Mark Lashier is the CEO of CPChem, a company that produces petrochemicals and plastics with 5,000 employees around the world. 50% of the company is owned by Chevron and 50% is owned by Phillips Petroleum. Mark has served in leadership roles at Chevron Phillips Chemical and Phillips Petroleum for three decades.
With the challenges that we have all had to face over this past year, we have seen organizations and leaders make changes to adapt to our new way of work and life. Mark Lashier, CEO of CPChem, says that all of the events of 2020 reinforced some of the basic principles he has always believed in.
Ever since Mark first became CEO in 2017 he has focused on trust, transparency, and simplicity. And while those values are important at any point in time, they were even more crucial throughout 2020.
In order to carry on with business Mark knew that his employees and his customers had to trust him and each other, he knew he had to be open and transparent with everyone to keep them up to date, and he had to remove red tape and bureaucracy so people could do their jobs.
Bringing trust, transparency, and simplicity to life
Any company can have great values or mission statements in place, but if they aren’t brought to life inside of the company the words don’t matter. Mark shares how trust, transparency, and simplicity live and breath inside of CPChem.
He says that first of all it is important that all leaders inside of CPChem demonstrate these behaviors. So these become guidelines for hiring and promoting people to leadership positions.
The other crucial component of bringing these values to life is giving employees permission to hold the leaders accountable for these behaviors.
Mark says, “When you’ve got employees that maybe in the past were afraid to speak up for whatever reason, now they’re not afraid to hold top leadership accountable for the things that we’re saying. And I think that’s an incredibly beautiful thing. And that is just self reinforcing. It makes us so much more effective in getting out messaging, we’re trying to continue to move our culture to a better and better place.”
The most important lesson Mark has learned from others
Over the years Mark has received a lot of advice from leaders around him. Some of the key advice he has been given has been around leading with integrity and doing what you say you’re going to do. Also it has been around humility and leading in a way that puts the interests of others above your own.
Mark shares that the most important lesson he has learned from others is “The more you advance in your career, the less it’s about what you do. And it’s more about what other people do, what you can help them do and the barriers you can remove to help them be successful and engaged.”
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The shift we are seeing in the CEO role
In the past, the way we viewed CEOs was almost as a celebrity–someone who is unapproachable, who sits up in an ivory tower and makes decisions. They usually spent most of their time traveling or in their office, so most employees didn’t see their CEO face to face even after working for the company for years.
Now we are seeing a move away from this type of CEO and we are seeing CEOs spending a lot more time in front of employees, they are more approachable, some have open-door policies, they are open and transparent about their lives and struggles. So why is this change happening?
Mark believes it is largely due to technology and communication. He says there is so much more opportunity these days for CEOs to be visible than in the past. It is now possible for CEOs to create short videos to share with employees or to write monthly newsletters or to do virtual town hall meetings. That wasn’t possible in the past.
As Mark shares, “there just was a lot more bureaucracy around in leadership in those days. And so it could behave more like a cult of personality, than anything else. And it just created an atmosphere where I think CEOs were more revered than respected. And they just didn’t have the ability to reach out through all of that all those layers of protection to connect with people. And I don’t think I would have thrived as a CEO, or perhaps even had the opportunity to be a CEO in that environment. But I certainly enjoy this environment much more.”
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The importance of leaders thinking beyond dollars and cents
There used to be a mentality that the main purpose of a business and all of the leaders in it was to make as much money as possible. But now there is a realization that it’s not just about making a profit, it’s about positively impacting employees, customers, and communities.
Mark says, “We like to think about ourselves as being sustainably profitable and sustainably growing. And there’s a lot of dimensions to that you can’t be sustainably profitable, or sustainably grow if you’re in a community and you’re abusing that community, either environmentally or through bad employment practices. Or if you’re not taking care of employees providing a great work environment or career opportunities, they’re going to go elsewhere, which will impair your ability to be sustainably profitable over time.”
Yes, as an organization you have to be profitable, that is important. But if you want to be sustainably profitable, as Mark talks about, you have to make sure that you are not only taking care of your employees and customers, but also the community around you, the environment, and the world as a whole. Organizations have a huge responsibility and they can change the world, if they want to.
“If we’re not providing solutions for humanity, we’re not going to be sustainably profitable, or grow sustainably over a long period of time.”
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