Teams are unraveling. Analysis of our database of team assessment data shows that, since the beginning of the pandemic, team culture has cratered. Now, productivity and performance are declining and, with them, engagement and retention.
In this episode of AIIRWaves, we bring you an insightful conversation on the power of bringing teams together. AIIR Head of Team Effectiveness Dave Gloss joins Carole Streicher, U.S. Deal Advisory and Strategy Leader at KPMG, to talk about why bringing teams together is the key to equipping them to succeed in an environment of constant change.
As the first woman to lead KPMG’s deal advisory and strategy group, a team of 2,300, Carole brings a wealth of experience and expertise to both her role and the conversation. Dave and Carole dig into the power of a great leadership team, and a leader’s role in creating conditions for their team’s success in uncertainty. If you’re working to build a more effective team, or if you’re leading people through change, this episode provides wonderful advice to get you grounded.
Hello and welcome to AIIRWaves: a podcast dedicated to helping leaders navigate, change and shape a better future. I’m your host, Thom Fox, and our program is brought to you by AIIR Consulting, a leadership consultancy creating transformation for people and their organizations.
In this episode, we have a real treat for you. Recently, Carole Streicher, US Deal Advisory and Strategy Leader at KPMG, sat down with Dave Gloss, head of Team Effectiveness at AIIR, to discuss leading teams through change and uncertainty. The following are some impactful segments from that conversation, and we hope you enjoy.
We have a riveting conversation in store for you today with Carole Streicher from KPMG. For those of you that don’t know me, my name is Dave Gloss. I’m the head of Team Effectiveness here at AIIR Consulting, which is one of our five practice areas committed to helping leaders, teams, and organizations navigate, change and shape a better future. And there is no better time than now to be able to have that discussion on just that topic about shaping a better future.
To put it mildly, the last couple of years have been all about navigating change, and that seems like it just keeps coming to us. And today we’re going to talk about how do we do that as a team, as a high-performing team. It is the way that a team operates that helps us reinforce and make healthy boundaries, healthy ways of working, that allows us to be really successful, both as individuals, but as a team and as a company as we go forward.
So without further ado, I want to bring in our guest today. And we are in for a treat. I’ve had the chance to work with Carole Streicher from KPMG for the last couple of years now as her team coach. But she is a – I don’t know how to describe this – a learner, a real learner, very curious, very invested in developing her people.
She leads the deal, advisory, and strategy practice at KPMG. She was the first woman to lead KPMG’s DAS practice and the only woman to lead a mergers and acquisitions group of any of the Big Four accounting firms. Her team is 2300 partners and professionals strong, with a leadership team of over 20 that’s responsible for leading this.
She herself was a leader on that team that got elevated to now leading peers, which comes with its own challenges and such as part of it. So we’re really excited to have her here to learn from her 25 years of strategic leadership experience, working with global Fortune 500 and bulge bracket private equity funds, and middle market firms.
A quote from her boss here, “Her deep commitment to serving clients, developing people, and championing KPMG’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion are the perfect components to successful leadership.”
So I am super grateful. You are in for a treat. So welcome, Carole on here for our conversation today. Carole, it’s so good to have you.
Yeah, it’s great to be here and great to connect with you, as always.
Awesome. Well, let’s just sort of kick it off, get to introduce you to the group. One of the things I love, one of my favorite questions to get to know people. So we’re going to do a little bit of this, and also some of the questions that I’m asking and getting into will also be some of the things that you can use when you get your team together.
We find that really strong cultures have elements of really clear cohesion and trust and safety. And that comes from just knowing each other, knowing where we come from and how we’ve connected. This is a question that we asked Carole and her team, but Carole, what was your first job?
So my first job was scooping ice cream at a very popular ice cream place called Oinks and New Buffalo, Michigan. I was 15 years old, and my fun story about scooping ice cream was that I learned how to make a hollow scoop of ice cream. So that the customer was super excited, right, that they got a big scoop of ice cream.
And then the owner was really happy because the cost was a little bit lower and they had customer excitement. So even at age 15, I was looking at the customer being happy and the bottom line.
So, you know, you said you got that hollow scoop. What was something that you learned that really, during that time, that informed – you know that was meaningful – in terms of forming your leadership or ways of working now. What’s like a lesson that you took away from that.
Oh, there’s – I mean – I think in all of the different things that you do, especially throughout your entire career, but, you know, early on you learn lessons throughout. And so for me, you know, I think that a couple of things were: building your skill set. And so another funny story is that the competing ice cream parlor hired me away a year later because I had the hollow scoop and they wanted to learn that.
