Lynn Jurich is co-founder and CEO of Sunrun, the nation’s largest dedicated provider of residential solar, storage and energy services. She says one of her “superpowers” is efficiency in all aspects of life—from helping transform the country’s energy system to getting ready for work in less than three minutes.
What is something you’ve learned that you lean on daily?
At Sunrun, we use a concept called impeccable agreements, which I learned through leadership coaching and a book called The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership. Essentially, it means you commit to doing what you say you’re going to do. Every time. And if for some reason you can’t follow through, you have to explicitly renegotiate the agreement. That’s painful, so the end result is that we’re much more careful about what we agree to in the first place, and we keep the vast majority of our daily promises.
I try to make my own commitments impeccable, and when someone makes a commitment to me, I pay a lot of attention to whether they’re giving me a “whole body yes” versus hesitating. Meditation has helped with this, too; since I started doing it daily, I’m much more careful to listen to people with my heart and gut, not just my head. Now I can connect with people more quickly and listen to what they’re not saying as well as what they are. Overall, impeccable commitments have allowed Sunrun to move faster as an organization, because we’ve been able to build so much trust.
What one piece of advice would you give someone starting a company?
Continue to investigate and grow your value system. Starting a company is so emotional and intense, and there’s a lot of pressure to deliver. You’re working day and night, and you can kind of lose sight of who you want to be, but those values are what will get you through it.
There was period of time at Sunrun years ago when growth wasn’t as strong, and I started to question whether I was even the right person to lead the company. I did a lot of soul searching and ultimately chose to leverage that moment and recommit to my values and invest in myself. That’s when I started both meditation and leadership coaching. I tend to be very outcome-oriented, but I learned to enjoy the process more and realized the journey is what it’s all about. So all the challenges of that time in my life ended up being such a gift, because they helped me expand my ability to cope and develop as a person—not only at work, but across my whole life.
What small change has made a big difference in your life?
I started walking to work several years ago. I live a few miles away, so it takes me just under an hour. I love that time. I schedule phone calls or, even better, mentor someone who’s up-and-coming at Sunrun. They’ll meet me at my house and we’ll walk to the office together. I get the chance to connect with someone I might not see much of at work, and I love starting my morning with movement. It brings a creativity and lightness to the whole day. And I find my conversations are much higher quality when I’m moving—or we’re both moving—rather than sitting in an office.
What don't you know that you wish you knew?
I wish I knew more about the inner experience of the people I love, because I know there’s so much more than we show externally. But overall, I don’t think in terms of wishing for things I don’t have. I really believe wanting is the root of suffering, and I actively try not to waste energy on those thoughts.
We try to challenge that idea of scarcity as a company, too. There’s a kind of fear-based thinking that can lead you to false trade-offs in business, and I don’t think that’s best way to get creative solutions. It’s also not as fun. I use mantras like “all people in all circumstances are my allies” and “there is enough,” and I challenge myself and the rest of the leadership team to imagine the opposite of what we believe to be true. Playing games like that helps shift the tension in the room and gets us to a more creative place.
What books are on your nightstand right now?
I love Michel de Montaigne’s Essays. He was a French philosopher in the 1500s, and Essays is basically a collection of his thoughts on how to live. Some of the topics are trivial. Others are serious, like death and friendship. What I love is that he will contradict himself from one paragraph to the next. We all have those internal contradictions, and I find them so interesting.
I’m also reading The Hidden Reality, by the physicist Brian Greene, which is about different types of parallel universes. For example, he explores the theory that there are infinite paths any atom can take, and that we create infinite worlds with every decision we make—we could have gone another way, and there’s a world there. The concepts themselves are fascinating, but the biggest takeaway for me is how he writes about arcane, complex topics in such an accessible way. He uses these basic, everyday analogies to make them tangible. I want to learn to do the same thing with climate change, because it’s an abstract topic, and people aren’t connecting with it on a real, visceral level. We have to make it more accessible and human-centered. That’s how you drive change.
When did you realize you were wrong about something?
I wouldn’t use the word “wrong,” because I try not to make those kinds of judgments. But there are certainly lessons I’ve learned and am still learning. People decisions are a good example. When you have a big gap on your team and a lot of work that needs to be done, it’s tempting to rationalize hiring someone who has a certain set of skills but isn’t a true cultural fit. But I’ve found it’s so important to cue into whether I’m having a “whole body yes.” If I pay attention to that physical reaction, I usually make the right call. Either I’ll explore what’s preventing a positive response and resolve it, or I’ll discover the person really doesn’t share our values and move on. Ultimately, it just doesn’t pay to operate out of fear. You have to get out of the mode of scarcity and into a mode of abundance.
What unit of time matters the most and why?
A generation. That aligns with the career advice I often give—to think about the skills and awareness you want to build in terms of 50 years, not 5, which frees you up from going down a single linear path. But it’s also about what we’re trying to do at Sunrun, which is solve the generational challenge of making the electric system 100 percent renewable. Climate change is the greatest problem we face, and it’s happening even faster than we’d feared. All the recent reports say we have 12 years left to decarbonize, so it’s up to our generation. And it’s all the more real to me now, as a parent, when I see what we’re doing to our kids. It’s our collective responsibility to find a way to solve it.
- Agree impeccably
- Reject fear-based thinking
- Values get you through
— Lynn Jurich, Co-Founder & CEO, Sunrun