Systemic Change Through Stakeholder Involvement with H.G. Chissell, Founder & CEO of Advanced Energy Group

And how to facilitate collaboration that leads to progress.

On episode 136 of the Bigger Than Us podcast, we learn about an innovative model for stakeholder engagement from H.G. Chissell. H.G. is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Advanced Energy Group (AEG) where they guide leadership collaboration and focus on projects that drive systemic change.

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Systemic Change Through Stakeholder Involvement

This transcript has been edited for readability.

Where Leadership Makes a Difference

(06:48) I was inspired by seeing the leaders of cities, starting first with Chicago, really. Chris Wheat, who was the Chief Sustainability Officer of the time, when Rahm Emanuel was just finishing up his term as mayor decide as a team that they were going to commit to the Paris Climate Accord, even though all indications were Trump was going to pull out.

That this was important, and that Chicago wasn’t backing down, joining New York City with Bloomberg and others and say, no, this is important. If we don’t do this, right, people are going to die and suffer. And we are going to commit to achieving these goals. We don’t know how, but we’re going to do it. And that level of courage and commitment, and compassion really touched me in terms of what am I doing with my life professionally, in terms of the greatest benefit.

And in talking with Chris, he shared with me that, you know, cities can make promises, set out targets. But they’re not the ones who deliver on the targets. That only happens with extraordinary alignment and consensus, urgency, and action.

And in this case, regarding this topic, that can only happen when you have the alignment of enough diverse perspectives and stakeholders to actually make a difference, which is extremely difficult in any scenario.

Now you apply the fact that you’re talking about something that’s so pervasive as clean energy transformation, and is so urgent that you need to get something done within 10–20 years. It looked like such a daunting task that required an entire reset on the approach to stakeholder engagement that I wanted to take it on and find a way somehow to provide that platform of stakeholder engagement that could get the job done. And that was really the inspiration to start working with a group of companies and leaders and say, “How can we approach this differently to get to outcomes now?”

From Inspiration to Inspired Action

If we’re really committed to achieving these goals, we need to be talking more often, we need to up our level of commitment to engagement and conversation.

(10:00) I think I’d probably just start with lessons learned along this path. One, I went into it with the principal. And this likely came out of the experience I had for about two years working in a boutique global leadership consulting firm, that really focused on taking high potential executives, at top-tier teams within large global organizations and getting them to extraordinary outcomes. And they had their whole methodology on how they did this work. And some principles which they used. And one was the idea that extraordinary leaders don’t focus on leading people. They focus on leading extraordinary conversations. I love that. It made a lot of sense to me.

And so when I started Advanced Energy Group, I went in saying, we’re not going to do this as an annual event. If we’re really committed to achieving these goals, we need to be talking more often, we need to up our level of commitment to engagement and conversation. So we’re going to do these on a quarterly basis. So that was the first commitment. By doing that, it creates a steep learning curve for us. Every quarter, we were back in the room trying to develop this extraordinary stakeholder platform. And that’s where we just started having lessons after lessons on how to improve it, strengthen it.

And the other key lesson learned was, if you want to get a large group of leaders aligned to do something, you’ve got to make it competitive and engaging. So soon, we realized we needed to create this as a three-part competition.

How AEG Fully and Equally Engages Stakeholders

So we don’t want to hear from speakers about their solutions. We want to know what they see are the most critical pain points that they can’t solve without collaboration with others.

(11:39) Our stakeholder challenge is not just a meetup, it’s actually a three-part competition, where on a quarterly basis in four cities, invited leaders, typically four speakers come to present what they feel is the critical obstacle standing in the way of making needed change, as it relates to that particular quarterly topic to achieve the carbon and equity goals of that city.

So we don’t want to hear from speakers about their solutions. We want to know what they see are the most critical pain points that they can’t solve without collaboration with others.

And then we let the room vote and prioritize those obstacles so that we can focus our efforts on one to come up with a 12-month solution in part two of the process, which is the breakout challenge, where teams break off from this group that’s assembled to develop 12-months solutions that would most successfully overcome or address that identified important obstacle. And then the room votes again, so you get a winning solution to a winning problem. All within a span of when we did this in person, we could get it done by lunchtime.

