#BeBetter Podcast with Michael Kurland

Building a Team That Has Passion and Purpose with Christel Tarare

Inspire your Team to be 1% Better Each Day

As a success enabler and an expert in client retention, Christel Tarare is the Client Services Leader of Gartner Conferences. Tune in to learn how Christel’s passion for empowering and encouraging her team to follow their purpose has led to improved employee engagement and client success.

Christel Tarare portrait

“I’ve always been mindful of ensuring that my team has a sense of purpose, that they are experts in their fields, and that they have the autonomy to run their business.”

—Christel Tarare

Gartner Conferences

59. Building a Team That Has Passion and Purpose with Christel Tarare

Key Takeaways

  • Provide opportunities for growth by assigning tasks to your team intentionally and purposefully.
  • Have an authentic leadership presence that is focused on the smart and the heart.
  • Never underestimate the power of breaking down complex concepts for your team.

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Christel Tarare leads the Global Client Services team of Gartner’s Conferences business. For over 20 years, Christel has led various international client services teams for the research and conferences business in Europe and the Americas. She is an expert at building high performance teams, developing people’s potential, being a change agent, and driving strong business performance. Originally from France, Christel spent most of her working life in the United Kingdom and relocated to the United States 3.5 years ago. Christel currently resides in Weston, CT with her husband and two daughters.

“Be one percent better every day.”

—Christel Tarare

Gartner Conferences

Podcast Transcription

Hello. I’m Michael Kurland, CEO and co-founder of Branded Group, an award winning facility, maintenance and construction management company that services multi-site commercial properties such as retail restaurants, health care facilities and educational institutions. Welcome to the BeBetter podcast. Each week, I interview thought leaders from a variety of industries who will share their stories and the lessons they learn as they strive to be better for their clients, partners, employees and their community. Are you ready to be better?

Michael: Hello and welcome to another episode of the BeBetter podcast. I’m your host, Michael Kurland. Joining me today is Christel Tarare. She is the global client services leader for Gartner’s Conference business. Christel, welcome to the show. Please let the audience know a little bit more about who you are and what you do.

Christel: Hi, Michael. Hi, everyone. Thank you for having me. So I am indeed leading a client services team within Gartner conferences, and we have a global team across multiple regions looking after sponsors and exhibitors who participate at Gartner conferences. I’ve been leading the global client services team for over 10 years now. And as you can hear, I am originally from France. I am currently living in Weston, Connecticut, in the U.S. We relocated here about three and a half years ago. My husband and my two daughters were 12 and nine year old.

Michael: Very nice. Well, welcome to the show and thank you for being here. So I think a good place to start is kind of what we were talking about pre-show is what does Gartner do? Let the audience know what Gartner does first. It’s just a high level.

Christel: So we are a research and insight company that delivers actionable and objective insight to executives and their teams. And we have experts and tools that enable faster, smarter and stronger performance of organizations’ most critical priorities. And my role is specifically within the conference arm of Gartner.

Michael: And so let’s talk about your career arc at Gartner. So you started off in the U.K., you said 15 years ago, working for them because they were actually a client of yours and they liked your work so much that they brought you on board. Is that correct?

Christel: That’s right. Yes, I was working at the time in an event marketing agency and Gartner was my client. And one day there was an opportunity in the events business and I decided to join the team.

Michael: Great. And so you went from your event marketing space over to Gartner and then talked about your three different roles at Gartner and what you did prior too.

Christel: Absolutely. So when I joined Gartner events, I basically looked after the sponsorship operations team in the UK headquarters in Eggen in Surrey. And after five years, I decided to move across a research organization who had a very established client services organization back then. And I have always been passionate about client success, client service, and I wanted to learn from our research organization, well known back then as a best in class services team. So I went to spend a few years on the research side of our business and then four years ago got a phone call from our conferences business who wanted me back to build a client services team dedicated for their sponsors and exhibitors within the conferences business, which happened to be located in Stamford, Connecticut. So it implies an international move for me and the family.

Michael: So what I’m hearing is that you must have been best in class in what you do to want them to relocate you from the UK to the United States to work in this client services role. Is that fair to assume?

Christel: I’m too humble to say yes, definitely. I guess I’ve always been known for being passionate about driving client success and the success of others. And that has been, I guess, the brand I built for myself and very much doing so through my people, passionate about driving my people’s success in view of driving our client’s success. And that has led to two good outcomes.

