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7 Questions on Leadership with Michael Lynch

Name: Michael Lynch

Title: Director, Private Client Services

Organisation: Marsh McLennan

With nearly 30 years of High-Net-Worth Personal Lines experience, Michael worked for three preeminet insurance carriers, Chubb, AIG and PURE. He has led large regional, zone and national teams in areas including marketing, underwriting, risk management, operations and claims.

Michael started his insurance career in the mailroom at Chubb before heading off to college. During his college years he worked for Chubb during the summers. After graduation he started his full time employment as a Personal Lines Underwriter before moving to Colorado to become a Personal Lines Manager. He later joined AIG as they were building their Private Client Group and had roles as the Western States Regional Manager, Vice President of the San Francisco Region, Senior Vice President of the Western Zone, Senior Vice President of the Western and Central Zones, and finally Senior Vice President of Field Distribution. In that time AIG Private Client Group grew from less than $100 million in Written Premium to over $2 billion.

Before joining Marsh McLennan, Michael was the Senior Vice President of the Western Zone for PURE. Today he leads the Private Client Services practice in the Western US for Marsh McLennan, a firm that handles many of the largest insurance portfolios in the world.

Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!

I hope Michael's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!


Jonno White

1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?

I was at AIG in 2008, so we were right in the middle of the financial crisis. Although what took place didn't have anything to do with the Property & Causalty business, it didn't matter. The general public was mad, our brokers and clients were understandbly worried, and our employees didn't know what it meant to their livlihood. My first responsibility was to my people and our brokers and clients. We had to get out in the market and calm those fears. It was both the most challenging business experience I had ever been though, but also the most rewarding. Watching your team come together the way they did was incredibly motivating.

2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?

Hard work, building realtionships, probably some luck. I knew I wanted to lead teams very early in my career and I made that known to my managers. I was curious, asked questions, and learned things outside my scope of work. It is critical that employees make it known to their leadership what they want to do with their career. There will inevitably be curveballs along the way, but that's part of any career.

3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?

This has changed dramatically in the last 2 1/2 years. I used to get up at 5:00, get ready for work, and be in the office around 6:00. My wife and I now have two little girls, so things have changed as I handle breakfast duty so I can get some quality time with our girls. I will typically handle some email when I wake up, get our girls fed, and start my work between 7:30 and 8:00. I'll work until 5:00 and then it is all about the girls. Play time, dinner time, bath time, bedtime. Once they are down around 7:30 I get a workout in. Around 8:15 it's back to email before heading to bed to read and finally sleep. It's busy, but I wouldn't change a thing.

4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?

This isn't something I learned for the first time, but it is one that I remind my team of all the time. "I don't know" is not a bad answer. We have to admit that we don't know every answer, but when we don't, we need to go find it quickly and respond quickly. Early in my career I felt like I needed to know all the answers in an effort to prove myself, but it is simply not a realistic expectation. Anyone that acts or tells you they know everything (many of us have had a boss like this) isn't telling the truth.

5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?

Simon Sinek's Start with WHY. I lost my first wife when she was 41 and under tramatic circumstances. In my case, this event made me question everything. One of those questions revolved around work and whether what I did mattered. I came to the answer quickly and the answer was yes. As someone who provides property & casualty personal insurance to individuals and families, we help people every day. I have seen clients lose their home and all their possessions to a fire. Clients who have lost a family heirloom that had been passed down for generations. Terrible car accidents that have led to injury or death. Lawsuits. You name it. In that moment, our clients might be dealing with the most traumatic event in their life. It may not be the same trauma that I suffered when I lost my wife, but it is trauma nonetheless. It is our job to get them through that time and help them pick up the pieces. That is my WHY. I do what I do to help others. People often view insurance as a necessary evil. I can assure you that is not the case when a catashropic event happens.

6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?

Be curious, ask questions, seek out mentors. One of the most rewarding things about being a leader or manager is to see people who work for you achieve success, but you can't do that on your own.

7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?

I once had an employee come up to me and thank me for a conversation I had with them years prior. I didn't recall the conversation, but they were looking for guidance and I invited them in to my office for a chat. Years later after they had been pomoted multiple times they stopped by to thank me. I wish I knew what advice I gave them, but I am glad it worked and it put a big smile on my face. As happy as they were with where their career had taken them, I was equally as happy that I could play a small role.

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