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Summit defines leadership, future

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​By Jennifer Neville

There are defining moments in our personal lives. You can probably all point to a few. Moments, decision or events that made a difference in the direction your life would take. Western has moments like that, too. October 22 was one of them.

More than 200 members of Western’ leadership team crowded into a hotel conference room ready to hear Administrator and CEO Mark Gabriel talk about what leadership is, what it means at Western and where it can take Western in the future.

“A culture of leadership permeates any leading organization,” said Gabriel. “There is a phenomenon described as the shadow of the leader. Those in positions of leadership, through their actions and behaviors, influence the actions and behaviors of those below them, casting a shadow across the organization.”

The “shadow of the leader” usually refers to the influence leaders have in shaping the characteristics, culture and ways of doing business. This can happen at any level if the individual has these common leadership components

  • Vision 

  • Focus 

  • Inspiration

  • Support 

  • Decisiveness

“A leader must have vision,” said Gabriel. “You must see beyond your current situation and be able to put it into a larger context.”

Customers shine light on Western’s value

The summit was broken into two sessions. Midway through the week, half of the summit’s participants were preparing to head back to the job after two days of diving deep into sessions on different leadership skills, and half were just preparing for the event. The momentum and energy on Wednesday morning was palpable as the entire leadership assembled, anticipating insight from some of Western’s customers as part of a customer CEO panel.

Trinity Public Utilities District General Manager Paul Hauser said, “I not only enjoyed the questions and direct interaction with the panel that I participated on, but I very much enjoyed meeting and talking to Western employees from other regions. Through my interaction with SNR staff, I have always considered Western to be very professionally run. My participation in your Leadership Summit only furthered this opinion.”

In fact, the panel of customers provided a variety of perspectives about how the changing utility industry will affect our business and customers, and about the great value Western provides to those who depend on our products and services.

Headquarters-based Supervisory Electrical Engineer Dan Hamai shared, “By sharing their overall perspective and everyday challenges, I am reminded how important providing reliable power and controlling our costs are to these utilities and their communities.”

Skills developed, connections made

Participants learned more about Change Management tools and principles, and how to use them with new and existing initiatives.

"The Leadership Summit provided me with valuable information and tools to better understand and promote Change Management within my organizational sphere of influence,” said Western Colorado Division Maintenance Manager Will Schnyer. “Additionally, I really appreciate the investment Senior Management is making to move our organization forward and I am excited to have a role with assisting to shape our future culture.”

Additionally, Western’s leaders learned about how to use Lean Six Sigma to streamline processes and find efficiencies, project management, protecting Western’s physical and cyber assets and how to incorporate the Roadmap into our day-to-day work.

Upper Great Plains Public Utilities Specialist Sara Baker said, “Implementing some process improvement programs, while being supported through organizational change management, will help Western continue to achieve its mission and benefit the customers.”

“I had a lot of fun working with the organizing committee to plan and organize the summit,” said Chief of Staff Erin Green. “I am always amazed at the knowledge and experience and thoughtful people of Western, so I was excited to get to know people better. Also, I got to witness several instances of people meeting in person after having spent years becoming familiar over the phone. That, and a number of reunions between people who hadn’t seen each other for years, made this event special for me.”

Wrapping up the morning session just before lunch, Gabriel left the summit attendees with this final thought: “I am sure everyone is hungry—those who have been here since Monday are hungry to return to their duty stations and start applying some of the knowledge and tools gained here. Those joining us today are surely hungry for the knowledge and tools to be gained. In all truth, thank you all for taking the time to come here this week. I hope this has been a valuable experience and you are excited to continue leading Western to be the best organization we can be. I am honored every day to work with all of you.”

Technical Services Manager Cathy Castle shared, “The planning and preparation was a huge undertaking for everyone involved. I was fortunate to work with a great group of individuals who had one goal in mind: to put together a professional and informative event for Western’s leadership, while still adding time for networking and fun. This was one of the most satisfying accomplishments of my career.”

Based on positive feedback from participants, Western will bring a version of the Leadership Summit to the regions and Headquarters in the coming months so everyone will have the opportunity to learn more about these topics. Dates and locations will be announced when they are scheduled.

Senior Vice President and Upper Great Plains Regional Manager Bob Harris asks a question of the customer panel at the all-leadership meeting, Oct. 22, in Denver, Colorado. Administrator and CEO Mark Gabriel (left) moderated the panel made up of Paul Hauser, General Manager of Trinity Public Utilities District; and Jackie Sargent, General Manager of Platte River Power Authority. Not pictured but also on the panel was Pat Pope, President and Chief Executive Officer of Nebraska Public Power District. (Photo by Chris Lyles)

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