Now, when we’re online, we do it over two days, we do the speaker challenge, the first day on a Wednesday, for 90 minutes. And then the next day for two hours, we have the breakout room challenge. And the fun part is the breakout room challenge, we purposely mix up these groups that work together to come up with these solutions from diversity lens, from sector lens.

That’s really a key component of this, too, is making it inclusive and strategically diverse so that when you do get to alignment, it means something. It’s not just everybody within your silo agreeing, though, yeah, that’s really important. But you haven’t talked to the person from a social equity lens on that issue. So make sure they’re a part of that and agree with you that it’s important. So we really try to bring that in.

And so by the end of the breakout room challenge, you’ve got teams that have worked 40 minutes to an hour together to present a solution that comes and represents a lot of different perspectives. That must include a 12-month solution that’s achievable, that would have an impact, and three quarterly milestones that lead up to that solution, and then the group votes. You can’t vote for your own solution. And then you come together with this winning solution to the problem.

(9:02) It’s evolved over the years. I started in 2016 in Chicago. By the end of 2019, was doing this on a quarterly basis in Chicago, New York City, Boston, Washington DC, and then for a year, I did San Francisco. All in partnership with the leads of sustainability from the cities and the mayor’s office there. And then off, also the key stakeholders regarding the utilities, large energy users kept being attracted to this approach that I was working on and started sponsoring and supporting me to figure out how to do this. And that’s really how Advanced Energy Group grew and developed as a stakeholder engagement platform.

How to Get Involved

(19:03) All our events are by invitation only. So we’re really trying to make sure it never gets skewed to be a trade association, but really a reflection of the community. So one, often the task forces that are created have that level of representation inherent to the group. So for instance, we’ve got on the call today, this taskforce call, we had CMAP, which is an organization that very much looks at equity, and how do you align transportation in Chicago in a way that’s equitable?

Environmental Defense Fund was on the call as well. So they help make sure there’s representation. And then from there, we can go working with the mayor’s office in Chicago, look for what organizations, civic organizations relate to wherever. Ultimately, this group is going to try to focus their efforts first in creating some type of electrification program with fleets for a particular neighborhood.

Motivated by Impermanence and the Gift of Life

…if you don’t have a practice for embracing impermanence, it’s so easy to forget that and think that this goes on and you get the call the shots of when it ends.

(34:15) Recently, I think the thing for me has been always taking time to appreciate how limited the time we have is. I think it’s Viktor Frankl says imminent hanging sharpens a man’s wit. Just embracing our impermanence. There’s a lot of freedom in doing that in terms of letting things fall or settle that are distracting you from what you really are going to be most proud that you accomplish with this brief gift that you have called life.

And if you don’t have a practice for embracing impermanence, it’s so easy to forget that and think that this goes on and you get the call the shots of when it ends. And I think that to me, always helps center me when I really get in touch with impermanence and the gift of life.

The Full Transcript: Bigger Than Us #136 with H.G. Chissell

This transcript has been lightly edited.

Host Raj Daniels 00:07

H.G., how are you doing today?

H.G. Chissell 00:13

I’m doing well. I’m feeling inspired. I have a Georgia flag flying out on my front porch that I had bought several weeks ago inspired by the presidential election and my thoughts around John Lewis, and everything that has happened in Georgia. Today I get to fly it very proudly.

Host Raj Daniels 00:33

Now, are you located in Georgia?

H.G. Chissell 00:36

I’m located about 20 minutes outside Philadelphia.

Host Raj Daniels 00:39

And how’s the weather up where you are?

H.G. Chissell 00:42

It’s partly cloudy with some beautiful sun coming through.

Host Raj Daniels 00:45

Any rain, snow?

H.G. Chissell 00:48

No, we had a big snow storm a couple of weeks ago, but that’s subsided. And there’s just a little bit of snow left from that semester.

