Features

Published on May 11th, 2016 | by Millennium Magazine Staff

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Do you have STEAM in your business?

The crowd at the Greater Lexington Chamber’s monthly breakfast Tuesday morning was entertained by Keller Kissam, a high-energy speaker, who talked about leadership and what it takes to be successful in today’s world.

Kissam, Senior VP at SCANA Corporation and President of Retail Operations at SCE&G, talked about STEM programs, something we hear about in the schools all the time – Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.

But he put a little spin on it, saying we need a STEAM program.

“The S stands for sweat. They know how to work. The T stands for teamwork. You can humble yourself to be part of a team. The E stands for energy and effort so you can get your butt out of bed and get to work on time,” Kissam said. “Throw an A in there, and the A stands for accountability. Be accountable for your actions. There are consequences. The M stands for manners. You treat people with empathy. Do unto others as you would have done to you.”

Those are the qualities needed to propel a business, a community, this world forward.

“It is so very, very simple. It’s not complicated at all” he said. “That’s what we need to push Lexington County further, and it’s certainly what we need as a company operating here.”

Kissam talked about the kind of people needed at SCANA and how he tries to lead them.

“Our linemen out there perform the sixth most dangerous job in the world. It takes a lot to go out into the towns and communities to find people that are equipped to come out and do that job,” he said. “The biggest thing is about leadership. Leadership is doing 25 percent the things you have to do, and 75 percent doing the things you don’t have to do.”

Kissam knows about leading. He graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts Degree from The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina, in 1988, where he served as the Regimental Commander of the South Carolina Corps of Cadets and received the Order of the Palmetto. Kissam said people tend to fixate themselves on that 25 percent as far as doing a great job, but in reality, that 75 percent is really important. That’s the part about reaching out to people and knowing people.

“The 1,200 employees I have in my organization, I try to reach out and know every one of them. I told you it’s the sixth most dangerous job in the world. I’ve buried two in my 28 years,” Kissam said. “I want you to think about this. It was tough going and telling those family members that those two employees were never coming home. But what would have been even tougher is when the family came to me and asked me to do their eulogy if I hadn’t known them.”

Kissam closed with another personal story, relating a valuable lesson he learned about work, work, work, work, work. It happened in 2004 when an ice storm came through the company’s service territory, leaving 155,000 people without power.

“I didn’t go home for a week. I didn’t see my wife, didn’t see my son, didn’t see my daughter. Didn’t even talk to them for a week, because I was doing the most important thing in my life,” he said, referring to his job.

His sole focus was getting power restored to those customers.

“After a trying week, like we always do, we got the lights back on. I was feeling good, because I had done my job. Man I was proud of myself. I did my job. I remember being home that Sunday and sleeping through the Super Bowl,” Kissam said. “I went back to work on Monday waiting for everybody to give me accolades for getting the lights back on. Slaps on the back and you did a great job.”

About that time, his phone was ringing off the hook. It was a call that would change everything. He answered and his wife was on the line, crying.

“She said you need to come to Richland Memorial Hospital – right now,” he recalls her saying it was about their six-year-old daughter. “Two and a half hours later, I sat in front of a pediatric oncologist who told me that 70 percent of the cells in her bloodstream were cancerous, and she was diagnosed with leukemia. I can promise you at that time, I didn’t give a darn if anybody in the state of South Carolina had power, and it hasn’t been my highest priority since. I can tell you something else. Since that time, I ain’t had a bad day at the office.”

His daughter is now a senior in high school and scheduled to graduate next month.

The breakfast was sponsored by WoodmenLife and catered by Crescent Moon Restaurant.

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