Deborah Byers, EY Houston’s new managing partner, focuses on marching toward the vision Featured

5:36pm EDT September 29, 2013
Deborah Byers, EY Houston’s new managing partner, focuses on marching toward the vision

Deborah Byers loves the word engagement — as in employee engagement — and the new managing partner of the EY Houston office will be focusing on it now more than ever as she takes the wheel at one of the corporation’s largest offices.

 “What may happen in a big organization is that you have very strong connections within small pods — and that is great as long as those pods are all connected through somebody in a leadership role,” she says. “You have to bring all those smaller connections together so they have a common vision.

“You could end up with a lot of connectivity in smaller groups that are isolated and not talking to each other — and you are not going to be as effective. So to start in the right direction, the buy-in effort begins with having empathy to understand what the people in the office are concerned about,” Byers says.

“It’s about what makes them feel good about their jobs, or happy to come to work because a happy employee is going to be much more productive.”

While Byers has been with EY for 27 years, most recently as M&A managing partner for the Transaction Advisory Services Group for the Southwest Region, one of her initial steps has been to meet — or get reacquainted — with the movers and shakers of EY Houston.

One of the conclusions she has reached is that as a leader, it is your job to constantly refresh and remind everybody: “This is the vision; this is what we are all marching toward.”

“Then you relate it back to, if we achieve this vision, why it is good for you?” she says. “That is what people want to know: ‘How does this impact me personally at this level?’ One of the primary critiques of leadership is, ‘Oh, they are in their ivory tower. They don’t understand what is happening in the trenches,’ so you need to be able to connect the vision with how it will improve their day-to-day working lives in the trenches.

“Then you want to connect it back to what does it mean to build a better working world: ‘How does that impact me down here when I’ve got a deadline that I’ve got to meet in 24 hours, and there are not enough hours in the day to get it done?’” she says.

In an organization as large as EY Houston, with about 1,200 employees, parts are going to be moving fast but others may be falling back.

“Your job as a leader is to be connected enough to know when you need to go in and help them tweak things a little bit,” Byers says. “You’re not dictating, ‘Hey, go do this. You should be doing this.’ It’s, ‘Hey, you may be a little off track, so let’s do this, and let’s tweak this.’ And then it is not a matter of coming in and saying, ‘What are they doing wrong?’ It’s what are the barriers and finding ways to help them find a solution.

“And that is why it is so important to be connected,” she says. “While it is important to have these goals and visions and be connected with the broader leadership, you know EY is a huge organization in itself, but you have to connect that back and know what each team is doing, down to the engagement level.”

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