Host Raj Daniels 01:00

H.G., I like to open the show by asking the following question. If you were asked to share something interesting about yourself, what would it be?

H.G. Chissell 01:08

One thing when I look back that was helpful to the formation of my path, which has been a fairly scenic one, was the time I spent my senior year of high school living in Belgium. I lived in a little suburb of Liége as a senior in high school, I was an exchange student. And that had a big impact on me in terms of just being challenging, thrown into no one speaking English around me and being the only American in a village.

It also had some interesting experiences for me in terms of different types of racism, it’s really not racism so much. Whereas nationalism that I found that I experienced in Belgium versus being a Brown, Black person in America, where you’re just considered Black, but there because I’m a Brown person, I was taken to be Moroccan. And so that was really eye-opening, an important experience, just to see how easy it is for us to see differences versus our shared humanity. And how disappointing that can be and how much potential there really is for us to do better.

Host Raj Daniels 02:21

You know, that really is interesting. I’ve, I don’t say suffered with, but I’ve experienced similar being of Indian heritage. I grew up in London. I’m talking late 70s, early 80s. Then when I moved here to Dallas, let’s just call it the late 80s, early 90s. I very quickly became a Mexican, if you know what I mean. And then as the first Gulf War started, the early 90s, I became a camel jockey. And subsequently, I’ve been called several things, almost everything but Indian. But to your point about a person sees your color automatically assumes you know, whether it’s the news du jour, or whatever, it’s kind of trending in that time, and they’ve kind of positioned you a pigeonhole you to be that particular race.

H.G. Chissell 03:14

Yeah, it was an interesting experience. I went on to go spend my first year of college outside Stuttgart, Germany, University of Maryland, school there, and there, I was taken to the Turkish. So I got to see it from a couple of lenses as well.

Host Raj Daniels 03:33

For those that are listening, you know, the reason that I think Moroccan in Belgium and then Turkish in Germany because there’s a lot of migration to those particular countries from those other countries. And so that’s probably why like you said Belgium and France, both, the North African population there. And specifically in Germany, a lot of Turkish people there too. So that is very interesting. Now, you know, doing some research, can you speak to your botched appendectomy?

H.G. Chissell 04:09

Well, it was winter break in while I was in my first year of school in Germany. I was on campus during winter break and just very few people on the campus. And just tremendous pain didn’t know what was happening. Ultimately, some friends took me to a hospital in some town and they needed to operate on me for an appendectomy. And it had been inflamed, it actually the infection had got seeped out, and I didn’t know that at the time they thought they had done the appendectomy well, and just was a very surreal experience being operated on in this very small town in Germany. You know, a lot of glass vials versus what you’d find in, in the states for IV bags and all those things.

It was, it was a pretty lonely moment. And then to find out, you know, weeks or a month later that the operation actually didn’t go well. And the infection had spread into my intestines, which led to me needing to leave school and take an emergency trip back to Baltimore, for an operation term, to remove this abscess that had been created in my intestines from that botched appendectomy.

It just put me on a really strange path through college of kind of seeing a lot of life from the sidelines, trying to get better, and back to being an 18-year old or 19-year old. But having just all these issues with my intestines, and eating and all kinds of stuff. It was very helpful, I think, in some ways, to appreciate how fragile life is how easy it is to take it for granted. Through that time, when it was supposed to be, you know, the best times of your life, your moment of freedom.

So I’m glad I went through those times because I think it also helped open up or deepen my compassion for when I see others suffering because I know it’s real. And I know things can go worse versus get better. You know, that can definitely happen, too. when you get struck by an illness, that things can get worse. So just some appreciative to have had that experience.

Host Raj Daniels 06:34

Well, I for one, I’m glad you made it through. Okay.

H.G. Chissell 06:37

Thank you.

Host Raj Daniels 06:38

So let’s fast forward to Advanced Energy Group. Can you share with the audience, a little bit about the organization and your role?