Building your skills – but obviously working well with others and, you know, serving customers. Like I said, it was a really popular ice cream place. So the line was out around the door and out the door and around the building. And so you had to be, you know, active and working with the customers and stuff like that. So that’s a little lesson.
So, you know, I explained a little bit about kind of who you are and where you come from. Another question that I always like to challenge leaders and this with is, you know, what does DAS do? But can you explain it to us as if we’re ten years old? Like, what does that actually – like what do you do in your work? So we all kind of get it.
Yeah. The easiest way to think about it from a ten-year-old’s perspective – and not always a ten-year-old gets this, but hopefully those on the phone will get it – is we help clients buy and sell other businesses. So it’s all about buying and selling other businesses and improving the performance of the business. And so, you know, I could use the analogy of the ice cream parlor and, you know, improving the bottom line, but that’s basically what we do buy and that helps our clients buy and sell other businesses and help them improve their performance.
And then why DAS? Like, what pulls you into this work in particular? You’re 25 years in the practice, so like obviously you enjoy something about it – you lead it now. So what is it that kind of pulls you to the work?
Yeah I think for me – and I say this when I interview people – this, this career within the deal world is not for everyone. I’d say there’s maybe a little bit of a maybe not a screw loose, but a strange person that really thrives in this environment.
But I know your team. Y’all got screws loose.
So in a good way. Right? But it’s a very fast-paced environment. Right. And so for me, you know, being able to parachute into a business, a company and know nothing about it, go in and assess that business for three or five weeks and, you know, at lightning speed, it’s just so interesting. You learn so much so fast.
And it’s like you’re always drinking from a fire hose and then you’re giving insights that are really important to our clients to help them make an investment decision. It’s just really rewarding and it’s super fast-paced and intellectually very, very stimulating and challenging. So that’s what kind of has drawn me in and kept me here, as well as the people and the culture, of course.
So as we get into today, really, you know, talking about, you know, and those that are on the call and then watching the recording, it’s all about the power of getting your people together, right? Like what that means for helping either build mojo and culture and ways of working. But not all of us have the luxury of making that time or knowing how to make that time.
You know, you took over this practice in 2019. What was it like moving from, you know, being a peer and then moving into like really that leader? And how did you go about starting off to build that mojo within your group?
Yeah. And so slight correction, it was 2020 that I took over, but yeah, but you know, as you think about where we were right when, when that happened, it was 2020, it was the height of COVID. The world that we lived in was, you know, we weren’t vaccinated. We weren’t able to travel, we weren’t able to get together as a team.
We were you know, I think society, in general, was very unclear around what the future look like. It was the great resignation was just starting. I think morale and anxiety was at the all time high around our nation and around the globe. You know, and from an M&A perspective, we had completely – deals shut down. There was basically a complete shutdown.
And the deal environment in early 2020 as that was spreading significantly in the U.S. and we didn’t really know what the future held. So that was kind of the environment that I was walking into from a deal standpoint and we had done such an amazing job as a practice prior to my leadership of growing the practice, building the team.
And so there was a lot of energy coming up in it, up in those years. And then we have this screeching halt, right? And so all of the world kind of faced this. But as I kind of took the helm, one of the things I wanted to make sure that we were doing is, you know, bringing the team together and I think focusing in on a couple of things.
First was I wanted to understand from my partners what it was that was important to them as we were going to move this team to the next ten years of growth trajectory and get through this initial time of angst and uncertainty, what was on their minds. So there was a large element when I first took over the practice of listening, but then second was really around my leadership team and that’s really, you know, how we started to work really closely with AIIR is I wanted to get the team working well together and you know, it was a challenge because we were 100% virtual and so wasn’t able to kind of create this team and collaboration.
But I knew that if I worked on building an amazing leadership team, what the power of all of us could do together was going to be far exceed what I could do individually in leading the team. And so that was clearly an area of focus for me right out of the gate.
And let’s talk about that. Right. So, you know what? What do you you know, obviously, we had our work together, so we have some shared definitions and principles. But I’m curious, like, what is a high-performing leadership team mean to you, and what does it mean for you at DAS?
Yeah. So, you know, there’s a lot of different things as I think about a high-performing team. And you guys helped us shape a little bit of what that high-performing team looks like, right. But I think fundamentally, a couple of things that are really important is around being collaborative, working together as a team in a collaborative way, not only within our practice but also collaborating with the rest of the firm and really unlocking our whole, our full potential.
And so that was, I think, one of the things that I think about as a highly successful team and one of the things that I wanted to make sure that we worked on, they, you know, everybody wears a different leadership hat. And so they’ve got their silos, if you will, of where they focus in on in that concept of collaboration.
