Lessons from Southwestern Energy's Roadmap

Many organizations are facing change and disruption at a rate they have never seen before. While some organizations hope that their people will be able to handle the turbulence, others are proactively equipping their people with the skills, tools, and mindset to cope with this new environment.
 
Southwestern Energy (SWN) was going into a period of massive change that would require its people to “perform in the storm.” They partnered with CCL to pursue the following objectives:
 
  • Decrease people’s stress levels during a tough, sustained period.
  • Increase people’s physical and emotional energy in order to keep performing.
  • Create a scalable solution that would reach not just the top leaders but also employees at the front lines (in a cost affordable way).
The steps taken by Southwestern Energy and others using this approach provide a roadmap for other companies who want to achieve similar results.
 

The Need at SWN

The oil and gas industry has faced unparalleled external pressures in the last 2 years, pushing companies like SWN to institute changes that would affect the company and its employees. SWN wanted to help its employees reduce stress and the crippling effect it can have on team members and the business.

In order to quickly modify its processes and shrink expenses, SWN’s leaders couldn’t let their employees get frozen in the uncertainty that was affecting the whole industry. Leaders needed to make deep personnel cuts while changing some senior leadership and transitioning the business’ focus. SWN needed
to meet financial and operational targets safely while creating value for its shareholders.
 
SWN’s leaders recognized that the changes in both the market and the company created high levels of uncertainty, coupled with a low sense of control for employees. Conditions were ripe for high levels of stress and anxiety unless
SWN’s leaders and employees strengthened their resilient strategies. SWN didn’t want just resilient leaders — the company wanted everyone within the organization to become resilient. SWN needed an effective method for cascading this knowledge throughout the organization.
 

Creating a Resilient Workforce

CCL and SWN developed a 2-track resilience process with one focused on “Leading Change” and the other “Building a Culture of Resilience.” These 2 tracks had similar processes, yet targeted different outcomes.
 
The key to building a culture of resilient leaders within an organization is to model resilience at the top leadership levels. For this reason, CCL started resilience training at SWN with the top 130 leaders. Both CCL and SWN were convinced that once the senior leaders experienced the content, they would be very motivated to see it extended to their teams. CCL worked with SWN to design 3 high-impact, resilience-focused sessions that would complement the busy schedules of the company’s top leaders.
 
SWN invited leaders to attend the sessions, and nearly 80% of the leaders volunteered to participate. Leaders from outside of Houston (company headquarters) were flown to the corporate office to attend the 3 sessions with the intent that when they returned, the lessons could be shared in field locations as well. Leaders attended one session a day to learn about each topic, and lost very little work time while still accessing the new skills and language being presented.
 
Executive leaders kicked off each session, sharing personal experiences about past challenges and how they demonstrated (or failed to demonstrate) resilience. The executive team was determined to impress upon the participants that the mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing of each employee was important and worth developing.
 

Following Through for Success

Those were just the first steps — leaders encouraged resilience by not only cascading what they learned, but also by creating accountability partners, facilitating discussions, following up, and measuring their impact.
 
SWN is still facing a turbulent commodities market. Yet the company is arming its employees with information to help them transition and change. As employees learned the concepts of resilience, the company began to benefit as employees grew willing to make physical, mental, and emotional changes. Employees, and even whole teams, took visible actions to enhance their resiliency. Around the office, you could hear staff checking themselves and each other about rumination and stress. And most importantly, colleagues helped each other strengthen their resilience skills.
 
The company felt a new energy moving forward. SWN’s employees learned this content for the rest of their lives, enabling them to implement resilience practices in their personal and professional lives. Pressure is inevitable, especially when facing economic uncertainty and industry downturns. But now the employees of SWN are more energized and less stressed because of what they learned.
 
Download the complete case study below to learn more about Southwestern Energy’s successes.
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