H.G. Chissell 06:48

Sure. I was inspired by seeing the leaders of cities, starting first with Chicago, really. Chris Wheat, who was the Chief Sustainability Officer of the time, when Rahm Emanuel was just finishing up his term as mayor decide as a team that they were going to commit to the Paris Climate Accord, even though all indications were Trump was going to pull out.

That this was important, and that Chicago wasn’t backing down, joining New York City with Bloomberg and others and say, no, this is important. If we don’t do this, right, people are going to die and suffer. And we are going to commit to achieving these goals. We don’t know how, but we’re going to do it. And that level of courage and commitment, and compassion really touched me in terms of what am I doing with my life professionally, in terms of the greatest benefit. And in talking with Chris, he shared with me that, you know, cities can make promises, set out targets. But they’re not the ones who deliver on the targets. That only happens with extraordinary alignment and consensus, urgency, and action.

And in this case, regarding this topic, that can only happen when you have the alignment of enough diverse perspectives and stakeholders to actually make a difference, which is extremely difficult in any scenario. Now you apply the fact that you’re talking about something that’s so pervasive as clean energy transformation, and is so urgent that you need to get something done within 10–20 years. It looked like such a daunting task that required an entire reset on the approach to stakeholder engagement that I wanted to take it on and find a way somehow to provide that platform of stakeholder engagement that could get the job done. And that was really the inspiration to start working with a group of companies and leaders and say, “How can we approach this differently to get to outcomes now?”

And it’s evolved over the years. I started in 2016 in Chicago. By the end of 2019, was doing this on a quarterly basis in Chicago, New York City, Boston, Washington DC, and then for a year, I did San Francisco. All in partnership with the leads of sustainability from the cities and the mayor’s office there. And then off, also the key stakeholders regarding the utilities, large energy users kept being attracted to this approach that I was working on and started sponsoring and supporting me to figure out how to do this. And that’s really how Advanced Energy Group grew and developed as a stakeholder engagement platform.

Host Raj Daniels 09:49

So can you give an example of an event or a meeting and then after that, you mentioned engagement, how you move from engagement to action?

H.G. Chissell 10:00

I think I’d probably just start with lessons learned along this path. One, I went into it with the principal. And this likely came out of the experience I had for about two years working in a boutique global leadership consulting firm, that really focused on taking high potential executives, at top-tier teams within large global organizations and getting them to extraordinary outcomes. And they had their whole methodology on how they did this work. And some principles which they used. And one was the idea that extraordinary leaders don’t focus on leading people. They focus on leading extraordinary conversations. I love that. It made a lot of sense to me.

And so when I started Advanced Energy Group, I went in saying, we’re not going to do this as an annual event. If we’re really committed to achieving these goals, we need to be talking more often, we need to up our level of commitment to engagement and conversation. So we’re going to do these on a quarterly basis. So that was the first commitment. By doing that, it creates a steep learning curve for us. Every quarter, we were back in the room trying to develop this extraordinary stakeholder platform. And that’s where we just started having lessons after lessons on how to improve it, strengthen it.

And the other key lesson learned was, if you want to get a large group of leaders aligned to do something, you’ve got to make it competitive and engaging. So soon, we realized we needed to create this as a three-part competition.

So our stakeholder challenge is not just a meetup, it’s actually a three-part competition, where on a quarterly basis in four cities, invited leaders, typically four speakers come to present what they feel is the critical obstacle standing in the way of making needed change, as it relates to that particular quarterly topic to achieve the carbon and equity goals of that city.

So we don’t want to hear from speakers about their solutions. We want to know what they see are the most critical pain points that they can’t solve without collaboration with others. And then we let the room vote and prioritize those obstacles so that we can focus our efforts on one to come up with a 12-month solution in part two of the process, which is the breakout challenge, where teams break off from this group that’s assembled to develop 12-months solutions that would most successfully overcome or address that identified important obstacle. And then the room votes again, so you get a winning solution to a winning problem. All within a span of when we did this in person, we could get it done by lunchtime.

