Creating & Sustaining a Vital Corporate Culture

Introduction:

Energy for Energy

Vega Energy started with excitement. The rush of building something new. Five years later, they reached an inflection point: Every day felt the same. After the initial
wave of excitement had settled, employees were wondering what was next. The entrepreneurial spark was fading. A few young employees departed and morale was headed on a downward trajectory.
David Modesett, the CEO, had a vision for the future of Vega, but it would require keeping people engaged by helping them grow. He wanted Aaron Berg to become
the future leader. Aaron was in his late twenties and, though willing and able, did not have the authority to lead; other employees would not follow him.
To begin the revitalization, we set out to build a trusted leadership cohort, equipped and supported to build the future. David and Aaron chose two other early employees:
Ashley, an accountant, and Chris, the head trader to pilot a training and coaching process.
Aaron, Ashley and Chris were honored to have been selected, they elected to dive into a new kind of leadership development, powered by emotional intelligence.

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Data for Development

Before embarking on the training Aaron, Ashley and Chris took several assessments, most importantly the Six Seconds Emotional Intellignece (SEI) on emotional intelligence (EQ) for leadership – the internal skills for working well with people.

We met for individual debriefing, and identified particular areas on which to
concentrate their development.
The training started with a workshop on building trust. Future topics included inspiring internal motivation in self and others, creating a customer centric culture, managing conflict in teams, constructive feedback, and managing performance. There were also group coaching sessions on particular issues and topics.

Through the EQ training and coaching, Aaron, Ashley and Chris, the Key Leadership Succession Team, had developed deep trust, intense engagement, leadership expertise, and strong vision.

Commitment to Engagement

To take the growth further, the team decided to understand the level of engagement of Vega employees. They wanted a clear picture of what was working well, and what needed to be improved to take Vega to that next level.

So, in 2013 almost all Vega employees took the first Organizational Vital Signs (OVS) Assessment. The OVS Assessment is a brief, online, normed, customizable, highly actionable tool. It can be sliced and diced in a number of different ways, including by department, seniority and location.

We learned what was working, and what needed to be developed in order to take the company forward. While the focus was on people, the results highlighted areas where infrastructure growth or change were needed.
Vega made those infrastructure changes. Perhaps more impor-

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Case Study: Creating & Sustaining a

Vital Corporate Culture

@ Vega
By Daphne Bernicker, HumanAim CEO – Consultant,
Coach and Trainer, and Six Seconds Preferred Partner

The Challenge

A Young, Successful Company at an
Inflection Point

5 years old
Initial start-up excitement had worn off
Needed to step up to next level and
ensure future success

Vega Energy Partners, Ltd. (“Vega”) is a privately held company located in Houston, Texas. Through its predecessor companies, Vega and its principals have been engaged in the management, optimization, and development of natural gas assets for over 25 years.

Vega’s business is centered on providing innovative solutions and flawless execution for its customers. Today, Vega focuses on structuring solutions for its customers, which include producers, midstream companies, utilities, LNG exporters, large
end-users, and retail aggregators. These solutions include natural gas infrastructure development, asset optimization, and physical commodity management services.
In 2012 Vega made the decision to grow leaders before they officially became leaders, and to create an intentional corporate culture.

Over the past 5 years, Vega Energy has expanded its development efforts by participating in four midstream natural gas pipeline projects requiring the deployment of over $6.0 billion in capital. Being able to consummate these projects has required great customer relationships, creativity, motivation, teamwork,
productivity, and execution – all of which are underpinned by emotional intelligence.

Six years ago, having experienced great initial success, Vega’s founder and President David Modesett knew that the company was at an inflection point:

The skills that had enabled this success were not enough to take the company to the next level and beyond. David is a forward-thinking entrepreneur with reat instincts, who cares deeply about his people and his legacy. He was focused on business development, and also understood that great employees and culture were the key to extraordinary, sustained success.

David had identified Aaron Berg as the person who would be responsible for the leadership and management of

Vega’s people. Aaron was in his late 20’s, a sincere, caring and dedicated employee who had the responsibility but did not yet have the authority or the expertise to lead and manage Vega’s people.
David reached out to me to help Aaron develop as the great leader that he knew Aaron could become. David and I determined that the best way to help Aaron become a great leader was to develop Aaron with a cohort (together, the “Key Leadership Succession Team”) with the emotional intelligence skills, common language, vision, passion, and deep mutual trust to confidently and competently
lead in their respective areas

Developing Leaders

Creating Key Leadership Succession
Team

Identify key leadership succession team

EQ self-assessments
Customized EQ Training: Building Trust;
Motivation From Inside Out; Effective Constructive
Feedback; Managing Performance; Managing
Teams; Creating a Customer-Centric Culture
Individual EQ coaching

I then met with Aaron, and two other people who had joined Vega at the very beginning (about 5 years before): Chris Krieg (head of trading), and Ashley Irwin (accounting and administration). In our initial meeting they learned that EQ is learnable, measurable, and more than twice as indicative of success (personal and professional) than is IQ.

