Refinery Case Study

Meeting In The Middle

From outside the 280+ acre facility, plumes of steam signify the efforts of around 500 hard working men and women. What these clouds don’t tell you is complexity of the work and the difficulty, dangers, and accompanying stress the refinery workers willingly face every day, to provide for their families and literally keep America moving.

In order to labor in such an environment, employees must be highly skilled and well trained in the refining process, but to be successful, they need to be able to work together.


A refinery leadership team asked themselves a simple question “where can we improve?”  The leadership team discovered a substantial division between the hourly and salaried employees.  Deciding to act before the division got worse, they hired PeopleCore to help them change the culture of the refinery before the damage was irreversible.


PeopleCore and the Refinery Leadership Team worked together and concluded that the division was most prevalent between the First Line Supervisors and the Chief or Lead Operators.  At the epicenter of the expanding rift was a lack of trust.








The Chief Operators didn’t trust the First Line Supervisors as leaders.  In response, the first line supervisors didn’t trust the Chief Operators to important decisions suited to the Chief Operator position.

A needs assessment revealed that although the majority of the First Line Supervisors and Lead Operators were highly competent in their understanding of the refining business, they didn’t understand each other and believed they had completely different goals.





The Refinery Leadership Team and PeopleCore decided to try something unprecedented.  Leadership training would be given to both the salaried First Line Supervisors as well as the hourly Chief Operators.  A concern was the leadership training needed to be useful and not just theoretical.  With that as a key differentiator between PeopleCore and our competition, we went to work.  We set out to develop leadership training that would emphasize the importance of leading by influence instead of authority.  Or rather, leading others when they have no reason to follow you.

The results were impressive.  The “us versus them” mentality faded and the opposing sides came together.  Chief Operators and Supervisors began to realize their goals and objectives were similar.  The Supervisors began to see the Chief Operators as trusted advisors and became better leaders.  And it all started from the simple question: “Where can we improve?”

The effectiveness of the leadership training was felt throughout the organization. In fact, PeopleCore’s leadership training became a prerequisite for promotion toChief Operator.  Additionally, PeopleCore was asked to provide the same leadership training to the mid-level managers.



This Case study focused on leadership training at a refinery.  However, the word “refinery” can be replaced with any other industry or organization and the fact will remain the same: great leaders have the ability to foster trust.  They know what approach to take given the circumstances, environment and person (or persons) they are leading.

Be sure to view how we have helped other companies and discover how PeopleCore might be able to help you as well.




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