Now, when we’re online, we do it over two days, we do the speaker challenge, the first day on a Wednesday, for 90 minutes. And then the next day for two hours, we have the breakout room challenge. And the fun part is the breakout room challenge, we purposely mix up these groups that work together to come up with these solutions from diversity lens, from sector lens. That’s really a key component of this, too, is making it inclusive and strategically diverse so that when you do get to alignment, it means something. It’s not just everybody within your silo agreeing, though, yeah, that’s really important. But you haven’t talked to the person from a social equity lens on that issue. So make sure they’re a part of that and agree with you that it’s important. So we really try to bring that in.

And so by the end of the breakout room challenge, you’ve got teams that have worked 40 minutes to an hour together to present a solution that comes and represents a lot of different perspectives. That must include a 12-month solution that’s achievable, that would have an impact, and three quarterly milestones that lead up to that solution, and then the group votes. You can’t vote for your own solution. And then you come together with this winning solution to the problem.

Host Raj Daniels 14:15

So in my mind, it sounds like design thinking or perhaps even a charrette kind of exercise. Can you give an example of perhaps a topic that was brought by a stakeholder and how it was worked through?

H.G. Chissell 14:28

Sure. And I like the analogy, I mean, that was a large part of my life was the architecture and so design thinking charettes, I think informs this a lot. Just what I loved about architecture was it wasn’t just about the vision. It was about having a vision that could be manifested into reality and not fall down and hurt people, but actually be something that could stand the test of time. So I think that informed a lot of this process.

An example. Well, I just got off a call with a task force that’s been created for our work in Chicago. So we take the year and we break it into four quarterly topics that all the cities address. So Q1, we cover critical infrastructure, equity, and resilience. Q2 buildings, and construction. Q3, grid modernization. And Q4 mobility and transportation.

And so we just finished all the cities on mobility and transportation. Most of them happened in December for Q4 2020. And for Chicago, you know, Chicago is really fascinating because people don’t realize that Chicago is probably one of the air pollution epicenters in the United States. It’s got some of the worst congestion, worst pollution. And it has some of the worst segregation. You know, a very clear example of what redlining can do. And so what happens is, there’s all this congestion, trucking, etc, pollution that goes right into the brown and black neighborhoods, and creates this tremendous disparity in life expectancy just within a mile or two because they’re on these transit corridors.

So our speaker there, that one, the name is Dave Schaller, and he’s with the National Association Council for Freight Efficiency. He presented the need to create a roadmap for trucking in Chicago to electrify. And why it would be so important because this roadmap doesn’t exist, these fleet operators are not understanding the value of doing this from a financial standpoint, but also just from a good stewardship standpoint for Chicago. And then all the other stakeholders in Chicago that are committed to equity and so on in Chicago, are not seeing that correlation either. So they don’t know how to prioritize their focus to address such an important issue. And so he won. And then afterward, he was part of one of the breakout rooms. And the exciting thing there is he was part of a breakout room that included Samantha Bingham. She’s a person with the mayor’s office in Chicago. She’s the Clean Transportation Program Director for the Chicago Department of Transportation, she was on his break in his breakout room.

Ultimately, their team developed a proposed solution, which was to develop this whole process to identify and get a pilot going with fleets that really were most active in these red zones, where you have the highest prevalence of air pollution, or in around Chicago, get them into some programs to find ways to electrify their fleets. And it really spoke to the entire group, they selected that solution.

Just looking at the number of task force members involved on this task force got one to over a dozen, including leaders from the Environmental Defense Fund, Chicago Department of Transportation, Center for Neighborhood and Technology, Black and Veatch, just a great group, a cross-section of leaders that understand that this approach would make a big important impact and they’re willing to commit their time and hold themselves accountable that within 12 months, by the time we get back to that quarter, that they’re going to present what they were able to accomplish.

Host Raj Daniels 18:43

So they actually go out and take action?

H.G. Chissell 18:46

Oh, yeah, they take action. And they know that every quarter, they have to present their milestone update to the group for a vote on whether or not they did what they said they were going to do.

