Weaving All The Threads Together
A Q&A with Deloitte LLP Chief Inclusion Officer Deb DeHaas
Vice chairman and Central region managing partner (RMP). Deloitte LLP board member. Lead client service partner (LCSP). Advisory partner. And now chief inclusion officer.
These are all the roles that Deb DeHaas currently holds – and that’s just at Deloitte. She’s also the co-manager of her son’s soccer team, a Sunday school teacher at her church, and the co-founder of a thriving charter school on the west side of Chicago.
When Deb’s new role as Deloitte LLP chief inclusion officer was announced, we sat down with her to learn more about her journey in rising through the ranks while still finding time for herself and her family.
First, tell us a little bit about your background and your family.
I was raised in Washington, PA. My dad was an OB/GYN and since he delivered a lot of babies in the area, he was well known in our town. My mom was an accountant, at a time when there were very few women accountants. In fact, she was the only woman accounting major at the University of Pittsburgh. When she’d walk into class, one of the accounting professors would hold up a drop card because he figured it was just a matter of time before she’d quit – which of course she never did.
My husband and I have three sons. All of my boys are very involved in sports, and I’m truly a ‘soccer mom.’ I’ve been the team manager of each of their teams over a period of years, and right now my husband and I manage our youngest son’s travel team.
What has your career path looked like?
I started out at Arthur Andersen in Audit in the manufacturing industry and then expanded into consumer products and professional services. When I was senior manager, I was asked to give up most of my audit clients to help build what would be comparable to Deloitte & Touche LLP’s Advisory practice within Andersen’s Central region. After making partner and leading the Risk practice for several years, I went back into Audit, leading the Chicago practice. Eventually I became the managing partner of the Chicago office, and my last role at Andersen was leading the Assurance practice for the Central region.
I’ve been at Deloitte nearly 10 years now and much of my time has been spent on market- and client-facing activities. I helped develop the go-to-market strategy and helped to build the Strategic Relationship Management practice in the legacy Midwest region. I took on the role of the Midwest RMP in 2004 and I’ve been the Central RMP since July 2011. I have a real passion for client service. Since 2003, I’ve been the lead client service partner for a major client and I’ve also acted as the advisory or leadership partner on a number of other clients.
How has your leadership style developed over the years?
I remember a Deloitte leader once saying, “If you want to be a leader, you can’t be successful if you don’t have followership.” I truly believe that. Some people are good managers, but they may not be great leaders – there’s a big difference. If you want to be a leader you need to know how you build followership; by being there for your people, and focusing on individual and team success as well as Deloitte’s success in serving clients with distinction. People are really looking to you for feedback, advice, and support as a leader.
What's a typical day like in the life of an RMP?
Well, on one particular day, tornadoes impacted areas in the Central region so I spent time with a group of regional and national leaders as we made the decision to close four offices to keep our people out of harm’s way.
In addition to dealing with the unexpected, most of my days are spent in the marketplace with clients. Since becoming the Central RMP last summer, I’ve also spent a lot of time visiting our offices across the region and connecting with our people. I am on airplanes nearly every week and really enjoy the opportunity to make in-person connections.
Our business is pretty simple; it’s about clients and people. So I focus on those two most important things. They are very interrelated and equally important – bringing those together is how we’re going to continue to be successful as an organization.
Do you have any advice for a new leader coming into a role about how they can best balance the desire to make their mark while building trust with their team?
One of the things I’ve always tried to do in a new role is get a lot of advice. People are great at giving feedback and are always willing to help! I gain so much from their diverse perspectives.
I’ve also tried to understand what success looks like in a new role. If you can frame what success looks like and develop a shared vision, it creates a road map of where we are trying to go. It’s also important to identify what key role each team member will play in achieving that shared vision so that we work together most effectively.
You’ve taken on a new role as the chief inclusion officer of Deloitte LLP – in addition to your existing roles. How are you going to manage it all, and still have time left for your family and yourself?
I’m incredibly passionate about Inclusion and am excited for what’s ahead. I’m at the point in my career where I can’t think of anything more gratifying. We need to continue to offer opportunities for all of our people if we truly want to continue to be a place where all leaders thrive.
A sponsor of mine said that in order to take your leadership to a different level, you need to empower others and give them the opportunity to do things that you are currently doing – and I’ve tried to live by that as I’ve developed others. As I take on new responsibilities, a number of other leaders in the Central region are expanding their roles and, within Inclusion, we’ll have an expanded group of leaders who will be driving our strategy.
As far as time for myself, I like to do a lot of things – and most of them are with others. I’m an off-the-chart ‘E’ on the Myers-Briggs. I’m a connector and very interested in people. For me, what works is weaving things together – where I might go back and forth between the two, and outside the normal 8-to-5 day.
Since I enjoy needlepointing, the weaving analogy resonates with me; I have a lot of threads in my life – whether it’s in the community, my family, or with clients – and I’ve tried to weave them together in my own unique pattern throughout the course of my career.
Who do you admire and who inspires you?
At the top of my list is my mom. She was an important leader in our community and took on many leadership roles, including starting the Head Start program in our town, becoming the first woman on our city council, and she was an elder and trustee at our church. She taught me that there were no barriers to achieving what I wanted.
She also placed a high importance on giving back to the community. One of her favorite phrases was, “To whom much is given, much is expected.” My first community service work began at five years old and has continued ever since that time. This is also something I’ve tried to instill in my sons. My family and I co-founded an elementary charter school on the west side of Chicago with a group of family and friends. It comprises over 95 percent African-American and Hispanic students. This has been a great way for my kids to be actively involved in the community and closely interact with diverse groups of people.
Last question: Chicago Cubs or White Sox?
I like them both, which is something you can do when you didn’t grow up in Chicago!
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