Michael: Yeah, I 100 percent agree. I think when you invest in your people, they will invest in you and your company or you and your role. And it’s something that we’ve held steady with Branded Group, which is, we really invest in our people. We give them a lot of resources. But not only do we give them the resources, we give them the flexibility and the ability to kind of flourish. And by doing so, they give us 110 percent every day to see what they want to come to work, you know? So I found happiness, you know, they always say, I’ve actually just got married this past year and I learned real quick. Thank you. I learned real quick. Happy wife. Happy Life. But I think that that also transcends into the business world where it’s happy employees, happy business, you know? So, yeah, do you agree? You obviously agree with that statement.

Christel: Yeah. And I’m always very conscious of thinking about employee engagement. If you or the listeners happen to read in the press, you know, I think there’s a staggering, I think only 36 percent of the North American workforce that actually is engaged and happy at work right now, obviously coming out of the pandemic, which was a challenging time for everyone. So I always refer to the author Dan Pink when he talks about employee engagement, right? These three components that he talks about in that sense of purpose, the mastery and the opportunity. And I’m always conscious of leading my team, making sure that they have a sense of purpose, that they are experts and they have the tools to be experts in their field and they have the autonomy to run their business. And I think that has helped keep the people engaged throughout the turmoil of the last few years.

Michael: Agreed. And Dan Pink is a great author for business minded people here. He definitely comes at it from a different angle, but I think it’s the angle that people need to start coming at it in terms of employee engagement and culture. So I’d like to take that one step further, too, as I always tell my employees that my goal is to get them ready to be replaced and train their people to replace them. And that’s a mind blowing thing for some people. Like what? I don’t want to train my replacement? Well, you need to train replacements so that you can move up, you know? And then when you tell them that, like, I want to invest in you, I want to see you here for the long term. I want a future for you. So in order for you to move up, I need you to be able to backfill your position.

Christel: And we often talk about succession planning, right? Everybody needs to be ready and need to have a succession plan. And I always talk a lot about being one percent better every day and everything we do. How can we make that one person better? And that’s why that podcast, right, be better. I was like, Oh, I love this idea.

Michael: Oh, Christel, you are just plugging free plugs on the air. I love it. One percent better every day. It’s great that there’s a book. Atomic Habits by James Clear. Obviously, you’ve read that. That’s the whole premise of the book. Get one percent better every day. And when you stack one percent on top every day, after a while, you’re so much better than you were. So let’s talk about that because you were living in the UK, I’m sure having, I mean, very nice, comfortable life over there and they came to you with a challenge and said, come to the US and fix this client services team. So tell me what was going on with the team prior to you coming and what you did when you came? You don’t have to give me all your secret sauce, but give me some details as to what was wrong, what you saw that you identified as needing to be repaired and how you repaired it?

Christel: Yeah. And I don’t know if we can say there was something wrong. I think the team, a true services team, didn’t exist at the time. It was a small group of people that were doing a role that was both operational as well as a bit of service delivery, and they were spread too thinly to be able to really deliver that value to our clients, right? So I was very lucky that the decision was made to create a dedicated services team. So there was a bit of pain, right in a way that we had to remove the operational role from them and really keep them focused on the value delivery. So the first thing I did was actually really painting that destination. That picture, that postcard was how we want to be known for the next few years and kind of put in front of them a five year roadmap and say, here’s where we are today. We’re a reactive client service team and we’re going to now in a few years’ time, be known for being proactive and being known for delivering value to clients and be known for keeping our clients loyal.

Michael: Sorry, go ahead.

Christel: Yeah, so painting that vision was really important.

Michael: And that’s a huge culture change, from going from reactive to proactive. Right? How long did that take and was the team receptive with everything that you brought yet?

Christel: So the big part was to get the right people investing a lot of time in and finding individuals that were passionate about driving the success of others, passionate about client success, but also very comfortable talking on the phone, picking up the phone and handling conversation with sales individuals as well. So we kind of focused on really showing them the value in them talking to clients, they realized how much more fun it is to actually build relationships with clients and own the relationship versus relying on maybe the sales counterpart in doing so. So there was a lot of work around that, but the people were everything right, and some individuals frankly decided that maybe that was not what made them get up in the morning and go. They rather focused on the operational aspect, which was fine. And then we helped redirect some of those individuals, but mostly the team was excited about the change.