Host Raj Daniels 18:57

And how do you get members to represent the community?

H.G. Chissell 19:03

All our events are by invitation only. So we’re really trying to make sure it never gets skewed to be a trade association, but really a reflection of the community. So one, often the task forces that are created have that level of representation inherent to the group. So for instance, we’ve got on the call today, this taskforce call, we had CMAP, which is an organization that very much looks at equity, and how do you align transportation in Chicago in a way that’s equitable?

Environmental Defense Fund was on the call as well. So they help make sure there’s representation. And then from there, we can go working with the mayor’s office in Chicago, look for what organizations, civic organizations relate to wherever. Ultimately, this group is going to try to focus their efforts first in creating some type of electrification program with fleets for a particular neighborhood.

Host Raj Daniels 20:08

Now, you mentioned that obviously, they used to be in-person events, now they’re online. How has the transition to online changed what do you do with Advanced Energy Group?

H.G. Chissell 20:20

At first, I was concerned because there’s so much working with us being in person. We’d have this great dinner the night before. And then the next day, we would have our half-day session, people working together at round tables and so on.

What’s been exciting about understanding how to do this online, is our reach just expanded exponentially. In our ability to get speakers interested who have expressed interest in the past, but we’re not able to make time on their calendar, we’re now able to say I want to be a speaker challenger. For instance, we had Joe Dominguez, CEO of ComEd really interested to be a speaker challenge. And next week we’ve got the CEO of Pepco, Dave Velazquez, very interested to be a speaker challenger. And they can because now they can get online, and they can get right into this discussion. And it works for them. So that’s been great.

We’ve learned that we need to take our programming and break it across two days. So we’ve got a 90-minute session on the first day and then a two-hour session on the second day. What’s been exciting to me is that our ability to deliver outcomes and the outcomes that we grade ourselves in terms of the effectiveness of this approach to stakeholder engagement is ultimate. One is how many people volunteer for the third part of this competition, which is the task force challenge. That is when the audience listens and sees the winning solution. And I asked them, how many of you are willing to volunteer, to hold yourselves accountable, and be a part of this group for a year to deliver this solution? And the number of hands that go up at that moment, determines how successful this process was, in my opinion. And last year, we had 160 leaders volunteer, and a lot of those happen from our online events. So I’m very excited about that, as a bit of a positive experience about going online.

I think this also speaks to the vision of our stakeholder engagement platform being scalable. We get a lot of interest or remarks from people saying, “When are you going to come to Texas? This model or approach would work so well, for Dallas, or Houston, or Austin.” And I can’t do that in person easily right now in terms of scale. But online, there’s a whole new avenue that opens up for the ability to do that and to deliver effective outcomes that can be very valuable to these locations.

Host Raj Daniels 22:58

That’s great to hear. You know, I want to switch gears here and get to the crux of our conversation. It’s the why behind what you do. You know, obviously, you have a deep professional background, why did you decide to start Advanced Energy Group, what motivates you. What moves you?

H.G. Chissell 23:17

I’m moved by the potential of collaboration. And the lack of it. I think so many of the reasons we don’t have effective collaboration are due to just our short-sightedness on things that we can overcome.

Namely, one, for instance, is the color of one’s skin should have no bearing on the ability to collaborate. But we get caught in these constructs that unfortunately, keep us from seeing our shared humanity. It’s a disservice. But also it’s a vulnerability to our ability to act together and solve big problems that affect millions of people. And so that just inspires me, because I feel with the right understanding, once you fix that problem, so much can happen so quickly. And you can really tap and engage the collective brilliance of all these people who are engaged on these issues. So I guess that inspires me because I feel if I can just open that up, so much can happen so quickly.

So I think that’s a big one for me. And I think stakeholder engagement is a term that hasn’t had its true due in terms of a being living up to its potential and I want to change that.

Host Raj Daniels 24:38

So it sounds to me that during your event, you’ve got almost like a microcosm of demographics. Would that be correct?

H.G. Chissell 24:49

That’s always the goal. Yeah.