You know, one of the things we really talked about with AIIR was around we all when we, you know, all ships rise together when we work together to build things in a way that’s not, you know, breaking down those silos and, you know, even just this weekend, for example, I remember getting an email from one of the leaders around some really great stuff they were doing within their practice from a people perspective, and like the four tenets of how you create really great followership and whatnot.
And the great thing was, is that that was being shared with all the other teams to say, Hey, look at what I’ve been doing in my practice. It’s really great. And that mindset of like, if I’ve got a great idea, let me share it with the rest of you and them coming together to do those types of things, which I think I see a lot more of even today than I did 6, 12 months ago.
And I remember when we first started, like, you know, we’re talking about a bunch of really like superb leaders on their own, right? Like your team members, like all industry experts, like, high charging, really capable, you know, but then also like their how do you bring that together in a collaborative way? How do you align that, right, and feel like we all belong?
As part of that, we have this adage at AIIR, we talk about, you know, is your team. If I asked anybody on your team like how your team is doing and they talk about their department, specifically a leadership team, we’re talking about more of a team of leaders than a leadership team. Right. And that shift, that pivot from being a team of leaders to a leadership team – that takes work.
Right. You’re talking about ingrained behaviors and patterns and ways of working and ways that we’ve been rewarded, and incentivized for years. And all those things come together to different things that we’re trying to shape, to be more agile, to be more nimble in this space.
But on that point, Dave, I think one of the things that we really worked on beyond that collaboration is having that shared vision right? And so we talk about, okay, what is it that you are individually doing, but what are we doing collectively and having a clear vision as a team on what we’re doing and building and knowing collectively everyone’s individual roles.
But what we’re working on together, I think, you know, when I think back on one of my favorite, if not my favorite story of working together, it was early on in the process. And we are still kind of just, you know, getting the team together and figuring out our norms and whatnot. And you did an exercise with us where it was virtual and we had to type into like a whiteboarding session, right.
And kind of started off the discussion around, you know, where are we headed and what’s the art of the possible. Imagine if we were super successful in a year, what would that look like? Right. And so everybody started like typing in, you know, we would have this and we’d have that with, you know, all this type of stuff.
And so the excitement was going and then you switched it said, okay, how would it feel if you succeeded and did all the things that you just said in the last one? And oh my goodness, that was the moment where I like. I felt like the team just got so energized. You talked about the mojo, right? Earlier. It was like at that moment it was like the mojo was so there right and the team was so excited and it was just a really powerful exercise that we worked on that I think was the guiding light for us for for the next year as we walk through and work through it.
Like, I remember going back to the team and saying, guys, we’ve got our mojo back and were able to do it. So we definitely need to celebrate, so. It was a fun exercise and a fun thing to reflect back on after a year.
Well, I’m glad you brought that up. As that goes to what we consider very foundational and why we like the name of this webinar is like how one day can make or break your year, right. Is, you know, and I like to use this analogy sort of a nautical analogy, but it’s navigation, an analogy in general. And again, AIIR’s purpose is helping leaders navigate, change and shape a better future.
If you have a compass right and you are charting your course and you’re one degree off where you want to go, if you go 100 feet, not an issue. Right. We can get there. But if you’re you go like ten miles, one degree off, you’re in a whole nother place. And that’s why I like getting very, very clear in spending a day about visioning.
Where do we want to go? What will it look like, how we will know if we’re successful? How will we feel? Also, what will our stakeholders say about us? The people that work with us? What will they think about it not just how we feel? What will they be thinking? What would be different? Getting crystal clear on that and then using that as a vehicle to keep yourself motivated, literally get the mojo back. You know, it helps when things become rocky, right? It gives you that navigation. I’m so glad you brought that up.
Yeah, it was a good one.
Know one of the other things that I think that I remember working well, and this also goes to what you do when you come together as a group, the whole slow down to speed up, getting crystal clear whether you’re doing it intentionally as team building or whether you’re doing it as part of strategic planning, which we do a lot of, like we’re brought in to facilitate and we’ll do these sessions, these visioning as well as ways of working sessions in advance of the strategy work. So that way you can use that to inform how we’re going to work. What was the development of operating principles? There’s a couple in there, some, I think I can say publicly some, I can’t
You can say it all.
I don’t know if they’re safe for work, but like GSD, like, you know, get S done like, like, you know, tell me a little bit about the role that operating principles play in helping keep the team accountable and on that vision.
Yeah, for sure. So and it’s the operating principles is really what we work with AIIR on and say, look, as a team, how are we going to operate as a team? What are some of the core tenets of that? So you mentioned the first one is GSD, which we’ll use get “stuff” done, but the S might have had a different word in there instead.
