Meet our members – Nick Pollard, Core Group member, Sustainability Working Group member, Resilience & Reliability Working Group member

I am a civil engineer who has long been passionate about sustainability (that tricky balance of environmental, people and financial responsibilities – a triple bottom line – far more than “green” alone).

I have been blessed with the privilege of leading engineering businesses during my career, and thereby serving a wide variety of customers (including utilities). So I am extremely interested by the art of leadership: how one best influences others to want to act in a singular constructive manner and achieve a particular set of goals.

From experience, the best sustained performances whether in sports, the military or business are achieved when there is a clear plan, when people are aligned and purposeful, clear about what they are seeking to achieve and why it matters – and (critically) led by people who motivate their teams to achieve better and better performance, even when the going gets suddenly or unexpectedly tougher.

My confession is that I am a big Formula 1, fan (I know – big conflict with sustainability!). I watch it voraciously. Not because I am in love with cars, but because I rejoice in watching the human endeavour of the teams: seeing their resourcefulness under the pressure of creating a new car every season, making that car perform better and better in every race, and even rising to the challenges of improving performance between practice laps, qualifying and racing in the space of a single weekend – all whilst dealing with the unexpected mishaps and events along the way.

Securing top notch performance, beyond even that they expected or imagined is essential for their survival at the top of motor sport, in the most challenging performance environment in world motor sport. The teams always must believe even better performance is achievable and push the boundary yet deliver with 100% safety in a dangerous and unpredictable environment where performance is always racing on the knife edge of technology and capability.

In F1, the top performer for some years has been Mercedes, led by Toto Wolff and with drivers Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas. It is very noticeable over the years that these three very different characters are at their best when they behave humbly, are self-effacing, and truthfully credit others around them in the team for the podium success. Then their focus on achievement is unwavering; it is all about their next improvement and next step, not being carried away or distracted by hype or the lure of marketing. Mercedes have truly worked well as a team, and consistently excel in this high-risk, immensely pressured sport, delivering stunning performance – all in an environment where traditionally one expects a far more selfish cult that fetes the driver alone.

Why write about this in my blog? There are good ethical and business analogies in all of this for UK Power Networks.

In the current regulatory period, UK Power Networks have come from towards the back of the starting grid to become a leading performer in their sector.

Now they have to go again. Reset themselves for the next regulatory period from 2023 to 2028 – RIIO-ED2. They will have to look under the bonnet and challenge every aspect of their performance in order to understand how to be better still in the next regulatory period, under different rules and regulations and facing ever more complex challenges – including notably the transition to Net Zero. Very importantly, they will have to engage closely with their customers and stakeholders to understand their needs and priorities in this fluid environment, and it will be the role of the Customer Engagement Group (CEG) to challenge UK Power Networks in how they approach this endeavour.

These challenges are what I enjoy in my own business life away from being a member of the CEG for UK Power Networks: enabling teams to challenge themselves and be sufficiently motivated and humble to find ways of improving out of all recognition. And that is why I agreed to serve on the CEG – and why I am enjoying it so much.

The opportunity to join up with the rest of CEG team, offering to the executives and management team of UK Power Networks our independent challenge of their work and their thinking excites me.

From the CEG, we can provide a different perspective, share our experiences and give constructive advice – providing a mirror that helps the UK Power Networks team to challenge themselves to go further and faster, and to be even better leaders of their business at this critical time. Crucially, we will be encouraging UK Power Networks to consult more purposefully still to learn from customers and stakeholders.

We are in a privileged position to be able to help UK Power Networks be in the best possible shape for delivering to their customers under the challenging future environment our world faces – where the fresh challenges of “triple bottom line” sustainability and inclusion rank more highly than they ever have, alongside the traditional dimensions of service levels, efficiency and economy of cost.

It is a privilege my CEG colleagues and I are determined to discharge, and not to undertake lightly.