What makes a BP Future Leader?

Evelyn Gardiner, Downstream Head of HR, talks about the Future Leaders Programme: what it’s for, its importance to BP, and what she looks for in an applicant

Why is the Future Leaders Programme important to Downstream?

Our Future Leaders Programme (FLP) provides a structured approach to developing high calibre men and women with a global mind-set to become leaders of the future. Bringing great people into BP at an early stage of their careers and with wide-ranging experiences is a key part of our talent strategy. By building on those prior experiences in a structured way and giving them opportunities to make a difference in Downstream’ s globally diverse businesses, we aim to maximize their potential to be great leaders for years to come.  As someone who benefited from a similar strategy when I joined Mars 21 years ago, I really believe in it.

What are the key skills or capabilities that you expect those on the FLP to demonstrate?

On joining BP the first thing to be sure of is that our values and behaviours resonate for you and that they influenced you in applying to us.  

I also want to see learning agility: how you cope and thrive when faced with new situations. This is one of the biggest indicators of potential we look for in future leaders.  It requires openness, curiosity and humility in equal measure which are also characteristics that mark out our best leaders. 

Flexibility and resilience are two other traits to highlight at this stage in an FLP’s career. The more stretch and challenge that we can experience early on the greater the benefit. This requires being adaptable and happy to cope with the uncertainty of often fast-changing environments or circumstances. Today we live in a digitally fluent and networked world. The strengths our FLPs naturally bring in these aspects is essential to create the collaboration, learning and forward thinking that our businesses need.  

Finally great line management and leadership are two important aspects that you will be developing at this stage in your career; albeit with early experience, so the more you understand about what that means for BP and what that means for you the more confident and capable you will be as you start to build and lead teams. 

Do you have any top tips for individuals who secure a place on the FLP to help them be successful?

Never be afraid to ask questions. You’ve heard it before but there is no such thing as a stupid question. The question you might be afraid to ask is most likely what several others have avoided before you and can sometimes be what opens things up.  Ask the questions and share your views; you’ve been brought into BP for your curiosity and perspectives as well as your capabilities. Challenging status quo is great as long as you do it with a solution-focused mindset. 

Secondly, use your strengths in collaborating and networking to help you deliver what you need to.  Building relationships is part of BP’s DNA and FLPs can maximize from this to help themselves and the organization succeed. People can spot a corporate tourist or superficial networker -  as I think of them - from 100 meters so build your connections and your profile thoughtfully and with purpose and you will reap the rewards.  Network and collaborate to progress the work you are doing and great things will come from it.   

And finally, use the leadership expectations materials that are available to help you develop leadership capabilities for the future. We are all leaders and should role model leadership in how we think and everything we say and do. I would urge you to take time to digest the materials and guidance available virtually the then talk things through with your line manager and a coach or mentor. Driving your own development in the way you lead through our values, energize others, build capability and maximize value is critical to your success. 

The opportunity that FLP affords to get diverse experiences and an early test of leadership potential is a real strength of the programme. The FLP’s that make the most of this as well as those that show a good balance of IQ and EQ and those that don’t wear the FLP badge but go beyond labels and hierarchy are those that I see as successful.
Evelyn Gardiner, Downstream Head of HR

What are some success stories from FLPs who have shown great progress on the programme and beyond?

The opportunity that FLP affords to get diverse experiences and an early test of leadership potential is a real strength of the programme. The FLP’s that make the most of this as well as those that show a good balance of IQ and EQ and those that don’t wear the FLP badge but go beyond labels and hierarchy are those that I see as successful.  

There are specific examples of FLPs that have progressed to Group Leadership in BP or are currently leading large businesses across multiple countries.  We also currently have some of our FLPs contributing to BP’s strategy development and leading projects in our mobility and low carbon space – the opportunities for progression and to make a difference are there if people want to seize them. That said, don’t worry too much about chasing levels – it’s the broadening, rich experiences that matter at this stage in your career. Work on IQ and EQ in equal measure, focus on the content of the roles rather than worrying too much about levels, and it will serve you better in the long run. 

Anything else you’d like to share about FLP?

Just to add that in our SET meetings where we focus on people, we’re having conversations about how we continue to improve the FLP programme - it’s an aspect of our talent strategy that the SET members really feel passionate about. I feel lucky to have rejoined BP when there is so much pull in our businesses for doing this and being proactive about how we develop our talent. That’s one of the reasons I am so happy to sponsor the Future Leaders Programme. 

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