Throughout the year at Marsh & McLennan Agency, we hold core value training for our associates. In these sessions, we talk about our values and explore how those values impact our work and personal lives.
I enjoy each one of these trainings, but I especially like discussing our core value attitude. When the group is sharing about how to foster a positive attitude, the importance of approaching life with a spirit of gratitude always comes up in our discussion. It’s no accident that attitude and gratitude rhyme. They go hand-in-hand.
Gratitude shapes so many aspects of our lives and leads to the natural outflow of connection with others. When I take the time to make a list of all the “things” I’m grateful for, what always comes up first is not a “thing” at all, but the people in my life. I’m guessing the same is true for you, too.
In this way, an attitude of gratitude is intertwined with another one of our corporate values—community involvement. When we appreciate all that we have, especially our close relationships with family, friends, colleagues and clients, we naturally feel a strong pull to pay forward all that we have received.
According to Forbes, technology is changing so rapidly that the need for employees who can learn and adapt is outpacing the need for traditional “knowledge workers.” Jacob Morgan, Forbes contributor, adds, “Alongside the growth of learning workers comes the growth of learning organizations. These organizations are led by learning workers who adapt and evolve as the industry changes. Instead of having a stiff business plan and set of processes, learning organizations value collaboration and innovation. As the future of work continues to take shape, learning organizations are the ones that will be leading the pack.”1
So, what does it mean to be a “learning organization” and what are some of the ways companies can encourage a leading-edge, learning culture?
In 2005, Marsh & McLennan Agency answered this question by forming a department dedicated to providing company-wide learning opportunities. Since its inception, our Organizational Learning department has developed educational programs using industry-leading methodologies and solutions that support our business strategies by improving leadership abilities, technical and systems knowledge, and personal and professional excellence.
Topics: Inside B&B
In April 2015, the Barney & Barney Foundation challenged associates to use their time and talent to make a difference in our local communities by volunteering 5,000 hours cumulatively in thirteen months. Our associates not only took on the challenge, they knocked it out of the park, donating 6,483 hours to their passion projects and favorite organizations. Here are the results by the numbers:
- Total participants: 187
- Most hours volunteered by one person: 390
- Number of volunteers who served over 20 hours: 62
Encouraged to spend time with nonprofits close to their heart, our associates took on roles at over one hundred different organizations. Associates did everything from cleaning up local parks and beaches to teaching children about sustainable gardening and growing food locally. Barney & Barney associates could be found planting trees, serving meals, and tutoring high school students in preparation for college.
To encourage volunteers to go above and beyond, the Barney & Barney Foundation awarded grants to associates who volunteered 20 or more hours. The impact on their chosen non-profits was two-fold, the gift of time and treasure. Sixty-three associates qualified for a grant and because of their commitment to the community, the Barney & Barney Foundation donated $20,800 to local nonprofits, an increase of $6,000 over the previous year.
Marsh & McLennan Agency Western Region CFO, Steve Berk, has spent the last three decades (and counting) with the same company. If words like “predictable” or “uneventful” come to mind when you hear about his long-term tenure with the firm, you don’t know Steve very well. We recently sat down with him to discuss his CFO journey, an unexpected detour into sales, and what he sees as the most important business opportunities CFOs need to navigate today.
After starting his career as a CPA with Deloitte & Touche, Steve joined Marsh where he held various finance roles, ultimately becoming Western Regional CFO in 1992. He enjoyed his years in finance but after the heartbreaking loss of a number of his colleagues in the World Trade Center in 2001 and growing weary of ongoing travel, in 2005, Steve declared a need for a change.
Unwilling to lose a dynamic leader, Marsh asked Steve to run the sales division in Portland. The request seemed unconventional at first, but with his experience as CFO, Steve knew exactly what kept prospects up at night. With his CFO insider knowledge and extroverted personality, Steve proved to be the perfect candidate to reenergize sales. Soon, Steve was made head of sales for Marsh’s Western Region.
Fast forward to Steve’s relocation to San Diego in 2009, his career would soon come full circle. In 2014, Marsh & McLennan Agency acquired Barney & Barney and folded in much of Steve’s Marsh office a year later. With CEO Paul Hering and COO/President Hal Dunning’s roles expanding, Steve was the perfect addition to the team – once again as CFO.
We sat down with Steve to get some insight on his experience as CFO.
How does your sales experience help you in your role as CFO?
The first thing I am thankful for this year? Finally being able to wear a sweater and enjoy a glass of wine by the fire. It has been a long, hot summer in San Diego and it feels great to finally have some cool weather.
On a more serious note, I am thankful for so many things this year—it’s difficult to wrap them all up in one single blog post. That said, here are a few things at the top of my gratitude list:
- I am thankful to have the opportunity to work with so many wonderful people. As a company, we are truly blessed to have such a talented group of committed associates who believe in our mission of serving our clients, colleagues and communities. I look forward to coming to work each and every day. What I enjoy most is simply the opportunity to interact with our amazing colleagues and see their passion for what they do here at MMA West.
- I am thankful that we share a common interest in being good corporate citizens and giving back to our communities. The creation of the Barney & Barney Foundation six years ago was the start of something truly unique and special. With the very generous support of our shareholders, our associates and many key business partners, the Barney & Barney Foundation gives us the chance to ensure that we will leave behind something meaningful and lasting in the communities we serve.
