Thursday, December 18, 2014

Chief Nuclear Officer, Passionate Communicator

I have the fortune of being able to meet and work with plenty of exceptional people in this industry. Randy Edington is one of them. As the executive vice president and chief nuclear officer for the largest nuclear energy facility in America, Edington travels domestically and internationally sharing his passion for our technology. He welcomes the opportunity to convince plant neighbors and nuclear opponents that Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station is a safe, clean and reliable source of power—not to mention the nation's largest source of power.

Edington knows well the importance of communicating nuclear after logging 33 years in the commercial nuclear energy industry and serving in the U.S. Navy's nuclear submarine program prior to that. Last week, he shared a career's worth of lessons learned with the communications team at NEI. His presentation is truly remarkable and something to behold in person. I'll do my best to convey the highlights below.

  • Shared Responsibility: We are all communicators. Each and every one of us represents the company we work for and the nuclear industry as a whole, whether we are on the clock or not. Edington believes that communications is everybody's job in the workforce. He told us to think about each plant as holding advocates who have the power to get the word out about the benefits of nuclear to our consumers.
  • Passionate Communicators Are Indispensable: Edington admitted that he may not have all the trappings of a professional communicator. However, he gave a simple reason for why he's so good at it: "I care about what I'm talking about." It is a key ingredient that I’ve found to be true as well. I communicate more clearly and persuasively when I am passionate about the topic. Hence why you find me convincing others of the glory that is Breaking Bad or that Ellen was at her finest as a CGI-animated fish. It is why the communicators in our industry are so good at what they do—they care deeply about a clean, reliable energy source that can power us well into the future.
  • Lynne Prodoehl, Randy Edington and Walter Hill.
    Randy Edington talks with NEI's Lynne Prodoehl and Walter Hill.
  • We Are Electricity Generators: This observation changed my mindset about what I do. Edington told all of us in the room—from writers to designers to web managers—that our jobs are to SAFELY and efficiently generate electricity for the long term. (Emphasis is his.) He believes that all in the nuclear workforce are electricity generators. This is our core business, no matter if you are in human resources or a reactor operator. Edington reminded us that we take electricity for granted, but 1.6 billion people around the world live without it. Electricity drives modern society, and how we generate it (cleanly, affordably and reliably, in nuclear's case) is just as important as generating it in the first place. 
  • It's Not What You Say, It's What They Hear: This is one of Edington's key lessons. We must always remain cognizant of the audience we are speaking to. He encouraged us to look at issues from the perspective of others. It doesn't matter how brilliant we perceive our messaging to be, it matters what is heard. This is Relationship-Building 101, though swapping perspectives often gets sacrificed in the daily grind. It's quicker and easier to just broadcast messages we already believe to be true. What is more difficult, but more effective, is to engage in an open dialogue with those that are not yet on our side. Until we trade ideas and understand how our opponents are hearing and interpreting our messages, we cannot convince them of our position.
Randy Edington's key lessons about communication.
One of Edington's key lessons.
Those are just the highlights from an impressive presentation and discussion. I don't know if Edington was conscious of using Aristotle's three modes of persuasion to win the crowd over. Regardless of intention, he used all three to great effect. He used logos, or persuasion with facts, to back up the claim that Palo Verde is an asset to Arizona, including the fact that it has an economic impact of $1.8 billion per year. Pathos, or persuasion with emotion, made an appearance when he spoke of winning over a local woman or a group of anti-nukes by stopping to engage in an open dialogue with them. Ethos, or persuasion with credibility, was employed as Edington referenced his long, distinguished career. He is the ultimate credible spokesperson for nuclear.
Scott Peterson, Randy Edington, Tracy Mason with Bob B. Safe doll
Proudly displaying Bob B. Safe with NEI's Scott Peterson and Tracy Mason.
As an electricity generator, I am grateful to have Edington out there convincing others that nuclear energy is a force of good in this world. As a communicator, I am in awe of this CNO's natural gift for communication and evangelism. My many thanks to him for sharing his wisdom and for understanding the power of communication. I am eager to see what lessons he brings us in the future.


Michael Sexton said...

Since I've been at Palo Verde for over 25 years, I was able to witness the transformation after Randy came in 2007.
I never will forget some of his first words to me: Mike, I have good news and I have bad news. The good news is I believe in Communications. The bad news is I REALLY believe in communications.
I can truly say that having served as one of his Communicators has been the highlight of my career and the most rewarding.
Randy Edington has left his mark on Palo Verde, APS and the entire Nuclear Industry, and in my book, he's a modern-day hero.

John Keeley said...

I am greatly looking forward to seeing Randy next month on site and thanking him again for his support for me during Palo Verde's industry-leading Plants Systems Training. At NEI, we are adopting more and more of APS' best practices when it comes to communications and training.

Nick Pappas said...

As a Palo Verde Shift Manager, I really appreciated the leadership that Randy Edington exhibited when he came to Palo Verde. The site regained its “Operational Focus” and the communications improved greatly. Randy has always been very approachable, and “walks the walk”. He inspires the same in the rest of the PV organization. His emphasis on training and knowledge transfer is especially helpful in managing the changing workforce due to retirements. I look forward to returning to Palo Verde in the near future.

Jeffrey Carroll said...

I first started working with Randy Edington when I was chosen to be the site Long Range Planning consultant in 2007. Randy believed that in order to SAFELY and efficiently GENERATE electricity for the LONG TERM, a solid, integrated site long range plan would need to be in place. His vision is to have Palo Verde operate at a high performance level well after he's gone.
Randy Edington is a true visionary with a strategic look for Palo Verde as well as the nuclear industry to decades to come.