08 Mar How to… bring about change in utilities and grow as a professional
SUPERPOWER YOUR CAREER
Rachel Fletcher, Director of Regulation, Octopus Energy
Rachel Fletcher has worked in energy regulation and policy for over 20 years. A successful leader, she has held senior positions in Ofgem, worked internationally as a consultant and was recently in the water sector, as Ofwat’s CEO. Rachel’s goal is to change the energy industry so people can lead cheaper, greener lives. Rachel is also a POWERful Women Ambassador and Mentor and this blog is based on the conversation she hosted with aspiring women at a POWERful Connections Breakfast in December 2021.
Throughout my career, I’ve found that tapping into four ‘superpowers’ has helped me to succeed and enjoy my work.
Superpower 1 – purpose
The first superpower is a sense of purpose and what makes you “tick”. What matters to me
is doing something positive to improve people’s daily lives. I’ve had jobs where I couldn’t see that golden thread and I found it very hard to be motivated. I’ve also learned that I need to be where the action is (or could be) happening: I don’t have the patience to be a good researcher, for example.
With so much happening in the energy industry (the urgent as well as the important) it’s easy to get distracted and be busy without driving much real change. Keeping a tight focus on my purpose – especially the outcomes I’m trying to achieve at the time – helps to give me direction when faced with complexity. This also strengthens my resolve and helps me look for solutions when obstacles are put in my way. Taking on roles and performing them in away that plays to my own passions and preferences – rather than looking to imitate others -has also made my work much more enjoyable.
Superpower 2 – self-confidence
For a lot of women self limiting beliefs are the biggest barrier to reaching their full potential.
We demonstrate this every time we ask for permission to speak or apologise for our opinions with phrases such as “I might have got this wrong, but…” . Lack of confidence was certainly something that slowed me down in the early days and it manifested itself in different ways: for example, not applying for roles I might fail at and constantly comparing myself to others. All this can create stress and worry and make work an unpleasant experience when it should be something we enjoy.
Coaching has been a big help in batting away imposter syndrome. It’s reminded me of my strengths and capabilities, given me practical tips to handle nerves in those tricky moments, and challenged me to work outside of my comfort zone. However, perhaps the most liberating thing I learned is that career setbacks are not the end of the world. I grew most in self confidence when I picked myself up and reoriented myself after failing to get a promotion I wanted.
Superpower 3 – working with and empowering others
I love team working . Individual blind spots and prejudices are less likely to hold sway and, in my experience, the most creative solutions happen when people share ideas and problem solve together. But this superpower is not just about teamwork. I’ve found the real magic comes through empowering others. As I got more senior I had an “aha!” moment when I realised my job was not to tell people how to reach our goals, but to enable and motivate them to bring their best to reach our goals.
Organisations often underestimate what people can achieve, including very early on in their careers, and we fall into the trap of over-managing and constraining talent and ability. Since joining Octopus I’ve seen lots of people with relatively slim experience be given and succeed in high responsibility roles. Recently, I was reminded that The Beatles were only 27 at the peak of their creativity, which is also the average age in the NASA control room that put the first man on the moon. In all of these examples, people have achieved great things because they were given a clear purpose and a supportive framework within which to thrive.
Having a culture that taps into talent – and has a no blame approach to failure – is key, particularly during times of change. Without it, even the best strategy in the world will not succeed.
If you feel like you are stuck in a box, and your talent isn’t being used, start a conversation with your line manager about the things you’d do if you were let out of the box, and how they could empower you to unlock your potential.
Superpower 4 – resilience
Things don’t always stay the same, at work or at home. There will always be change – that’s a characteristic of our sector, particularly as we go through the energy transition. As life throws up unexpected twists and turns, we have to be ready to figure out what we can control, what we can influence and to roll with the punches and find the positives. For example, I value a mix of home and office working – and would have loved this when my kids were young. The Covid-19 pandemic has made that the norm and given us all (and carers especially) a chance to achieve a better work life balance.
Throughout periods of change all four of these superpowers can help professionally and personally. In particular, hold fast to your purpose, know your strengths and your passions.
Increasing my self-awareness, self-confidence and a focus on empowering and working with others has guided me throughout my career journey and helped me grow as a leader. I hope it will help you too!