They chose areas for customized group EQ training on leadership including: Building Trust, Motivation from the Inside, Constructive Feedback, Managing Performance, Managing Teams, and Creating a Customer-Centric Culture. Later that week they took the Six Seconds Leadership Emotional Intelligence Self-Assessment online, which shows the individual’s perception of their own EQ
as well as all aspects of their success (6sec.org/sei).

They met with me for individual debriefs to get a sense of which EQ skills were working well for them and decide which skills they would focus on developing. We then met for group training over the course of about 6 months, with occasional meetings for group coaching to further explore important issues. We followed this
with individual coaching for approximately another 6 months to firmly anchor the training and continue developing as leaders by growing EQ skills.

Confidentiality was key: All information shared in the group sessions stayed within those sessions unless the group members agreed to share that information (“what happens in group stays in group”) and I could not share that information with anyone without the express written consent of the group members; All information shared with me by the coachee in the individual sessions was completely confidential, and I could not share that with anyone without the express written permission of the coachee.

At the conclusion of this EQ Training and Coaching, Aaron, Ashley and Chris, the Key Leadership Succession Team, had developed deep trust, intense engagement, leadership expertise, and strong vision.
Looking back over this period of time, Aaron said the following, “(when I first joined Vega) everything was new and exciting and focused on executing. We achieved some success, and then the excitement wore off. We had an OK original idea but if we did
not keep repopulating with new ideas and making it happen we would have been a one-hit wonder; we would have gone into death mode … The Leadership Succession Team process gave me much more purpose and excitement. My feeling changed from ‘I’m on the bus that’s moving and support where it’s going,’ to ‘I
should have a say in where it’s going and how we get there’ … I could fully see the opportunities for growing both our revenue and our people. I now had the vision to help people see the direction that the company was heading, why it was valuable and how they could play a role. I understood how to get everyone heading in the same direction; I used individualized tactics to get people on the bus, by helping them see the vision and how it benefitted them..”
With this renewed internal motivation, leadership expertise, and strong vision, Aaron, Ashley and Chris were ready to do their parts in taking Vega to the next level. They decided that the first step was to understand the level of engagement of Vega employees, what was working well, and what needed to be improved to take Vega to that next level.
So, in 2013 almost all Vega employees took the first Organizational Vital Signs (“OVS”) Assessment. The OVS Assessment is a brief, online, normed, customizable, highly actionable tool. It

can be sliced and diced in a number of different ways, including by department, seniority and location (6sec.org/vs). OVS results show how engaged employees are, key climate factors that affect organizational outcomes, and performance outcomes. As with the EQ Self-Assessment, in which EQ skills predict at least 60% of personal and professional success, the key climate factors predict at least 60% of performance outcomes.
Here is Six Seconds’ OVS Model:

The OVS Model and definitions are ©Six Seconds

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As Aaron said, “This Vital Signs Model helps you talk through and address things that you don’t normally think about.” Here are the combined results from the 2013 OVS assessment:

The OVS is normed against results from thousands of organizations
all over the world and can include customized questions
that organizations want to explore more deeply. Vega opted to
further explore communication and respect.
These results showed the Organizational Competencies That Fueled Change: Very high Trust, very strong Execution ability, very strong readiness/desire for Change, good Teamwork, good Productivity, very strong Retention, very high expectation of Future Success. Also, very importantly: Management’s willingness to invest in EQ leadership development of people at all levels, and willingness to listen, learn and adapt. As Aaron said, “The key is to ask, ‘How am I doing?,’ and be willing to hear whatever is the

truth, and deal with it. As in a good marriage, if you want the relationship to progress and do better, you can’t avoid what’s wrong, or what’s perceived to be wrong.” The results also revealed areas that needed to be addressed in order
to ensure a magnetic, highly successful organization. Specific Areas to Grow for Sustained Success were: Motivation, Teamwork, Productivity, Customer Focus.

As Aaron put it, “The key here was Motivation – helping others to Develop Internal Motivation.” In fact, the respondents’ profile indicated that they too were like Aaron, Ashley, and Chris had been: On the bus, and happy to go where the bus was going, but not yet awoken to the vision of where the bus was going, and not yet fully bought into and able to play a role actually propelling the bus forward.

Since the Key Leadership Succession Team process with Aaron, Ashley and Chris had worked extremely well, David elected to extend this process to everyone in the company.

