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The Missing Leadership Piece in the Petrochemical & Refining Industry

July 4, 2012 - New York

With lower energy costs, due to cheaper natural gas and the coming of shale gas, the petrochemical and refining industry will experience a boom, says Steve Skarke, Senior Vice President of Operations, Kaneka Texas Corporation. However, the industry is currently unprepared for that. "Workforce and leadership development are what will make companies successful in riding out the boom and taking advantage of opportunities," he adds.

A speaker at the upcoming marcus evans Petrochemical & RefiningSummit 2012, in San Antonio, Texas, July 16-17, Skarke talks about the missing workforce and leadership development component in safety management, and succession planning.

- What is missing in the petrochemical and refining industry today?

Weare very focused on Process Safety Management and put a lot of resources into building systems that ensure our plants run safely and without any incidents. We concentrate on policies, procedures, equipment design, testing and auditing, and trainingpeople. However, what is missing is the leadership piece, what I call Process Safety Leadership. We need to build commitment and discipline within our organizations for people to work within the processes we have designed. It only takes one person deciding to do the wrong thing or taking a shortcut for problems to occur. We have to set examples, inspire employees to do their best and speak up if they see something does not look right.

In my experience, we spend most of our time preparing leaders on the technical aspects of running plants and not enough on leadership development. There is a big difference in the types of skills needed to lead. Leadership is about the people, and developing the right kind of behaviors in employees.

-How can this become part of the organizational culture?

You have to define what the culture is through the values that you strive to support for the company. At Kaneka, our core values are: honesty, safety, teamwork and continuous improvement. Wealways look back at these values when we are making decisions and setting strategies.

- In an aging workforce, how can organizations find and retain the next leaders?

There are not enough skilled workers to fill the vacancies. In Texas, we are all fighting for the same resources. We need to reach out to the younger generation and inspire them to work in the industry. We have to recognize that the younger generation has different values and may not be willing to work 60 or 70 hour weeks.There is a need for flexibility in our thinking to allow for different kinds of work schedules.

At the same time, we have to motivate our most experienced employees to train and develop the younger staff members, and transfer all of the knowledgethey have in their heads into databases and knowledge management systems.

In today's modern plants where safety records are better than they have ever been, some people do not experience upset conditions, but they need to learn how to respond tothem if they happen. This should be built into our training systems.

In a lean environment where we have learned to operate with fewer employees, succession planning is even more critical for ensuring plants run smoothly.

About the Petrochemical & Refining Summit 2012

This unique forum will take place at The Westin La Cantera Resort, San Antonio, Texas, July 16-17, 2012. Offering much more than any conference, exhibition or trade show, this exclusive meeting will bring together esteemed industry thought leaders and solution providers to a highly focused and interactive networking event. The Summit includes presentations on investing resources into innovative technologies, plant reliability solutions, and remaining competitive in today's petrochemical and refining marketplace. For more information please send an email to or visit the event website at

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The Energy Network - marcus evans Summits group delivers peer-to-peer information on strategic matters, professional trends and breakthrough innovations.
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Please note that the Summit is a closed business event and the number of participants strictly limited.

About marcus evans Summits

marcus evans Summits are high level business forums for the world's leading decision-makers to meet, learn and discuss strategies and solutions. Held at exclusive locations around the world, these events provide attendees with a unique opportunity to individually tailor their schedules of keynote presentations, think tanks, seminars and one-on-one business meetings. For more information, please visit

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Sarin Kouyoumdjian-Gurunlian,
Press Manager, marcus evans, Summits Division
Tel: + 357 22 849 313

Copyright 2012 ACN Newswire. All rights reserved.

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