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The Grid Isn’t the Only Thing That's Resilient

Nov. 10, 2020
The year of 2020 has forced us to be innovative, flexible, and find new ways to come together.

There is a part of me that is ecstatic to be writing this December column for the mere fact that it means we are wrapping up the year of 2020. It sure has been a zinger! This has been a year full of natural disasters — wildfires, hurricanes, and a global pandemic. There have been some significant man-made challenges as well, with respect to geopolitical forces, supply chain security, reliability, and a presidential election. Workers in our industry run into the storms saying, “I am my brother’s keeper.” I am always so proud to be part of such a prepared and resilient industry.

I often ask folks in our industry what’s on their minds and have increasingly been hearing concerns about how the COVID-19 lockdowns and working remotely are affecting our employees and collective teams, particularly in the long run. While I often write about technology and the resilience of our grid, a lesser known fact is that I’m nearing completion of a Ph.D. and have also been spending a great deal of my spare time researching virtual teams and leadership. This month, I want to spend some time reflecting on our greatest resource of all, each other. Our grid isn’t the only thing that is resilient. 

Authentic Leadership

It is a daunting time to be a leader, in any industry. T&D World recently conducted a survey that indicated, perhaps unsurprisingly, that many of you are feeling more uncertainty in your jobs now, than ever before (stay tuned for more from our "Utility Market Transformation" survey in next month’s issue).

My team ordinarily works remotely, so that is nothing new. Even so, we are all experiencing more stress given everything going on in the world. And, we certainly aren’t experienced at juggling work while homeschooling kids. The COVID-19 lockdowns were a reminder that I was long overdue in implementing some great leadership advice I was once given, which is to allow yourself the freedom to learn out loud and to bring your authentic self, unmasked, to work. In this spirit, I told my team that they could expect to see the genuine me via webcam, and how I actually work at home: casual, in the living room, and wearing no makeup. They may even get a glimpse of the occasional kid or dog in the background.

None of us had all the answers this year. The truth is, we are all just doing our best. As leaders, when we bring our authentic selves to work every day and permit ourselves to learn out loud, we allow our employees to do the same. In allowing ourselves to be vulnerable and genuine around one another, we will ultimately create a more trusting and higher performing team. I can’t think of a better time to encourage all of those things than right now!

Social Distancing not Social Isolation

The year of 2020 has forced us to be innovative, flexible, and find new ways to come together. Business here at T&D World has been no different. In October, we held a virtual Lineman’s Celebration week to keep the spirit of the International Lineman’s Rodeo alive and honor the line trade. On Dec. 7-8, we will host a virtual event about Wildfire Risk Mitigation, and while I am disappointed that we can’t all be together, I’m also very proud to report that at the time of this writing, we have utilities from 31 different countries participating! What an amazing and resilient group of people you all are. 

I’m excited to give you a sneak peak into four more virtual events we have planned for 2021 around the topics of securing the grid, wildfires, distributed energy resources, and emerging T&D technologies. I’m also hopeful that we can host a live event in the fall of 2021 about "Black Sky Hazards & Grid Resilience," which I’ve actually been planning since before the COVID-19 lockdowns. We’ll have much to talk about.

While the term social distancing was new to my vocabulary this year, I’ve come to appreciate that it is not synonymous with social isolation. Collaborative technologies can certainly help with social isolation and are linked to belongingness and job satisfaction in virtual teams, but I think we can all agree that technology isn’t a true substitute to authentic human interaction. I recently came across some research by Julianne Holt-Lunstad from Brigham Young University about living a long life. She found that social integration and personal relationships were the top two predictors of how long a person will live, beating out smoking, drinking, flu shots, exercise, and obesity.

Over the next several days, as you prepare for the holidays and the “never enoughs” are in full swing, remember the real reason for the season and that the magic is in the mess. Be kind to yourselves and others despite the imperfections.

I wish all my friends a most fabulous Christmas and Happy New Year! Until next time, stay safe and healthy.

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