Case study

Developing leaders to drive success and thrive in an uncertain and volatile world

Learn about how a British multinational oil and gas company and their ongoing partnership with Hemsley Fraser is developing middle managers who can drive high performance as well as commercial and customer success, and who embody desirable learner and leadership behaviors fit to lead in an uncertain world.

This British multinational oil and gas company employs 93,000 people and operates in more than 70 countries. In 2021, the company announced its ‘Powering Progress’ strategy, to set out the target to become a net-zero emissions energy company. The strategy articulates a very clear direction for the next few decades, with the ultimate goal of becoming a net-zero business by 2050, while growing shareholder value, providing the energy the world needs today and, in the future, whilst Powering Lives and Respecting Nature. Alongside this overarching strategic goal, the London-headquartered firm must also satisfy global demand for a robust energy system, continue to deliver shareholder and customer value amidst headwinds from political and socio-economic shifts, changing learner paradigms, and climate change pressures.

To deliver the new strategy, leaders need to pull on different levers of performance which goes beyond their technical expertise and practical skills. They need to connect with their deeper purpose and values, relate and listen to others without having all the answers to co-create solutions to meet evolving needs in a rapidly evolving and unchartered business context. So, the company needed a new leadership development approach which would assist middle managers as they became key drivers of organizational performance and strategy, i.e. needing to drive higher performance standards whilst also improving psychological safety. 

The learning journey would do this by developing the inner leadership world of the manager — such as building the individual continuous learning mindset as well as their ability to effectively manage opposites and uncertainty — while building new outward-facing behaviors such as showcasing an ongoing learner mindset and building psychologically safe environments for themself and their teams. All of this is geared to better manage teams, embody the company’s key mindsets and behaviors to drive a strong performance culture in an uncertain future.

As such, Hemsley Fraser and this British multinational oil and gas company developed LEAD for Team Leaders — a Brandon Hall Gold award-winning ecosystem of learning and development for leaders.


The Challenge

As described, in 2022 the company had a new leadership skills challenge. Not only did the business need to develop stronger core leadership skills, and then have middle managers embody and showcase these, it needed these individuals to adapt to their new roles in a recently reorganized business and build on their technical expertise. 

This meant creating a learning journey that would develop managers who can think beyond conventional and logical means of what is possible to work effectively and inclusively to achieve seemingly opposite outcomes. To get to this place entails deeper, strategic thinking and attentive listening to understand how issues can be turned into opportunities that create winning outcomes for staff, the organization, shareholders and society. To this end, leaders are guided on an interconnected inner and outer learning journey.

This inner journey would mean middle managers building a secure leadership foundation. This gives leaders an improved base of self-understanding and awareness, so they can better understand their impact on others, deepening relationships with team members and peers, and appreciating that individuals will have different viewpoints. This improves performance and links to the leader’s outer journey would mean learning to lead well and then embodying the company’s desirable mindset and behaviors. These include modelling curiosity, empathy and humility for team members, encouraging intelligent risk-taking and prioritization of business outcomes and leading others in reflecting on their learner mindset.

The impact of the new skills would also need to be measurable: both in how they impacted managers, their teams, the business, and individual retention and progression.

The Partnership

Since 2017, this British multinational oil and gas company has partnered with Hemsley Fraser to develop practical, technical leadership skills. Whilst successful, continued progression meant the development of deeper leadership skills and capabilities that worked for the business and also retained and created opportunities for leadership talent was necessary going forward. It needed leaders who would be able to take centre-stage in the rapidly changing new world of business, and whose skills were future-proofed.

This became the learning mantra for LEAD, “When I pay attention to my being, I affect my doing. My being is changed through personal development on my inner journey. My doing is changed by my inner journey and through skills practised on my outer journey.” Taking this holistic approach meant that the learners have equal opportunities to develop the interpersonal, intrapersonal and strategy-focused skills needed to play a leading role in operationalising the company’s business strategy.

LEAD as a learning journey needed to ensure learners would be able to create a safe environment for others, ensure hard issues could be discussed effectively and be open to multiple/alternative approaches to achieve results. They also needed to become better at recognising binary “either – or thinking” and managing to reframe dilemmas to achieve all the benefits without being forced into unwanted trade-offs or compromises. Any new skills developed — from becoming more curious, to leading psychological safety in their teams, to reading shifts in the environment — would need to be modelled, coached, and developed in their team members.

Rapid deployment was a priority with only two months from development to launch, the need to fit the busy schedules of learners, be suitable for a wide range of contexts, geographies and learner needs, and also balance virtual, group and self-directed learning.


The Solution

Firstly, Hemsley and their client surveyed company leaders to understand the needs of learners. Survey findings were synthesised with business strategic needs, as well insights from Hemsley and renowned global experts, to inform the new future-oriented LEAD for Team Leaders program.

A 12-15 week leadership journey, with 33 hours of formal learning delivered virtually in small Hemsley guide-facilitated groups, was then developed. Named LEAD for Team Leaders, its key focus was to help learners develop and then sustainably embeds new learner and leader mindsets alongside important leadership behaviors.

The role of the guides — who are qualified coaches and would develop leader skills outside of technical capabilities — was to model the behaviors the company wanted to see become manifest in their leaders. Guides also helped leaders see that secure leadership comes from within as well as helping learners balance the leadership needs of the organization with their context and reality of the delivery needs of their role. They also helped make the learning globally relevant whilst applicable to individual leaders' localized context.

Learning was delivered in a ‘little and often’ manner, supporting a higher transfer to work and was supported by powerful interventions and a broader learning digital ecosystem: The Leadership Hub. This Hub enabled learners to access, when it suited them, bespoke content and personalized learning pathways, ranging from playlists to group learning opportunities.

The learning journey was split into different core learning stages: starting from launch material to promote the course and enabling learners to find a support team for their development journey to ensure they understood the purpose of learning new skills. Then, in small and wider group sessions, learners developed skills such as empowering teams, developing trust, paying attention to strategic issues, being okay with continuous learning, and asking for support as a leader as well as role modelling inclusion and humility.

Self-reflection, group feedback, action learning and peer coaching were built into the journey, with the company and Hemsley understanding that this initial development block is only the first step in continuous learning to further embed these leadership behaviors and mindsets. To further understand how effective development has been, learners are invited to complete a 360 assessment at the start of their journey, and 1 year later which is in addition to end of journey evaluation.


The Results

Since its April 2022 launch, over 2000+ leaders have benefitted from the Brandon Hall award-winning LEAD for Team Leaders. Across 2023, manager participation was strong. As it stands, learner satisfaction is high at 4.5/5 and feedback shows participants felt comfortable applying the learnings after completion citing that they enjoyed the learning content and the pathway to applying skills in the reality of their day-to-day operations. As more leaders go through the program, NPS scores are improving.

Employee surveys indicate that participants in LEAD for Team Leaders saw an increase in employee engagement scores amongst their reports and an increase in team leadership scores. 
In addition, learners are also tracked through the Hogan 360° assessment data comparing pre and post-learning results. In the sample population analysed, leaders who completed LEAD showed marked increases across the measures on the mindset and behaviors expected of leaders.

When leaders coming through LEAD for Team Leaders can consistently bring to life the required mindset and behaviors needed to uplift performance on all fronts, the organization will be closer to successfully fulfilling Powering Progress.

And for Hemsley Fraser and their client, there is no standing still. Plans are already underway to boost program effectiveness, via improved communication and signposting of learning, smoothing the transition from learning to application, and tying learning to clear results in a high-performing culture. In the medium term, the company would also like to measure how this LEAD for Team Leaders benefits internal mobility and manager retention.

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