But you know, getting stuff done and it was this, you know, like I said, we all work in the deal environment and very fast-paced environment. So our leadership team has a huge element around GSD. Get stuff done, get done stuff quickly. And we very much wanted that to be a core tenet of our team and our leadership of how we work together.
But we also learned that you don’t want to GSD too quick and make that 1% off course decision or maybe 5% off course decision. Right. You know another one that you’ll remember was our Rumble. I think that it’s really important for a team to come together and share their perspective. You know, we wanted to create that environment that was safe to challenge each other and actually was encouraged in some ways to challenge each other.
And, you know, I remember in the early days, there were some longer calls and meetings that we spent a lot of time rumbling and feeling sometimes exhausted after the calls around the rumbling. But it was what we needed to do at that time with the team coming together. People would have different opinions. But let’s – another guiding principle was I think it was like commit, disagree, but commit or something like that.
Right. So it was like you can disagree with where the team has landed, but you have to commit to where we’re headed as a team. And so, you know, we didn’t want any of that. You know, I had zero tolerance for the backchanneling, right? If there was something you didn’t like, let’s get it out on the table.
But if we make a decision, you know, I don’t want the backchanneling behind the scenes because that’s just not productive. And I saw a lot of that in the initial, you know, initial working together and kind of said, listen, guys, we’ve got to get together, disagree, commit, rumble, GSD. Those are some of the operating principles that were really important to us.
And then that common set of language, right? So that we could many times would say, okay, we’re going to just spend a minute and we’re going to rumble. Right? And so people could know, is a safe place, a place to do that. So getting the operating principles down but then using them and having a common set of language.
Well, I think that’s what I think the whole purpose of the work is and why this like the one day right. Would come down sometimes can be two days or whatever, but like that slow down to be very crystal clear. Like who are we? Where are we going? How do we want to operate? What are we like? That’s why we’re using the Team Effectiveness Survey to get data to understand, like, what we already do well, what we could, you know, develop on.
You know, those are really meaningful things like being able to have an operating principle around the rumble, which by the way, the Rumble is a Brené Brown technique. It’s shorthand for those on the call. It’s shorthand for saying, you know, I will listen with the same intent that I want to be heard. These are the rules of the rumble that we create the arena where we will also focus on wading into the messy middle of problem identification.
So we’re not going to just share whatever we’re feeling for the sake of it. We’re going to identify what’s going on and then we’re going to really work to resolution and step away if we need to. So the rumble is a shorthand for creating a container for a type of conversation that somebody might not feel comfortable having otherwise.
I’d be curious, you know, like, what are the things that you and your team are talking about now? And when you get together, what are the ways that you’re now anticipating sort of where things are headed?
Yeah, so it’s interesting. We’re getting together next week. We’re trying to get together at least physically now 3 to 4 times a year and then obviously virtually in between those times. And like like you said to me, it’s about a group of 20 people. So it’s a good-sized group. And one of the things I would say we’ve learned from the past and then I’ll kind of talk about next week when we get together is that the team really appreciates and likes it when we get real, roll up our sleeves and get into solving the problems.
Right. And, and breaking into groups and know not about report outs and not about, you know, stuff like that. It’s really getting tactical. And so we’ve learned that, that when we had tactical type of stuff and read readouts, do that virtually or not using our precious time, we work together.
And so next week when we get together, one of the things that we’re working on for the morning session is around scenario planning. And so you talk about the recession, right? The recession, you know, we as a firm don’t think it’s going to be here, you know, in this next year, but anything’s possible. We don’t have a crystal ball.
Nobody has a crystal ball. So generally we’re current course and speed as we think about this next year. But we also need to do some scenario planning. What if it’s not the current course and speed? What if there is something that happens faster in regards to recession? If it’s a significant recession, if it isn’t, so we’re doing some scenario planning next week.
And I think the importance from my perspective around the scenario planning is, you know, we talked about how important it is that everybody knows where we’re headed, but in a but you need to be able to pivot quickly. So like I think of our practice as needing to be as a leadership team, very nimble and react to the market and being able to react to it quickly.
So we’ve laid out some scenario planning, right? And we’re going current course and speed. But while we get a bump in the road and we have to pivot, the leadership team knows we’ve already talked about, we’ve already rumbled through. We’ve already discussed the different scenarios so that when we do need to pivot, we can pivot quickly and all have alignment.
Like this is what we’ve talked about. This is where we need to head.
I love the way that you’ve framed that, right? Like our ability to have the tough conversation before the tough conversation is hoisted upon us. Right. Like a lot of teams like. And listen, you’re all are working real hard. You know, we all have the same amount of hours in the day. You’re right. Like we all are. You know, we’re all facing that, right?