Host Raj Daniels 24:51

How have you seen that interaction play out? You know, it’s very easy to read the headlines and see the divisions taking place right now. And you mentioned, right now, part of your why is the ability to bring people together for restoring the planet and social justice? But how have you seen that initially? Like, is there a moment of for a short period of time where there’s discomfort and then that kind of breaks through to eventually work getting done?

H.G. Chissell 25:19

At times, yes. Because I think we like to think we’re comfortable with hearing different perspectives and opinions, but we’re often just hearing our perspectives and opinions that fit within our filter. And so we’re not really exposed to the different perspectives we think we are. And so there are moments where that can happen.

But those often become the moments that are most special to people who are a part of it. Because something really breaks down at that moment, and you see things more clearly. So I think I see my role is to create an environment that feels safe and authentically inclusive for real issues to get on the table. I think that’s a particular opportunity that I have, as a Brown-Black person to create that type of space safe space, so that voices aren’t being suppressed when you’re trying to deal with issues that really relate to the future of people’s families and lives. You’ve got an environment where you can say what you need to say.

So people understand when trying to come up with a solution or prioritize a problem. I think that’s really important to have an environment like that.

Host Raj Daniels 26:36

Here’s a very interesting observation. As you were speaking, I was thinking that most people are exposed to opinions that don’t align with theirs through perhaps media headlines through a soundbite. Very rarely do they actually have the opportunity to sit in a room or perhaps on a Zoom call, with an individual that actually says those things out loud, where they have to actually mentally and emotionally digest them as they’re talking or as they’re actually going through the process.

H.G. Chissell 27:06

Yes. I agree, I try to make sure. This idea of 360 dialogue and engagement, that’s the spirit I want these stakeholder meetings to have. So that is never a power center to the discussion, it really feels like a 360 dialogue or approach. Almost like an honor seminar, or, you know, if you really are having an opportunity to dig into it from different angles and appreciate different opinions, all based on the backdrop of, we all care about solving this issue. And we know we can’t waste time not doing it now. That being the backdrop to the discussion.

Host Raj Daniels 27:51

I love that idea. Can you tell me why you feel stakeholder engagement is so important?

H.G. Chissell 28:05

Yes, because without it, we’re just not going to make it. If you were to ask most, in an honest moment, you know, if you were to say to them, do you think we’re doing enough fast enough to meet these pledges and equity commitments? I think you’ll find that the true answer is no. I mean, if you look at just what the Black Lives movement, George Floyd, all of that demonstrates too little too slow climate commitments. Decarbonization. Too little, too slow. And what’s underneath all of that, to me is that our level of stakeholder engagement on this issue that we all are stakeholders in is pathetically low.

And then I compare that against professional sports, and it just gets me so fired up in a good way. And also not just aggravation. Soccer has over a billion fans, NFL top five teams, maybe 10 teams, 50 million fans. The annual revenue of NFL plus soccer in 2017 was $90 billion in revenue. Look at that level of engagement from the players to coaches, the fans, the sponsors, all they’re just teeming with engagement, while the planet is just burning to a crisp, and we can’t get basic social equity issues, right. I want to take some of that magic. Even if I got a fraction of that and could apply it to creating stakeholder engagement as a professional sport, I think we would make such great progress that we’re not going to make unless we figure it out. That way.

That, to me is my big rocket fuel for what I see. I see bright lights bigger arenas, you know, figuratively. But that’s what I see stakeholder engagement can be. Because this is something we really do need to win at. This is what we need to win at. This is what matters most to win at. And we’re not playing like that, you know, we’re not playing as if it’s the Super Bowl, the World Cup. And that’s what I want to spend my time on this figuring out how to do. And once I figure it out, creating a lot of teams out there doing it, so that we can have some massive impact and change.

Host Raj Daniels 30:34

I love the idea of stakeholder engagement as a team sport. Speaking of creating magic, what have you learned so far on your journey about yourself?

