CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER | BALTIMORE GAS AND ELECTRIC (BGE)
Who were your role models during the pivotal stages of your life?
During my childhood, it was my mother. She is the driving factor behind how I treat people and who I am as a person, especially how I approach issues of integrity and my work ethic. As I got older and began my professional career, Robert Viets became a long time mentor. I met him when he was on the board at Bradley University and at the time he was CEO of Central Illinois Light Company.
He’s continued to mentor me in the areas of leadership and how to drive results with employees for well over 25 years. He’s been a consistent voice along the way.
What do you think makes a successful leader?
The individual must have the ability to deliver results. We don’t talk about good leaders unless they have delivered on their promises. A successful leader inspires by creating a vision for the organisation to provide employees a map of where they are being driven. Leaders also have to be accountable and be ready to lead at all times.
All leaders must be capable of leading during the difficult periods. Lastly, leaders have to be able to recognise talent and give their team the space to do their job well. It is tempting to micro manage as a new leader, but I learned to give my team space to grow and perform.
What are your greatest strengths?
My greatest strengths hinge around my ability to connect with all people. I treat everyone with respect and decency and I expect the same from my team members. My work ethic is also a strength and I don’t ask anything of employees that I’m not willing to do. If I fail,we fail. If you fail, we fail. This is about BGE being successful. I’m not successful if I don’tallow people to do their jobs. I ran operations previously, at a printing plant, where the hoist driver is responsible for delivering the final product. They may be lower in the organisation, but they are key to the success of the plant. If the hoist driver didn’t accomplish his/her task, all the other steps before that were for naught.
What are your greatest blind spots and how are you improving these?
I’m a lawyer by training and have a tendency to get locked in on a position. I’m becoming a better listener. I’ve also learned to hire slowly but assess talent quickly and make changes when necessary. If employees are not performing well,you have to move on and consider where they can add value or it impacts the larger organisation.
What is the one thing in your opinion that people misconceive about your character?
I have a law and lobbyist background and people tend to discount my operational background, thinking I’m only going to remain on the surface of the issues facing the company. I understand the issues facing our business. I’m not an engineer, but the reality is I hire good engineers, lawyers, accountants,lobbyists and communicators. My job is to provide them with the tools to succeed. By empowering others, great teams are created and the need for the CEO to go six layers deep on all issues is not needed.
What tips do you have for keeping a team motivated?
Shoot for stretch goals and never let complacency set in. Expect greatness from yourself and your teams. It’s not enough to achieve our goals, but you must be planning ahead for the future. As leaders, it’s not enough to focus on the day-to-day. Building a long-term vision while creating a high performing team helps avoid complacency. High-performing teams challenge, debate, engage and trust each other, which is critical to future success. If the team is concerned about not letting each other down as opposed to focusing on their individual success, you have a motivated team.
What’s the biggest risk you’ve taken?
My first risk was deciding to go to law school when I had a great job offer from Proctor and Gamble out of college. My second risk came later when I stopped practising law to run operations. I stepped away from what I was trained to do and was good at doing. It was a calculated risk because I believed in myself and knew it was the step I needed to take to become a CEO.
When you’re considering partnering with another person or business, what factors are deal-breakers for you?
A reputation for being dishonest, not treating people with respect or not following through on commitments. You have to be careful about who you allow into your inner circle.
What’s the best book you’ve read this year?
The Book of Joy, which is a reporter’s interview with the Dalai Lama and Bishop Desmond Tutu. These are two very powerful men from different backgrounds, different parts of the world, who become close friends. The book focuses on how they approach life. It reinforces that we have a purpose here and a limited amount of time to make an impact on the world. Our potential impact on others is far greater than we realise.
What are you most proud of in your professional career?
I get excited and I’m proudest when I see team members being promoted. A promoted team member means I’ve recognised their talent and now they have an opportunity for continued growth. Also, my ability to use my platform to make a difference in the communities we serve. Under my leadership, BGE has made a commitment to make a difference, not only in Baltimore, but the entire state of Maryland.
Which of your leadership skills were the most difficult to develop?
Patience. I have to work on it. I have to recognise that not everyone operates at my pace and I have to make sure people understand the message.
People view situations from the seat they are in; therefore I have learned to slow down and connect the dots and explain the reasons why decisions are being made.
What’s the most important leadership lesson you’ve learned and how has it proven invaluable?
You must give people room to solve problems. I’ve also learned it’s impossible to be a respected leader and not respect others.
How do you achieve balance in your life?
I am intentional about setting routines. A routine to work out, spending time with family,‘date night’, and down time for myself. I’ve learned I must be intentional about my mental and physical health.
What trend in the global energy space do you see becoming intrinsic to the overall power network?
The electrification of America is taking place. The country is realising the reduction of greenhouse gases is critical to our quality of life.
I think rooftop solar is a trend.
I think you will see more community solar or smaller distributive energy taking place. Rooftop will be replaced by larger scale community solar projects for all communities.