Industry Experts Address Keys to Stellar Leadership during Conference

If there was ever a time for superb leadership within the oil and gas industry, that time would be now. This year oil and gas companies have slashed capital expenditures and trimmed workforces in multiple rounds of layoffs; some companies have filed for bankruptcy and others have adopted the “do more with less approach” as a means of surviving this down cycle.

Now is the time that companies expect their leaders to exhibit the qualities that are so important during times of difficulty. Essentially, employers expect their leaders to lead.   

A panel of industry experts discussed the topic of leadership during the Operational Excellence in Oil and Gas Conference. Moderated by Annemarie Michaud, senior partner for CLG, the discussion touched on topics including how to initiate change, distinct behaviors that set operational excellence leaders apart and how to help senior leaders become good stewards of operational excellence.

Panelists were LeRoy Markee, vice president, corporate process development, National Oilwell Varco; Rose Mary Lewis, vice president, project excellence, Williams Company; and Patrick Schiele, vice president, global operations, subsea services, GE Oil and Gas.

Championing Change

Three things are key when preparing a group for change, Markee said.

Culture, commitment and capacity.

Regarding culture, Markee said you should look at the people you have and see if they’ve been through a change before and determine if it was successful. Also, ask yourself if you have people trained who can handle change.

Next, you must ask yourself if your people are fully committed to go through a change process. Some projects are three months; some projects can take years. Are they truly ready to take on that commitment?

Then, you have to consider capacity and if you have the resources to put on a particular project.

“Your key people are usually the ones who are going to have to run these projects,” said Markee. “Any given project, to be successful, is going to take at least 20 percent of any and everybody’s time and maybe as much as 50 percent of their day to day work. So if work gets in the way, you better postpone that project.”

For Lewis, it’s important to talk about vision and begin with the end in mind: what is it you’re trying to accomplish? Of equal importance is meeting people where they are in their journey of change.

“It might be that someone has a localized process, so rather than thrusting change onto them is understanding where they are, listening to their story and how they got there and explaining how you can make their process better and their work more efficient,” said Lewis. “And then you have to celebrate success. Too often leaders are looking at what is going wrong or the next hurdle to overcome and don’t often step back and recognize the amount of change the organization has successfully implemented. It’s as much about the road ahead as it is celebrating the miles you’ve traveled.”

What’s in a Leader?

Leaders who have championed change have a tirelessness about them, said Lewis. They never stop communicating their message and they’re extremely approachable.

In a leader, Markee said he seeks out somebody who’s going to be a good coach, mentor and someone who is accountable for their actions as well as somebody who can empower other people to do their job.


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Valerie is an experienced writer and editor dedicated to providing useful and relevant career news about the oil and gas industry. Email Valerie at


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