H.G. Chissell 30:44

I’m a pretty tenacious optimist. You know, this has been a journey. I mean, any journey of a CEO, founder, will probably say this, but you just got to hold on to the vision and enjoy the ups and downs. Because that’s why you signed up to be at the front seat of the roller coaster. And I find that you know, I am persistent, I’m very optimistic.

I’ve learned the areas that I’m comfortable. I’m comfortable being a moderator and facilitator. And really seeding the conversation to others, creating the environment for productive conversations is what I like, versus necessarily always being the one leading that. I don’t need to lead that conversation. But I feel a responsibility to create the best environment for leaders who inspire me to make the most of their time and commitment by being in an environment where they can do that. That I feel is my responsibility. I welcome taking that responsibility on.

So I think currently, right now I’m seeing that, in order to fulfill more on this vision of stakeholder engagement as a professional team sport, I’m going to need to put on the ESPN hat sometimes, and really be a cheerleader for my task forces that are getting created every quarter, and my speaker challengers and do some talk shows and those type of things, which wouldn’t be my natural go-to. But I can see it’s critical to be able to open up that space and get more excitement around this.

Host Raj Daniels 32:23

I like the idea of being a cheerleader and setting the environment. So speaking of setting the environment. It’s 2030. What does Advanced Energy look like? What do you think? Or what do you see it has accomplished?

H.G. Chissell 32:38

Oh, by 2030. We are the premier stakeholder engagement league. North America is up and running by 2030, we’re in 24–48 cities. This is the quarterly stakeholder engagement game to be in. We’re partnered up with all the cities that are making public commitments. And they know if they want promised delivery, they get on board with being an AG stakeholder city. That’s happening, partnered up with DOE, energy labs, you know, helping federal vision on energy transfer transformation happen on the front lines. That’s what we do.

Our sponsorship base is so exciting because they see that there’s really nothing that comes close to the level of engagement that this type of stakeholder paradigm delivers. And we’re talking now with partnerships with the UN, on how do we do this in other parts of the world as well? And it’s got roots, and it’s growing on its own. And I’m really enjoying seeing the fruit bear in terms of just equity and energy transformation happen faster, smarter, more efficiently. And just enjoying every one sense of how rewarding it is to get things done when you say you’re going to do it.

Host Raj Daniels

Last question is if you could share some advice or words of wisdom with the audience, what would it be?

H.G. Chissell (34:15)

Recently, I think the thing for me has been always taking time to appreciate how limited the time we have is. I think it’s Viktor Frankl says imminent hanging sharpens a man’s wit. Just embracing our impermanence. There’s a lot of freedom in doing that in terms of letting things fall or settle that are distracting you from what you really are going to be most proud that you accomplish with this brief gift that you have called life. And if you don’t have a practice for embracing impermanence, it’s so easy to forget that and think that this goes on and you get the call the shots of when it ends. And I think that to me, always helps center me when I really get in touch with impermanence and the gift of life.

Host Raj Daniels 35:07

You know, Viktor Frankl had some very interesting quotes in his book, I’m a big fan of his, especially the idea of, you know, viewing the world, you make a decision of how you view the world. And I really come to enjoy how you view the world, especially from this team player concept. I think it’s um, and I think, I guess, to a certain extent, we’re all playing for the same price.

H.G. Chissell 35:33

Yeah. It’s amazing that that imagines when that awareness sinks in. It’s like, oh, wait a minute, we’re all on the same team humanity. And we’re all playing for the same home, our planet, it’s like when those things start to lock in, will naturally want to spend more time leveraging our strengths and our collective strengths and understandings to do that.

Host Raj Daniels 36:00

I agree, and I look forward to playing beside you on this journey.

H.G. Chissell 36:05

Oh, great to have you and looking forward to seeing you on the field.

Host Raj Daniels 36:09

Thank you, hg. I look forward to catching up with you again soon.

H.G. Chissell 36:12

Thank you, Raj,


goadvancedenergy.com

Before we go, I’m excited to share that we’ve launched the Bigger Than Us comic strip, The Adventures of Mira and Nexi.

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Raj Daniels