Topics: Inside B&B
In 2010, Marsh & McLennan Agency launched GROW, a women’s initiative which stands for Growth in Relationships & Opportunities for Women. Designed to address the historically male-dominated culture of the insurance industry, GROW aims to provide tools and resources to support women in the workplace and increase the number of women in leadership roles. In its inaugural year, GROW developed the mentoring program, pairing individuals in leadership with female associates aspiring to advance their careers through professional development.
At its core, the GROW Associate Mentoring Program was created to:
- Provide career enhancement through increased self-awareness, improved communication skills and a broadened understanding of the organization as a whole
- Provide a forum to exchange ideas and increase understanding of the different organizational divisions and specializations
- Develop leadership and decision-making skills
- Motivate and engage participants in order to increase job performance and satisfaction
In its fifth year, the program has produced significant results, providing mentoring opportunities for associates at various stages of their career. Both mentors and mentees report learning from one another and developing skills from the supportive relationships, with 84% of pairs having met their individual goals during the span of the program in 2014. The confidential nature of the relationship gives associates an opportunity to voice their concerns, overcome hurdles, and find solutions, resulting in refined interpersonal and professional skills and increased confidence. Pairing has been extremely successful, with 98% of last year’s participants continuing their mentoring relationship after the program ended.
One of the 2014 mentees, Daniela Posada, describes the benefits of the relationship she has built with her mentor, Principal Shawn Pynes:
Recent grads don’t typically think of insurance when considering careers. But they should. The insurance industry is one of the largest financial service industries in the world – employing over 3 million people worldwide and contributing over $1 trillion dollars to the US economy annually.
Insurance provides a structure for capitalism, a backbone that allows entrepreneurs to take risks, start companies, hire employees and contribute to our economy in a way not many other sectors can. With emerging risks like cyber security threats and legislative changes like health care reform, the industry continues to grow and new opportunities continue to develop.
All of this makes insurance a challenging, fulfilling and lucrative career option. I would say the insurance industry is one of the job market’s best kept secrets. Recent grads who are exploring career options should consider these three factors:
1. Job Stability
There really is no better industry to be in when it comes to job stability because every company and every person needs insurance. The unthinkable and unexpected happens all of the time, whether it is a sudden fire, a work injury, or a data security breach. Insurance brokers help employers not only recover from catastrophic losses but avoid them altogether. On top of that, companies see immense value in providing their employees with health benefits such as medical, dental and vision to not only set their business apart from their competitors but recruit top talent. The need for insurance isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
2. Engaging Environment
Topics: Inside B&B
On March 25, 2015, MMA G.R.O.W.*which stands for Growth in Relationship and Opportunities for Women hosted the 5th Annual Keynote Speaker Event at the Hyatt Regency La Jolla in San Diego. This year, the organization welcomed Carey Lohrenz, the first female F-14 Tomcat pilot, to share her inspirational message with our associates, clients and business partners. As a pioneer in military aviation, Lohrenz’s keynote focused on winning under pressure, overcoming obstacles and thriving in a male-dominated profession.
Lohrenz drove home the message of teamwork and the mechanics of building a successful team. To build a strong team that can win under pressure, she says to make sure team members understand the goal and their unique part in accomplishing that goal. Communicate to the team that they matter and why.
To overcome obstacles and perform at the highest level, Lohrenz described the importance of the team sharing a common vision and a deep commitment to the “mission over self”. Great teams believe in the mission and trust in each other.
Lohrenz advised the attendees to not let anyone else’s agenda pull them off course. She speaks from experience. Graduating during a time when women were not allowed to become fighter pilots, she was given two choices: get out of the Navy or take an administrative job. Unswayed, Lohrenz forged ahead in the direction of her dream. When options are given that don’t align with the intended goal, Lohrenz encourages women to seek out a third way.
One of the organization’s most highly attended event to date, the response to the Lohrenz’s keynote was overwhelmingly positive. Keep an eye out for a future guest post from Carey Lohrenz.
*Marsh & McLennan Agency's women’s initiative, MMA GROW, was formed in 2010 to attract, retain, educate and support women in the firm.
Learn more about MMA G.R.O.W.
I think leadership is service and there is power in that giving: to help people, to inspire and motivate them to reach their fullest potential.
Over the years, I’ve seen many different leadership styles. Leaders are individuals so there are as many different styles as there are people. But what makes a leader successful? Unfortunately, too often people believe that to succeed in their leadership role they need to drive every issue, control every detail and make every decision. If they don’t have complete control, they feel as though they are shirking their responsibility. Their intent is to be a strong leader but somehow, with all that effort, they still miss the mark.
Well, here’s a little secret.
It’s not about you.
The true secret to leadership is empowerment. Effective leaders recognize that the most successful organizations are those in which people feel empowered to do their jobs. Empowering others is not accidental but a result of specific actions and attitudes.
COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE
If employees don’t know where an organization is going and how it’s performing, it’s going to be very hard to arrive at the desired destination. Employees need to know the goal, so they can play an active role and feel the pride of being part of the company’s achievements. Communication is key to getting everyone on board and moving in the same direction.
IT’S OKAY TO FAIL (EVERY ONCE IN A WHILE)
Topics: Inside B&B