Published 25 October 2022

Navigating first time energy transition roles

As businesses increasingly embrace the green energy transition, Gerard Daniels is keeping busy supporting the appointment of first-time energy transition leaders. Kester Guy Briscoe shares these tips on navigating maiden energy transition roles.

Navigating first time energy transition roles

At a glance:

  • Strategic alignment is essential for embedding any significant organisational change.
  • There are some key relationships that energy transition leaders must build early and maintain.
  • How you communicate the value of the energy transition is equally critical to the success of new leaders.

Gerard Daniels continues to support a growing number of senior energy transition appointments, including many leaders taking on the first energy transition role within an organisation. According to Kester Guy Briscoe, a Principal for Gerard Daniels in London, the first 12 to 18 months in any new energy transition leadership role will determine the appointee’s success or failure.

“If you’re taking on this kind of mandate, it’s likely that you believe in the importance of your work as part of your personal principles, so naturally you will want to make a success of it,” he says. “From a company perspective it’s also clear that if businesses don’t start to address energy and emissions concerns, they will reach a nadir where they can no longer compete.”

“More broadly as a society, we need energy transition leaders to be successful, to help drive sector-wide change,” Kester continues. “Because even small change can have a big impact.”

1. Strategic alignment

Achieving strategic alignment with key individuals and teams internally, is critical to the success of first-time energy transition leaders – it is the first things that new leaders need to address. While the same can be said of starting in any new leadership role, this alignment is particularly pertinent for these leaders who need to drive significant change, at a philosophical and values level.

“At the very least, newly appointed energy transition leaders need to garner support from the Board, the Executive and other key management teams,” says Kester. “Achieving strategic alignment with the majority of middle management is also important to ensure that even if they’re not helping you, they’re not likely to hinder or stand in the way of progress either.”

2. Building relationships

Building relationships is intrinsic to successful strategic alignment. Kester argues that to succeed first time energy transition leaders must build very specific relationships, build them early, often simultaneously with the strategic alignment phase, and continue to maintain these relationships. He also emphasises the value of meeting with key stakeholders in person.

“In recent times we haven’t always been able to rely on face-to-face encounters to build relationships,” Kester says. “Technology has done a great job of supporting this process remotely, but when leaders need to connect globally to get buy-in and to affect change, there is considerable value to be found in putting boots on the ground, and engaging with people face-to-face.”

3. Affecting change

When strategic alignment has been achieved and key relationships have been established, energy transition leaders can turn their focus to affecting change.

Find the quick wins

Feedback Kester consistently receives from established energy transition leaders, is that to affect change you need to start small. “The bull in a china shop approach rarely works, so new leaders should avoid immediately announcing aggressive emission reduction targets or rushing to make other radical changes,” he says. “Instead, new leaders should focus on getting a few runs on the board.”

“Achieving quick wins by making small changes that aren’t too onerous for stakeholders or requiring significant CapEx, allows businesses to see the value in what energy transition leaders are trying to do. It also makes other leaders less fearful of what will be demanded of them, and how it will affect their ability to successfully perform their own role,” says Kester. “When more significant changes need to happen, these leaders will then have the buy in they need to move the agenda forward.”

Talk their language

To communicate the value of the work that you are doing, Kester stresses the need to put the overall aims and outcomes into language that resonates with each of the groups and individuals that need to be engaged.

“Let’s say that through upgrading certain equipment you can do the same amount of work in half of the time. If that new piece of equipment has roughly the same emissions for doing double the work, you have effectively halved your emissions by using it,” says Kester. “Another way of looking at this situation, is that you’re now able to complete twice the amount of work, without needing to spend twice the amount on operational and staffing costs. Knowing what motivates different leaders and stakeholder groups allows you to present the value of what you are doing on their terms.”

Moving on from first energy transition roles: what lies ahead?

Many of the energy transition professionals that Kester first appointed 2 to 3 years ago, have not only achieved the strategic aims for the business they joined, but they have come full circle and moved onto new roles. One interesting leadership trend that Kester has witnessed, is experienced energy transition leaders moving on from operating companies into financial services.

“Most leaders get into energy transition roles to make a difference, and sovereign wealth funds and private equity firms have significant influence on the energy transition right now, so I can understand why this shift is happening,” Kester reflects. “By moving in this direction energy transition leaders can get broad experience, affect far greater change through portfolio companies, and move into roles with much wider influence.”

For more energy transition insights or to discuss your next leadership opportunity, connect with Kester. To register your details or find new energy transition leaders for your business, contact your local Gerard Daniels team.

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