There aren’t many energy industry professionals who are quick to cite George Washington and Abraham Lincoln as role models who acted as “humble servants of tremendous character, who weren’t driven by ego but by service and putting others ahead of themselves.”
But Eddie Picard’s approach is different from many leaders. Coming from a Big Four accounting background, he has developed a unique management style that forges close relationships with colleagues and has played a substantial role in helping Key Energy Services successfully emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The result is a more efficient and profitable company that provides comprehensive onshore energy production services.
Picard says it is quite common for senior executives to lose authentic connections with peers and subordinates. That may occur because of workload, title—which can intimidate others—or something as simple as personal ego. Picard, Key Energy’s vice president and controller, points out that whatever the reason, it can lead to hindering a team’s ability to fully understand and effectively resolve business issues.
“Supervisors have to be able to manage and connect with people at all levels,” Picard says. “It helps avoid the risk of worrying more about our own status than about problem-solving for the betterment of the group.”
Picard learned to be authentic and approachable in his relationships with all employees by modeling his behavior on supervisors whom he admired over the course of his career. They knew each team member by name, encouraged them to participate and to speak openly and honestly in meetings, and actively discovered ways to help improve team members’ professional and personal well-being. “Staying approachable and treating people with respect and dignity has opened many doors in my career because it fosters trust, facilitates open dialogue, and creates opportunities to resolve issues,” Picard says. “People end up sharing important information that you wouldn’t know about otherwise.”
And he has evidence that his approach works. In one instance, he learned that a line of business at Key Energy was turning away customers that the company needed soon after its bankruptcy filing. A colleague initially dismissed the information, but later took the time to investigate and confirm the details Picard reported. The same colleague eventually moved his office from the executive suite to the operations floor and began dressing more casually in order to be more approachable.
On another occasion, at a leadership team meeting, ideas were requested to help grow earnings. Picard was the only participant to offer a recommendation, suggesting the addition of a full-time vice president to focus on coiled tubing—a line of business related to hydraulic fracturing that had been cold stacked during the energy downturn. The idea was rejected, but Picard continued to develop relationships, build trust, and revisited his suggestion. Nine months later, the new position was created, and coiled tubing came to represent more than 70 percent of Key Energy’s 2018 earnings plan.
As part of the bankruptcy process, Picard and his team were also responsible for implementing fresh start accounting for the company, a substantial project that required two months of late nights at the office—about the same amount of time that it took for Picard to gain the team’s trust and respect.
“My immediate concern was to keep the team together and to mold them into a high-performance finance organization,” he recalls. “No amount of assuring them that bankruptcy would make us stronger would accomplish that. I had to connect with them as a real person who truly cares about them.”
Picard began addressing long overlooked departmental issues, including overdue promotions and salary increases. “When I told the team that I do what I say I’m going to do, they looked at me as if to say, ‘We’ve heard this before,’” Picard says. “When I came back with approvals, they were very surprised.”
One of the steps toward becoming a high-performance finance organization was to change how the company’s general ledger is managed. Previously, each department had reconciled its own accounts without reporting back to the finance team. Picard assigned two individuals to review account reconciliations from each department and ensure that all accounts within the general ledger were complete, reasonable, and aligned to the highest levels in the reporting structure. This uncovered and addressed several existing issues, as well as created a more efficient and fully integrated process.
In addition to having helped guide difficult decisions related to layoffs, adopting spending controls, and divesting business that was unrelated to Key Energy’s core competencies, Picard often provides what he describes as career and life counseling questions. When those situations arise, he is guided by his faith—which calls for treating others with dignity and respect—and by what he has learned as the father of five daughters and two sons.
One of his core nuggets of wisdom is advising younger team members to consider that they “become their experience.” Much the same as he has advised his college-aged children, he tells them to think about what they want to become so that they can position themselves to gain the appropriate knowledge and experience to move in the desired direction.
“Having a large department is very similar to having a large family,” he says. “As children get older, their questions become more significant and more complicated, but you can’t avoid them. You have to be open to being challenged, to be vulnerable, and to keep the lines of communication open.”
Photo: Courtesy of Eddie Picard