Does Positive Leadership Training Really Work?

Is it Cost Effective? Any Measurable Results?

To answer those questions, here is a letter from F. D. Foster, Complex Manager for Shell Oil Company, Norco Manufacturing Complex, responding to a collegue…

Norco Letterhead

Mr. Donald A. Melchert
Area Specialist
E. I. DuPont de Nemours & Company
Pontchartrain Works
P.O. Box 2000
LaPlace, LA 70069-1150

Dear Donald,

As requested in your letter of May 18, I would be pleased to address the question “What have been the benefits to Shell Oil Company, Norco, by using Ed Foreman’s Successful Life Course?”

We feel that our most important asset is our people. In general, everyone in our industry has access to similar technology and processing equipment. So the only way we can expect to secure a competitive edge is through development of our people resource to the highest level of their capability. The Ed Foreman Course is a major ingredient in attaining this goal for us.

It has been proven that a happier, healthier employee is a more productive employee. This translates to a human resource that is strong in body and positive in mind. Ed Foreman’s Course is the best I’ve ever seen in delivering people in this state regardless of the starting point; i.e., whether or not they are negative in thinking and sloppy in physical habits to begin with.

The feature of the Successful Life Course that sets it apart is the prescription Ed gives for perpetuating good health and positive thoughts. His regimen for a good day includes daily reading, exercise, self-talk, etc., that reinforces the overall positive attitude of the individual. This helps to keep the message evergreen for many months and years after being exposed to the original course.

Now, specifically, what has it done for us at Shell to affect the bottom line? Two manufacturing locations I’ve been associated with have used this approach to increase productivity and performance in every area by an order of magnitude. In the early 1970’s, we had a new Chemical Plant at Geismar, Louisiana, that was teetering on collapse. We had new hardware (and technology) that wouldn’t run and a workforce so negative toward management that we were close to walking away from the operation. I decided to install a new management system in a last ditch effort to recover the investment. Unfortunately, the workforce was very resistant to change, including the Shell senior managers. We had negative thinking key supervisory staff that would not work together and first-line employees with low productivity and a high “bitch” factor.


I started by sending all senior managers to the Successful Life Course in Kerrville, Texas. Many of these people went through a complete change in attitude. They became more positive, but also seemed more cooperative, more productive, and more creative. Their self assurance went up and their capacity for job stress seemed to increase. These managers, who previously resisted change, went to work in restructuring the management system.

We sent more middle management people to Kerrville and followed with an in-house Successful Living Course that Ed conducted in Baton Rouge. We made this available to most all employees at the Plant. This was a resounding success. With a different attitude, the first-line employees embraced the management redesign and implemented it with enthusiasm. Performance in terms of safety, production costs, throughput, and product quality improved by order of magnitude. The plant went on to become the most profitable in Shell. The Geismar Plant has retained this positive, can-do image over the years of expansions and is now the benchmark in Shell for a high performing system with outstanding management/employee relations. I credit the Ed Foreman Course for turning that workforce around.

In more recent times, I have effectively employed the Successful Living Course at an older, larger installation at Shell Norco, a manufacturing complex of 1600 Shell employees. When I arrived in 1985, the organization was marked by a strong anti-management feeling among the Union employees and some dissention among the senior and middle management. I employed the same approach as mentioned above. We sent all senior managers to the three-day course and instituted an in-house program for any employee who wanted to experience the course. Again, all performance parameters improved markedly; i.e., costs, safety, environmental performance, quality, and profitability.

Further, Norco was voted the best operating location and the safest operating location in Shell in 1987. Again, I attribute a great deal of that success to the improved minds and bodies that result from the Successful Living Course. My files are filled with letters from course attendees who thank me for permitting them to have this experience.

One last example – as you probably know, we sustained a tragic explosion and fire in 1988 that had a traumatic impact on all employees at Norco. Mental condition of our employees was of great concern to us. Fortunately, the Ed Foreman courses were underway throughout this episode and feedback from the workforce convinces me the positive thinking taught in the course had a great healing effect on our people.

I would give an unqualified recommendation to the Ed Foreman Course in rendering our people happier, healthier, and more productive employees.

Sincerely yours,


F. D. Foster
Complex Manager

bc: Ed Foreman

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