceive it.

What tips do you have for keeping a team motivated?

Be clear on your vision for the team and how each team member’s role contributes to that vision. People want to know that their efforts serve a higher purpose and will often move mountains once they have this clarity.

What’s the biggest risk you’ve taken?

Leaving a very successful and secure role with a clear progression path in Hong Kong to return to Australia and start my own business, following a goal that was, and remains, important to me.

When you’re considering partnering with another person or business, what factors are deal breakers for you?

When our respective visions do not align. I am very clear within myself as to why I do what I do. I need to see that in others. There are plenty of opportunities to make money, and that does not drive me. I want to partner with those that genuinely want to play their part in creating an engaged energy consumer and move to a more sustainable planet.

What’s the best book you’ve read this year?

In recent years I have found myself gravitating to audio books. I would have to say Catherine Hoke’s A Second Chance is the stand-out for me. It’s an inspirational read that I would recommend to everyone. The key lesson for me was that for many people one poor decision goes on to define them and shape their lives. A single decision, regardless of how bad that decision was, should not define someone and we should give people a second chance.

What are you most proud of in your professional career?

I would have to say when my most recent book became an Amazon bestseller. When I first published the book, I was so excited when I made the first sale. Seeing that one person had paid money for my thoughts was a fantastic feeling. To then see it go on to be a best seller in Amazon’s Energy category blows me away and I am very appreciative to everyone for their support.

Which of your leadership skills were the most difficult to develop?

An appreciation for how change impacts the business and its customers, and how you need to manage that change. I love leveraging new technologies to solve real-world problems. Solving problems means introducing change, and while I find this exciting, changing the operations of a business at scale has significant implications. It took me many years to appreciate this and build it into my thought process.

What’s the most important leadership lesson you’ve learned and how has it proven invaluable?

In my early days of leadership, I was quick to judge and write people off. If they were not running at 100-miles an hour and positive in their approach, then I had no time for them. Life has taught me to spend some time to understand why a person may not be motivated, and work with them to address that one way or another.

How do you achieve balance in your life?

My wife and I always make sure we place our children at the centre of any significant decision we make. We also see it essential that we support each other’s businesses and share the load at home. For this reason, neither of us work full-time. I have recently joined the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) as their General Manager of Technology Strategy. The role excites me as it allows me to play an even more influential role in enabling a more engaged energy consumer, but AEMO has also been incredibly supportive by giving me the flexibility to work around my family commitments.

What trend in the global energy space do you see becoming intrinsic to the overall power network?

Regardless of market structure, I expect to see distributed energy resources and the connected home play an integral part in the grid of the future, and not just as a resource to address edge cases such as reducing peak demand. I see a model where utilities will be incentivised to integrate distributed energy resources into the grid. We will see behind the meter technologies managed by intelligent software and as a result prosumers and energy aggregators will play a significant role in the grid of the future.

This article first appeared in the Global Smart Energy Elites 2019. Read the full digital magazine here or subscribe here to receive a print copy.