Michael: So leading the sales team at Branded Group and running the company in general, and I will say most of our employees are of the millennial status. And one thing that the millennial generation does not like to do is actually pick up the phone. They like to text and email, but they do not want to engage in a conversation with anyone. I don’t know what it is about that.

Christel: 100 percent.

Michael: So it seems like you got full buy-in from your team for the most part and the people redirected like you said, so I would say it sounds like you’re very adept in team engagement and inspiration for your team. So how are you empowering your team to be change agents and leaders in this new environment and this new client services group?

Christel: So to go back to the mastery piece, right, and make sure that they all have the tools, resources they need to be successful in their role. So they feel that they’re experts and they actually have confidence in talking to clients, talking to their sales business partners. But most importantly, that autonomy piece and really letting them own their clients and their business. When we have this kind of collaborative environment where they feel comfortable coming to any piece or any of the managers, even if they are unsure about something, they need some support. They know that everything we do and the driving team is about their success as individuals and the success of our clients.

Michael: So it sounds to me like you’re a big proponent of delegation. Is that fair to say?

Christel: I don’t know if I would call it delegation because for me, delegation has a limitation of maybe giving something that I don’t want to do, but I’m more like, I’m going to give the opportunity to my team to do something that maybe that’s going to give them an opportunity to grow right? And it’s all intentional. I would never give a task because I don’t want to do it or because I don’t have time to do it. I will give a task because I see an opportunity for that individual to grow and develop and be a better version of themselves by having exposure to that project or that task.

Michael: Yeah. So I understand where you’re coming from. For me, delegation is empowerment. And I think that’s the word that I probably should have used is empowerment. You are empowering your team to do these things to help them grow. So give me some success stories. How has the team grown? Where are they from where you started to where you’re at now? And have clients climbed up that ladder from under your tutelage?

Christel: Yeah, absolutely. So initially we had I want to say eight. Yeah, we were a team of like eight individuals. We’re now a team of 30. I’ve got a manager, people leader in each of the regions, one in America, one in Europe who looks after the rest of the world. And I’ve got one who is physically looking after all, even 10 conference portfolios. So a series of leaders that have grown, some of them started as managers and now senior managers. And I also have an individual in a team that started as a client services partner and have grown as senior client services partner, and we are opening some new roles as well coming up as we are rebuilding our conferences business that has been affected by the pandemic.

Michael: Absolutely. So is that starting to come back now?

Christel: Absolutely, yes. So very excited that we are returning to in-person conferences. So the team is over the moon, where we have individuals that are passionate about in-person events and they’ve been stopped from those experiences over the last two years, right? So everybody’s coming back to life and we will be traveling again and creating those exhibits, a kind of engagement that we love creating.

Michael: Yeah, I can tell you, we have our first in-person conference in two years in Nashville, in about three weeks, and I’ve since pretty much stepped back from sales. But I’m going anyway because I just want to see people and shake hands and be in person. You know, all the things that the conferences and the circuit definitely brought to life where you know, you have these industry friends that you see once or twice a year. Normally I just have these conferences, right? I’m sure there’s other people out there just like me.

Christel: Yeah, no, totally. We all learn. We can’t wait basically, you know, getting on that plane and seeing everyone. I have team members that I actually have never met and hired them through WebEx, and I can’t wait to actually meet them in person.

Michael: I have the same thing. I hired two salespeople over the pandemic and I met them over Zoom a million times, but I have never shook their hands, so I’m looking very forward to meeting them in person in the coming weeks. So that’ll be great.

Christel: That’s awesome.

Michael: So let me ask you this. Let’s talk a little bit about leadership because it sounds like over the course of your career that you have been a great leader and provoker of your employees. But what would you say your leadership style is?

Christel: I would definitely classify myself as I always think about my people as my own clients. And I’m fully invested in and in their success. And I’m always consciously kind of developing what I would say, an authentic leadership presence that really focuses on, I guess, what we call the smart and the heart side. So I very much focus on delivering results in the business, but also making sure that everything I do is mindful, intentional and really supporting their individual growth and development wherever they want to go, right? First and foremost, that means that obviously we keep that in mind at conferences. I don’t know. But I see it as a wider ecosystem. If one individual would be happier and doing creative things outside the beat and the benefit and other organizations that it’s all about them, that matters to me.