Implementation followed this Six Seconds approach:

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Increasing Vitality

Aaron identified three more groups of 3 or 4 people with different experience levels and functions within the company for group training and coaching. Each group met initially with me to learn about EQ and the importance of EQ; and chose specific leadership areas to develop through EQ leadership development training.
The groups then met for EQ leadership development training and coaching over the course of about 6 months. Almost every member of each group also met with me for EQ individual coaching either concurrently, or after the group learning was completed.
And some people not yet in groups met with me for about six months of EQ leadership coaching. Internally, Aaron, Ashley and Chris implemented their learnings and took on more leadership responsibility, as did each person who  participated in EQ leader

ship and coaching. Based on the results of the 2013 OVS Vega also implemented a number of new processes to improve Motivation, Teamwork, Productivity and Customer Focus. Vega was in the process of consciously creating its own magnetic, highly successful corporate culture.
In 2015, Vega employees took the OVS Assessment for the second time. Here are the 2015 results compared with the 2013 results:

Drivers: Motivation increased from 95.1 to 100.7; Teamwork increased from 100.4 to 107.7, Execution increased from 105.8 to 115.8; Change decreased from 101.8 to 103.4; Trust increased from 106.6 to 113.1. Of note, the only Driver that decreased was Change:
People were still open to change but were happy with their current environment.
Outcomes: Future Success increased from 104.9 to 108.4; Customer Focus increased from 98.8 to 105.3; Productivity increased from 100.7 to 104.5; Retention increased from 104.5 to 105.7. The biggest

increase was in Customer Focus which was absolutely key in this professional services organization.
Engagement: Engaged Percentage increased from 19% to 53%.
Neutral Percentage decreased from 57% to 42%.
Disengaged decreased from 24% to 7%.
As Aaron observed, while the numerical changes themselves are not large, the differences in actual performance were tremendous.
This was a great success.
Analysis of these results indicated the need to continue. Over the next two years, with the goal of continuing to create this extremely successful, magnetic organization, Vega identified three more groups of 3 or 4 people with different experience levels and functions within the company for group training and coaching, and each group chose and received customized EQ leadership
development training and individual coaching. Here are the 2017 results compared with the 2013 results:

Drivers: Motivation increased from 95.1 in 2013 to 100.7 in 2015 to 102.6 in 2017; Teamwork increased from 100.4 in 2013 to 107.7 in 2015 and decreased slightly to 105.6 in 2017, Execution increased from 105.8 to 115.8 and decreased to 110.5 in 2017; Change decreased from 101.8 to 103.4 to 98.8 in 2017; Trust increased from
106.6 in 2013 to 113.1 in 2015 and decreased slightly to 110.4 in 2017.
Outcomes: Future Success increased from 104.9 in 2013 to 108.4 in 2015 to 110.4 in 2017; Customer Focus increased from 98.8 in 2013 to 105.3 in 2015 to 107.9 in 2017; Productivity increased from 100.7 to 104.5 and decreased slightly to 103.9 in 2017; Retention increased from 104.5 to 105.7 to 105.8 in 2017. The biggest increase
was in Customer Focus which was absolutely key in this professional services organization.
Engagement: Engaged Percentage increased from 19% in 2013 to 53% in 2015 and decreased to 41% in 2017; Neutral Percentage decreased from 57% in 2013 to 42% in 2015 and increased to 50%; Disengaged decreased from 24% in 2013 to 7% in 2015 and increased to 9% in 2017.
2017 Engagement Key Points
Slightly lower scores (vs 2015) may be due to:
People taking a rest after massive, active 2 years – not lower retention.
New group needing more direct communication and management – diagnosed and quickly acted upon.
People being used to this organization – and not remembering how great it is relative to others.
Survey question about company doing work that matters – not necessarily obvious to some EEs, and not necessary for some EEs.

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Results

The leadership team’s reflection on the results:
1. Vega had recently completed several major transactions, and was in a refractory period, where people were resting and gaining strength for the next set of  transactions.
2. There was a new team of people whose new managers needed coaching on management practices. Vega addressed this immediately by providing the team managers with information and support to manage the team more effectively.
3. People at Vega had become accustomed to the great working environment and did not realize how much better Vega’s culture was than may other places – until they discussed this with their peers.
4. Vega employees love being at Vega – and do not necessarily need to feel that the work that Vega’s work is important, but they do not necessarily care whether Vega’s work is important or not – this does not affect their willingness/desire to stay at Vega because Vega is a family to them.

Conclusion: EQ leadership development created a magnetic, highly successful corporate culture, resulting in a highly successful business transformation.

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February 13, 2019

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