Speaking Truth to Power
“Can you give me an example of when you’ve ‘spoken truth to power’ either in your professional or personal life and what that experience was like?” That’s the final question Matt and I ask any candidate wanting to be part of the Voltus team.
“Can you give me an example of when you’ve ‘spoken truth to power’ either in your professional or personal life and what that experience was like?” That’s the final question Matt and I ask any candidate wanting to be part of the Voltus team. If you’re asked that question, you’re an incredibly strong candidate. Answer it well and you receive an offer. Answer it poorly and – despite whatever other credentials you have – we are forced to pass.
Why is it so important to us? There are four reasons:
- We want to hire people who are more bright, more gritty, and more good than us. That’s really hard to know unless they’re the kind of person willing to tell the CEO and President what they’re really thinking: about our good ideas, our half-baked ideas, or our bad ideas. And, boy, can we come up with some bad ideas! Those willing to speak truth to power are bright – they bring a solution and not just a problem – they are gritty – they have an inner drive to champion a better way – and they are good – they speak truth to power (understanding that we must all bring out each other’s best) especially to those with a responsibility to lead.
- The only way we get better as a team is by coaching each other constantly and bringing a better solution to the table every day. We built a company around a strong vision, a strong set of values, and a strong offer for customers. Yet, we know all of it is flawed, much like an artist might cringe at their painting despite countless hours toiling over the final brush strokes of its completion. At the risk of parodying ourselves a la this week’s episode of “Silicon Valley,” we embrace the concept of radical candor (challenging directly, caring personally) because it is consistent with our values of love and compassion. When you meet a person who is willing to put their own neck on the line to help you be better, that’s a special someone.
- Our product, demand response, is a product that speaks truth to power. It is the demand side of a supply/demand market equation that has traditionally and heavily favored supply resources – large central power plants (e.g., nuclear, coal) that also have an outsized voice in energy markets and regulatory arenas. These forces run deep at regional transmission operator (RTO) forums, within state PUCs/PSCs, and at the federal level where incumbent resources are often propped up despite being obsolete. We are the folks who spearheaded and won the FERC 745 battle at the Supreme Court of the United States. The grit and determination, the willingness to speak truth to power, that it took to wage a battle with odds of winning being less than 1% (knowing it was the right battle to fight) is what we look for in a Voltan.
- Our prospective customers are generally of two types: never heard of demand response or they’ve been doing it for years. Those who have never heard of it require us to be vocal proponents of doing something differently that delivers cash to their bottom line. Those who have been doing it for years often think they’re getting the most dollars from their participation. In both instances, we need our team to stick their toe in the door to evangelize why that customer should work with Voltus before that door is shut in their face. People who shy away from rejection or conflict don’t last long in that environment. They’re willing to challenge conventional thinking or experiences.
If you want to be a Voltan, you need to be really good at speaking truth to power. You need to be a vocal champion for ideas worth spreading. You need to stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves. You need to be the kind of person willing to punch a bully in the nose. You see your role in the world as an agent of positive change and you’re ready to get into the arena and go to battle for it.
Please share your experiences speaking truth to power in the comments below or send us an email with your thoughts on the topic.
Gregg and Matt