Michael: Yeah, I love servant leadership, I think I identify with that as well. I’m all about my people. We just recently had one of our top leaders in our company put in her two weeks’ notice. And in the industry that I’m in, in the past when that would happen, it was lawyers and it was non-compete and all this other red tape. And it was because you were fearful of that person jumping to a similar company and taking the clients. And you know, I called her and I said, Look, you know, is this a thing where you just aren’t happy here? What was it? And she was like, I got offered a lot more money and I got offered a promotion that I was kind of roadblocked here, and I was like, Well, then I support you going. And I said, Please, you know, for one year, please don’t take our clients or our employees. And I think that’s fair, right? And I said, and best of luck to you. And she said, I have no intention of doing that. And so I think she’s going to flourish and pretty much run the new company that she’s going to and they’re going to be happy with the hire that they got. So we do promote them on the exterior, too. Again, we don’t like to, we would rather them stay and promote and work from within. But serving the people is definitely something that is on the forefront of my mind at all times. So how over time, though, has this changed? Have you always been a servant leader or is this something that you’ve evolved to over the course of your career?

Christel: It’s a great question. I think I’ve always been, I guess, underlying. I always enjoy helping others. Even in my personal life, I truly get a kick from helping a friend in need or somebody who is not feeling too great and being that energy pill that’s going to help them get back up. So I always enjoy that part. And then I was very lucky to have a couple of inspirational leaders, very focused on people throughout my career that really showed me how much people matter and how much you can get done when you have the right people in place and when you are taking them in the right direction and guiding them. So I would say yes, underlying always been that kind of person.

Michael: Now let me ask you in your career, have you ever had someone who was not that kind of leader that was not pro people and pro leadership and kind of like lifting you up? Did you ever have kind of the opposite in your path?

Christel: Yeah, probably. I mean, I don’t know. We’re very lucky we have amazing leaders. You have some leaders who are much more focused on maybe the smart aspect instead of the heart side. And by that, I mean, maybe more focused on data, right? And sometimes not always balancing the smarts and the heart with ease. So I’ve seen some individuals being demotivated by some, I guess, actions or words that we have said because the heart was not taken into account. So I’m always trying to balance the two. We are here to lead the business and the business had specific needs at the end of the day. But to get the people right to do what the business needs, we definitely need to take into account the heart and understand what makes them tick and understand what their goals are and how they experience using a common tool can contribute to the next step.

Michael: Yeah, I hear a lot of emotional intelligence.

Christel: That’s one of my strengths.

Michael: It’s coming very high. And I also can identify with that. And it’s funny because the way you’re describing the heart and the smart, that would be me and my business partner. I’m the heart, he’s the smart one. And he leads, you know he’s very cut and dry. Do this task so that we can achieve this goal. And that’s the mission. Like, do not fail right. And I’m like, Well, you know, you had a bad day, OK? Well, some of my employees will probably laugh and say, Yeah, you might be smart sometimes, too, because you’re not always in the heart.

Christel: I guess part of it is really which we haven’t talked about is really shrinking that change. And when we think about driving change, you may have this glorious, I guess, destination vision, but it may sound really overwhelming, right, to the team. And it’s how we can actually break it down into achievable chunks and tasks that are going to help them get one percent better, one percent closer to that vision. And sometimes we underestimate how important it is to break this down for people.

Michael: I can completely empathize with what you’re saying. I actually just had an epiphany in the last week, and I’ve gone back to being almost too emotional about a lot of things I’ve been thinking about, and I’ve been starting to take negative things personally, and I had to remind myself that to your point, it’s not personal, they’re not doing these things to me. And you know, they may just be overwhelmed like doing something that came out of being overwhelmed in the roadmap, not being broken down into chunks. And then I’m getting overwhelmed because I feel like they were doing it directly to me. And so it’s a good reminder that it’s got to be broken into chunks like these people are compartmentalized as employees, and they have lives outside of work and who knows what’s going on in their lives, right? And what they’re going through. So I think that’s a really excellent point that you bring up.