So it’s about how we’re using that time, you know, and periodically checking in and refining in how we’re doing and keeping tabs on it. But we’ve already had that conversation and we took that one day, you know, to put in where we headed, how do we want to operate? So it already exists. So when you have those conversations, you’re ready to go, you know, like it’s such a blessing to have. But also I consider a mandate for leaders today to be putting into place.
What’s the role of your partnership now? I think we’ve really valued working with you during this period, but I’d be curious, like how has working with AIIR supported you and what’s the role of having a good partner, whether it’s AIIR or any other? I don’t like, I’ll be really agnostic to this, like getting facilitation for your team staff in the beginning.
To do this I think makes all the difference in investing and it makes it just really key. But I’d be curious, what’s the role do you think that partnership plays in helping you be a great leader in your team, really reaching more high performance?
Yeah, there’s a lot I can say and I’ve obviously worked with AIIR and enjoyed working with AIIR. I’ve also worked with other organizations and other teams within our firm that have done it. And I think in general, one of the things that you just said definitely resonates with me. It’s like you’re supercharged around your team coming together.
We fast forward that relationship creation as an individual and as a team. And, you know, this is one of the things I love that you did is you you, you know, you understood what the team needed, but both of them brought in an element of just creating that personal connection. So I think one of the things I love that I did a good job of –
I was just actually taking note last week that I needed re-instill. As you’re starting off our meetings with a call out or shout-outs, right to say, hey, let’s start off the call and just do 3 minutes of shout-outs of just saying thank you to another team member for something that they did.
Another thing that was nice was, you know, showing some of your vulnerabilities. Like what are some of the things that are in your personal space, in your personal life, that you’re challenged with right now? It creates a fast forward of the storming and norming of the team so that we can focus on getting stuff done and really unlocking the full potential of our team.
Well, I think it’s a great way to put it right. It’s like, you know, being on a team myself, like I run our team effectiveness practice. I am not running my team’s team session. We have a consultant coming in doing that for us, right? Like this going to be too close to it. The chance to get some perspective, the chance to get another, you know, understanding of it.
We have a great question. Now, this goes to what we define as culture. You know, it says, do you feel more connected with your team members now? Do you think they feel more connected to you?
Without a doubt. I feel more connected. Beyond just connected to the team members. I feel like we are a team that’s working together. Like there’s no question that individual relationships between me and myself, myself and others, as well as other people among themselves as the team, are connected and in ways that are very different. There is a group of people that I know gone off on a lot of golfing little weekends away and stuff like that in their personal time.
So it’s really great to see people coming together.
And that level of trust, that level of cohesion is really important but also fosters greater alignment, right? Like I’m looking at your team effectiveness survey scores right now. You know one of the ones that went up, went from a 56 when we first started together to a 71%, like a 15% increase there now plus like it is remarkable to see alignment get that tight in such a short period of time.I think it speaks a lot to people’s level of trust and being part of the group as a whole, but also the invested time they put into it.
This kind of builds off of another question here. How has clarity about your team’s purpose informed your team meeting agendas?
There is clearly a lot of things that we could be tackling in our agendas and whatnot. But when you think about the team purpose, there are some things that we wanted to potentially influence or change. We didn’t have the ability to do. So, you know, we’re part of a bigger organization and so there’s certain things that we can influence but we don’t control.
I actually went back to the Serenity Prayer with the team a couple of times and said, “Accept the things you cannot change, the courage to change the things you can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” What is it that we’re as a team? What’s our mission? What is our strategy? What is it? What do we want to accomplish? How is it going to feel? How are other people going to think about it? Going back to that exercise we talked about earlier.
Yeah, well, what I love about that and this goes to maybe the question that I asked earlier, which is a nice reminder, it’s the power to know what to say no to right. That’s so hard, especially in a world like this where you’re already personally as a human under a bunch of stress, then as a team under stress, it’s kind of feeling what’s coming at you.
So I want to thank you so much for your time today, Carole, for joining us. It has been a real pleasure and a great partnership and we’re excited to continue that with you.
I look forward to the future and continue to work with AIIR.
Awesome. Thank you so much. And everybody, have a good day.
Yeah, likewise. Cheers.
Thanks to my colleague Dave Gloss and our guest Carole Streicher, and to you, our listeners for joining us to learn more about how AIIR unlocks leadership potential through coaching, consultancy, evidence-based practices, and best in class technology visit aiirconsulting.com that’s AIIR with two I’s, consulting .com.
Partner with AIIR to empower your leaders and ascend into the future.