Getting the hang of team definitely takes a while. When I entered the industry, I didn’t like working on teams. I couldn’t work at my own pace or on my own schedule, and it seemed like every team had at least one slacker who dragged down the team.

Team is a way of life in the working world. Yes, team still has its frustrations, but working solo has lost a lot of its appeal as I have come to realize that, on the main, collaborating is more fun and brings superior results and increased buy-in.

Here is an example of an initiative that could only be accomplished through the power of team. I was on a team at Georgia Power assigned to develop a residential and small commercial power-quality program. Over the course of a year, I discovered first-hand that Georgia Power had incredible talent spread throughout the company. We had members from power quality, operations, customer care, customer research protection and control, the meter lab and the test lab.

Every person on that team would prove to be essential as we worked together to come up with a roadmap to offer a higher level of power quality to our customers. The proposal we made to management was much stronger than any effort that could have arisen from any one department. And a series of focus groups helped us understand what our customers really wanted, including how they would like to be approached. The final proposal included a residential offering that provided individual surge-suppression devices in the home and a meter extender that contained lightning protection. Although I left the company before the final program was rolled out, I checked back to find out that the program was quite well received.

Not All Teams Are Supported Equally

Sometimes utility leadership misuses the concept of team. And without enlightened leadership, collaborative efforts often fall short. I’ve seen utility executives hijack the concept of team and use it to coerce people into going along by stating, “If you aren’t willing to ‘get with the team,’ you will be taken off the team.” More than one engineer has been given the package for non-compliance.

Even the best utilities occasionally place individuals in executive positions who are a poor fit and, ultimately, hurt the health of the company. Working with teams under one of the following executive types is usually an exercise in futility. See if your department has had to survive one of these executives.

The Rotating VP

This is one of those manufactured executives who has been preordained for greatness, but before he can put on his destined crown, he is dipped into two-year stints across a wide spectrum of organizations. He doesn’t really know your business and, therefore, will have a hard time directing the team. Also, he will likely be moved to his next rotation before the team is scheduled to deliver on its assigned task.

The Torch VP

This VP has been brought in to restructure the department and get rid of dead wood so the company will be leaner and more productive. His role is to tear apart, not to build. Team is a foreign concept as long as this person is in place.

The Ex-Military VP

This VP is typically brought in to add a level of discipline to the department. Of course, with this background, he is quite comfortable using authority and values process teams. This VP is often a bust in T&D. Too often, he has a serious deficit in the area of people skills. And there are so many critical links between power delivery and the various stakeholders that require an empowered, not a cowered, workforce.

The Glad-Hand VP

This VP is brought in to mend fences after one of the more hard-nosed VPs has been running the organization. He is not likely to hold process teams accountable, so initiatives tend to drag out. Also, although teams might be crafted, they will usually tackle cream-puff assignments like handling coffee or coming up with morale-building activities.

The Enabling VP

Now this is my favorite type of executive. This VP realizes he cannot have a significant impact unless he hires and supports people as smart or smarter than himself. He wants to provide the people in his organization with the tools to get the job done, to encourage his team to work together, to reach common stretch goals and to celebrate successes.

Though we are all familiar with the concept of team, we don’t always experience true alignment. Only when management believes in an empowered workforce and works to unleash the talent that exists in our organizations will we reach our true potential. Most of us came into power delivery to serve, and we are more than willing to work together to make a bigger difference.

Rick Bush

Editorial Director