Christel: And I think, you know you’re right about the, um, what’s happening in their life right now, especially the last two years, we had to be really mindful of that mental health and making sure that people didn’t burn out and did a lot of coaching around looking after yourself first before you can look after clients. It’s so easy, right? You know, like at a desk in front of a screen in a bedroom or at the kitchen table. And you can easily just be on back to back with calls all day without even taking fresh air. Find fresh air five minutes during the whole day and then you wonder why you totally like fuzzy and you can do this for one day, two days. But when it’s like two years, we really had to kind of coach them around looking after themselves first.

Michael: Yeah, I totally agree. We have our exact team. One of our top leaders, she is exactly what you just described, works all the time, throws herself into work, and I finally yelled at her the other day and said, I didn’t yell at her. I certainly spoke to her and said, you need a vacation and a vacation does not consist of you putting time off and then sitting around your house and still half working because you don’t want extra work to pile up. It means go home, go somewhere and do something. So I really encourage everyone in my company to use their time and use it wisely. Don’t just burn the day off because you’re going to lose it at the end of the year. Like, go save seven days and go for five days or whatever and go somewhere nice, drive somewhere, get out, get a hotel room and take a little downtime. So I think that’s maybe that’s great that you brought it up. And you know, I appreciate that and I hope the audience is really listening to that.

Christel: So, yeah, and I was very conscious of that burnout. I was really worried that it may hit anyone in the team and having heard about it, it’s potentially, you know, you lose somebody for months and months when they recover. And I read a book actually just to educate myself on burnout and what it means and how it can be avoided. And it was really interesting to read about what the author was saying. She was saying the importance of the three S’s in your life. And she was talking about the three S’s being silence, sanctuary and solitude. And it really resonated with me because the silence was really about setting rules for your tech and technology because as a life, I think about my team, my sense, why we spend all day on WebEx meetings. Then we have our mobile phone potentially beeping throughout the day as mums, you know, the mums contacting school, contacting doctors, everything close on the tech. And I was reflecting on how much time my team has without any technology. So I invited them to think about that, right? Even if it’s just five minutes a day, 10 minutes, and the sanctuary part was really connecting the natural world and going for a walk. Being in nature and said as was solitude, spending time with oneself only. And as a full time working mum, that’s tough. Apart from when everybody’s still asleep in the morning or when everybody’s asleep at night, making a conscious effort on the three s’s has made a huge difference.

Michael: Yeah, I don’t have kids yet, but I can tell you I’ve combated this for years. I do not have a ringer on my phone or my text messages because I found myself like Pavlov’s dog every time I heard that beep. I jumped for that phone and it just creates this anxiety. So you don’t need the anxiety. If there’s an emergency, there will be a message left or they will keep calling your phone. And you know, I check my phone periodically, but I’m not going to be waiting for that beep unless I am expecting a call. And then the sanctuary. I love that. I think everyone should be out in nature. I take a two mile walk every day and it’s to the beach. That’s my sane place. It’s my happy place and solitude. I just incorporate it into my days. Now I don’t have children, so I don’t know how that will work going forward, but I highly recommend a me day or a me afternoon for everyone. If you’re single and you live at home by yourself, take yourself on a date. Go to the movies, take yourself to dinner. And if you, you know, if you’re in a relationship with or without kids, take a half day to yourself, a morning walk. Go get coffee at the coffee shop by yourself and just be alone in your thoughts. Because when you’re not alone in your thoughts they can spin up in your head for a very long time and drive you crazy.

Christel: Absolutely.

Michael: So, Christel, this has been a great show. Thank you so much for coming on. If the audience wants to get a hold of you, how can they do so?

Christel: I’m on LinkedIn so you look for Christel Tarare. I’m there and then available to connect with anyone and always enjoyed talking to two P’s or working moms or non-working mums. Anyone facing challenges really drives change, whether it’s in their personal life or business life. Happy to chat.

Michael: And audience until next time. Thank you for tuning in. I hope that today’s episode inspired you to become a purpose driven leader in your career or your community. There’s no doubt that when we lead with purpose, we can change lives. If you enjoyed today’s show, I’d be grateful if you would take a moment to rate us on your preferred listening platform to learn more about Brandon Group’s better experience and how we provide industry leading On-Demand facility maintenance, construction management and special project implementation. Visit us at www.branded-group.com. Be sure to follow us on social media, and you can also reach out to me directly on LinkedIn. Until next time, be better.

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