To create a winning culture, don’t play the blame game

Article by Kevin Smith, CEO of the Americas: 

Employees make better decisions when they know leadership has their back.

Slightly more than three years ago, Lightsource bp had fifteen employees in the United States. They all shared the dream of bringing cleaner energy to a thriving market of utility scale solar project development, construction and investment.

Since then, we’ve raised more than $2.6 billion in project capital and grown to a diverse team of almost 200 people working in more than 20 states across the U.S. We now have 22 large-scale solar projects in 10 different states in operation or under construction. Together, they will generate more than 2.2 gigawatts of electricity, and have created thousands of construction jobs. The future looks like more of the same, as we have a deep pipeline of projects in development.

This sort of growth doesn’t happen easily. It requires energetic, innovative, and smart people committed to leading our way to a cleaner future.

Throughout my career, I’ve realized that organizations thrive when they foster an environment in which people can work in confidence. You can’t move forward if you’re always looking over your shoulder. That’s why we are dedicated in maintaining a “No Blame Culture” at Lightsource bp. It takes work, focus and team participation to maintain that important aspect of our culture across the organization.

We believe the best way to create a better world is by having a better workplace.

It’s up to leadership to back up people who take educated and calculated risks. The team at Lightsource bp needs to innovate without worrying about the finger pointing that can surface when one thing or another inevitably doesn’t work out as planned.

We’re engaged in a complex, high-risk business. Projects such as our 260-megawatt Impact Solar project in Texas or our 186-megawatt Bellflower Solar project in Indiana involve mastering complicated projects structures, managing fast-paced construction activities, working with dozens of stakeholders and raising hundreds of millions of dollars in investments, all while keeping an eye on the bottom line.

We face many challenges: massive competition in the U.S. market, inflation, construction risks, permitting and transmission delays, and federal tariff actions on equipment supply, among a host of other issues.

Fear impedes success in such a high-risk environment. It’s only without fear that a team can make the clear and timely decisions that can mean the difference between success and failure.

And the stakes are higher than ever.

Over my decades in the energy industry, I’ve built power plants around the world using all types of fuels and technologies. In that time, I’ve also seen the changes in our world’s climate and realized that the future needs to be devoted to clean energy.

It’s just that important.

We’ve seen rising temperatures and rising seas. Each year, new parts of the world see disruptions based on climate change, and scientists around the world know things will only get worse if we do nothing.

With such high stakes, people succeed by having supportive management that provide a confident and secure workplace – how can anyone thrive with fear?

In my view, it’s the role of a chief executive to make it easier for people to do their jobs, to recognize problems and help fix them. The CEO needs to incentivize collaboration and teamwork across departments and disciplines. You don’t do this by slogans or posters. It happens only when top leadership leads by example every day.

That also means including people of all backgrounds in everything we do. Our work happens around the world, and we must represent the world’s diversity as we work in nations from Brazil to France to Taiwan, and in states across the U.S. from California to Alabama.

That’s why the “speak up” culture at Lightsource bp is so important. We need people with different traits and characteristics that reflect diverse backgrounds. The contributions of all our employees are not just welcomed but needed in order for us to be successful.

We’re looking for people who can help us meet these challenges, whether they are financial analysts, technology experts, commercial managers, or development professionals. Our team needs to maintain its flexibility, innovation, and aggressiveness.

How can you be sure we mean what we say? Check out our track record and see what our team members say. Together I know we can help create a cleaner and more livable world.

Kevin Smith first published this article on LinkedIn in on June 14, 2022. To leave a comment or question, please view the original post here.


About the author:

As CEO of the Americas, Kevin Smith leads the expansion of Lightsource bp’s solar activities in the U.S. and regionally. Kevin joined Lightsource bp with over 30 years of experience in the energy industry, with the last 15 years in renewable energy (solar and wind). Kevin has developed and built energy projects in more than a dozen countries across five continents, while securing long-term electricity sales contracts with total cash flows in excess of $55 billion. Smith has held CEO and senior executive positions with a number of energy companies, including SolarReserve, Invenergy, Insight Energy, Rolls-Royce Power Ventures, and Indeck Energy Services. Kevin earned his MBA in Finance from the University of Chicago and his Mechanical Engineering degree from Purdue University. He is on the board of the Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA).

Read Kevin’s leadership story here


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