Interview of Alessandro Ceschiat - General Manager Europe at SunEdison
Céline Chatti : What is your position ?
Alessandro Ceschiat : I am a General Manager of Sundison and I am in charge of the Utility business in Europe. SunEdison is a global leader in transforming how energy is generated, distributed and owned. SunEdison manufactures solar technology and develops, finances, designs, builds, owns and operates power plants, delivering clean renewable electricity to its residential, commercial and utility customers.
CC : What is it important for you in your job ?
AC : We deliver alternative energy solutions from renewable sources which influence public opinion and highlight environmental matters. People are increasingly aware and concerned about how dangerous our dependence on carbon fossils fuels is becoming, and how this dependence is unsustainable in the long term. I believe we can not continue to destroy our environment, I also believe that we do need to give people as many ways as possible to be independent in their production of energy. One of my main driver is to create a better world for present and future generations, even if it is only in a very small way.
CC : What is the best positive discovery you made when you started working with people ?
AC : Everyone can make an impact, whether that be positive or negative. My role as a leader is to be curious, to listen to the different ideas and opinions, to select the most innovative and useful ones, to develop the business, to provide a structure and make them reality. A manager needs to be open and listen to all opinions and suggestions from the team, but at the same time, he has to make decisions to identify immediately which are the routes that are not worth pursuing to avoid to loose time a ressources.
CC : How do you interact with your team when a decision has to be taken ?
AC : As I said I always listen with interest in what others have to say. I value the opportunity to explore different ideas and opinions and to look at the positive and negative of everything presented to me. I then feel in a position to make an informed decision and do not hesitate to disregard those things that I do not agree with. I don’t base my decisions only on numbers or figures, but at the same I do need to be convinced of the viability of an idea before committing to it. However, mistakes can still be made; its all part of the game. As a manager, the important thing, at the end of the day, is to still be able to deliver results.
CC : At any cost ?
AC : We only have to look at Steve Jobs to see that achieving goals is still possible, even if those around you hate you. However, this is not how I do things. I think a manager should not only be evaluated on results, but also on his capability to lead his team and gain their respect. Everyone has an opinion about their boss. Here at SunEdison, this is taken into account at our end of year appraisals. As a manager I believe that having an happy and motivated team is the way to deliver results.
CC : What does make a team efficient and performant ?
AC : Within a team, everyone must be engaged in wanting to achieve the same objectives. There are 3 important elements which can ensure this happens. 1. having the right skills in the team 2. Being aligned and working towards the same goals 3. Having the same information and resources. These three elements ensure that everyone is clear on objectives, the expected results and the ways we can achieve them. As everyone thinks and works differently, understanding these three things is crucial.
From my own experience I would say that communication between Directors is vital. They need to understand how to coordinate themselves and work together, otherwise operational problems can arise between teams. This is why, at SunEdison, we regularly attend Director meetings to discuss challenges that have come up within our own teams and find common solutions that can benefit multiple teams.
CC : How do you keep your personal balance ?
AC : Firstly I do have to make a lot of effort to maintain a good balance. The challenge for me is to allow myself enough time to do something in order to save energy. For example, I always try to avoid having an important meeting last thing on a Friday. When I travel I try to ensure I arrive the night before to enable me to get a good night’s sleep. Secondly, I learn to listen to, and acknowledge, my feelings. I will postpone appointments if I feel I am not on top form. A leader must always be able to take a step back and see the bigger picture. I try to be attentive to my internal warning signals but also to those flagged up by my close family.
And finally, when it comes to making important decisions in my life, I listen to my instincts! It is always possible to take a gamble to a certain extent, but I need to be 51% sure that I am making the right decision.
CC : Have you ever thought of starting your own business ?
AC : It was something I did in the past. I learned that you need a good partner, reliable sources of capital, and people who believe in your ideas. I may work for someone else now, as an employee, but my role is pretty much identical to that of an entrepreneur.