Meet K. Earl Reynolds, President and COO, Chaparral Energy, BeALifter Leadership Interview #7 with Bruce Waller

BeALifter Leadership Interview Series #7: Sharing Leadership Lessons with Bruce Waller…

10 Questions from Leaders that make a difference!

Jim Rohn once said, “Your success in the next 5 years will be determined by the books you read and the people you meet.”

This is a testimony to my personal leadership growth over the past 20 years. I continue to learn each day by connecting with some of the most talented people in business. In this series, I want to add value to your leadership growth by introducing you to leaders that make impact as they share challenges, successes, and perspectives on their journey as a business leader or in their personal life. So lets get started…

Today, we are going to hear from K. Earl Reynolds, Jr., President and COO Chaparral Energy. Earl Reynolds joined Chaparral Energy in 2011 as an executive vice president and chief operating officer before being named as the company’s president in 2014. I have enjoyed getting to know Earl over the last several years and have been inspired by his approach to leadership. He is authentic, approachable, and has a passion for developing people. In 2013, Earl was named as a Distinguished Fellow of the Mississippi State University Bagley College of Engineering. You are going to really enjoy his interview. Now let’s hear from Earl… earl.reynolds

1. Where did you grow up?

I grew up in a rural southern Mississippi town with a population of 5,000 and a high school graduating class of 110.

2. How did you get started in business/career?

I always excelled academically. I was especially good at math, which I loved. After an initial year in pre-pharmacy, I realized that I should switch to a math major if I was going to enjoy my professional career. So I changed my major to engineering and graduated from Mississippi State University in 1982 with a degree in Petroleum Engineering. My first job was Production Engineer with Superior Oil in Lafayette, LA.

3. Do you remember a challenge or life lesson that you had to overcome early in your career which made you a better leader?

My first true leadership job was with Mobil Oil as a field production foreman. I was 28 years old with 6 years of experience. I was supervising men that were over twice my age with significant industry experience. I was promoted to this position based upon my accomplishments as an individual contributor but I had no formal leadership experience. I quickly realized that I had to gain their trust. So, I focused on being humble, working as hard as they did and asking lots of questions from a learning perspective. I was able to gain their trust and we accomplished more than any field team had accomplished because we were a true team. I learned that humility and hard work are vital attributes of a leader and taking time to develop a deeper relationship with your team members is foundational.

4. What was that moment when you knew that you had found your lane, your purpose?

I would say after my initial leadership experience, I began to feel very comfortable that I could effectively influence and get things done through others. I was a strong individual contributor but leading teams and eventually organizations was my real strength in business. I also developed a passion for developing others. I had several experiences as a young leader of developing individuals to higher performance after they believed their upward mobility opportunities were over. Watching the transformation of individuals when they trust you and are open to development feedback for their own growth was very rewarding. Early success stories and high team performance cemented my belief that it is “always about the people.” Consequently, this has been the central theme of leadership in any role I assume.

5. What is your most favorite achievement in your current role?

The highlight of this role for me was building a high performing organization from the technical team and support staff while completely reconfiguring the corporate strategy. I’ve been able to build a high performing team through coaching more senior managers to truly lead and by investing in young technical staff with high potential to expand their view of the business. I’ve also helped to bring a refined corporate strategy with corporate measures and goals to ensure high performance and metrics. I worked to define our values to ensure that all through the talent lifecycle we are focused on results, relationships, integrity and technical excellence.

6. Is there any one person that inspired or mentored you along the way?

I would have to say my parents gave me the strong core values that dictate the way I conduct myself in my personal and business life. The core value foundation centered on results with integrity has served me well in my career. In addition, I’ve had opportunities to work alongside several top-notch CEO’s who lead by example and I learned their approach to decision making which has helped me be successful in leading others.

7. Do you have a saying or mantra that you live by?

I have two mantras that I live by that sum up my core values of doing the right thing and investing in people. I conduct my life and coach my team to ask themselves every day if what they did each day could pass the “mirror test.” In other words, did they display integrity with their approach to business, people and decision making? In addition, you will routinely hear me say, “it is always about the people.” As I challenge my team to live by these, I am also reminded to continue to stay true to my values.

8. What book are you reading or audio to help grow your leadership right now?

I’m not reading it now but a book that I live by daily in my personal and business life is – 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey. I’m currently reading How Successful People Lead by John Maxwell.

9. Can you share any of your daily disciplines that help you stay focused as a leader?

I think developing tasks or key objectives for the next day, week and month are important for high performance execution. I make it a practice to do it every day before I leave the office. I also believe in a personal “high touch” management style so I meet face-to-face with each manager on a weekly basis as well as our staff meeting. I will also find time to do MBWA, management by walking around; I have found this to be a very effective way to keep in touch with the larger organization. I also believe in being responsive by returning all phones calls, emails and other forms of communication even if it is a short response. Finally, it’s important to recharge my battery with no cell phones or emails. My wife and I try to do this at least twice a year.

10. What advice would you give others to help them on their leadership journey?

Establish what you think your core values are and do not waver from this foundation. Ensure you hire and develop people with these core values in mind. For your specific business, set the tone and strategic direction that you expect from the organization and ensure ALL employees have a clear line of sight as to how they can impact that strategy/vision. Finally, pay market based compensation for your team and create a culture where people have fun while never compromising on results.

Thank YOU, Earl for sharing your wisdom and inspiring us to become better leaders.

Some of my takeaways include: Self-awareness matters as you begin your journey. Being humble and asking questions as a leader will help you build trust with your team. Developing and influencing people is essential to being an effective leader – “It’s always about the people”. Having strong core values and surrounding yourself with like-minded people will elevate your leadership growth. Asking yourself if you can pass the mirror test will help you align with your core values each day. MBWA – “Management By Walking Around” can be very effective especially in a larger organization. Also consider getting away to re-charge your battery a couple of times a year. Lastly, hire and develop people with similar core values and have fun without compromising results.

If you would like to learn more about K. Earl Reynolds and Chaparral Energy, visit their website at

Bruce Waller, CRP, PHR, SHRM-CP is the Vice President of Armstrong Relocation and Companies in Dallas, Texas. You can visit his BLOG “A Relocation Minute with Bruce Waller” at for more information on employee relocation resources, Call 972-389-5673, or Email You can also follow @brucewaller on Twitter!

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