Jerry Gootee has a passion for people that has only grown stronger during the 26 years he has spent working at Ernst & Young LLP.
“The thing that energizes and excites me and gets me up in the morning is the ability to work with high-performing people and high-performing teams,” says Gootee, who took over as Akron Office Managing Partner for EY in July. “A big part of my job is to make sure we’re continuing to inspire our people and help them be the best that they can be.”
Gootee succeeded Ed Eliopoulos, who retired from his position leading the Akron office on June 30. He will work closely with Julie Boland, EY’s Cleveland Office Managing Partner, and the 111 partners in the Northeast Ohio practice.
Gootee will be responsible for developing and engaging talent, creating high-performing teams, driving market leadership and amplifying branding and engagement efforts in the community. He remains the Global Client Services Partner/Senior Advisory Partner on several accounts in Northeast Ohio.
Gootee began his career in the firm’s Louisville, Kentucky, office and spent 12 years in the audit practice. He was admitted to the firm’s partnership in 2002 and moved to Cleveland in 2003.
“I’ve worked with people who are incredible at building complementary teams, diverse teams and getting the most out of that diversity when they put those teams together,” Gootee says. “It’s something I try to emulate in my leadership style. How do we get people to be the best at what they are good at and what they love to do? The uniqueness is great from a team standpoint if you can bring it all together.”
Tap into talent
Gootee worked with Eliopoulos for several months to enable a smooth transition into his new role. He says the key to taking on a new leadership position is the willingness to tap into the talent of the team you’ll be leading.
“Take the time to understand the good things that are occurring,” Gootee says. “Understand what your predecessor has done that’s working well and make sure you leverage that and continue that momentum. And then look for areas where there is an opportunity to get even better.”
One of the keys to effective leadership is showing your people the benefits that can be realized through the actions you ask them to take.
“You need to help people understand what can be achieved,” Gootee says. “Show how improved performance impacts their particular practice and impacts them personally. Help them discover the value of new ideas and initiatives and what these could mean both to these individuals and to the practice and momentum will build pretty quickly. It’s not top-down leadership. It’s building it together.”
When Gootee looks back at those who have influenced his leadership style, he finds it difficult to single out any one individual.
“I’ve worked with some people who are just great human beings,” Gootee says. “They really care about others and it’s a genuine caring that is bigger and broader than themselves. From there, I have worked with folks that have incredible energy, incredible drive and the ability to get things done against a lot of headwinds. I really respect people who have that tenacity.”
Gootee is excited about the future of EY in Northeast Ohio and the opportunities that await both him and the firm.
“We’ve been growing the practice at a clip of 10 percent plus over the last several years, which is consistent with the global firm,” Gootee says.
“It really comes down to taking the time to understand our clients, understand their businesses and understand their challenges and opportunities and making sure we’re bringing the full suite of the firm to the table to serve them.” ●