Nov 08, 2023Career Story: Luzette Graves
Luzette Graves' journey through the healthcare and insurance industry is a testament to her passion for advocacy. Learn about her story.
With today’s designation of International Women’s Day, we sat down with the women in leadership at M&G to discuss what inspires them and how they manage healthy boundaries and priorities allowing them to excel personally and professionally.
Being a standout agency, consistently recognized not just for the services we provide but for our community impacts, agency development, and workplace culture requires the participation and dedication of driven, ambitious, and deeply connected people. At Morris & Garritano, we’re proud to say, that’s exactly what we’ve got.
Much is owed to the senior team of leaders within our agency who model our values in their work each day, cultivating our relational, mission-centric style of business. With today’s designation of International Women’s Day, we’d like to take this opportunity to honor the outstanding women we have among our ranks without whom we wouldn’t be what we are today!
Morris & Garritano employs 97 women with the majority of our senior leadership comprised from that number. It takes no shortage of strength and discernment to manage the demands of life both inside and outside of the office, particularly during the turbulence of the previous couple of years. With decades of combined experience and a deep commitment to the mission and values of our agency, we talked to our female executives about what it takes to lead our teams and manage their responsibilities.
“It all really starts with building a relationship with your teammates,” Kerry Morris, Chief Operating Officer, and third-generation owner, begins, “Because then you don’t just know them on a business level but a personal level, and when you know people on a personal level, you know how to best support them.”
It’s the conscious decisions of these leaders who are dedicated to modeling our agency’s stated set of core values in every interaction that drives our company forward and grounds us true to who we are. Equal attention is paid not only to prospering the company externally in service to clients but strengthening and supporting the team from within and leaving lasting impacts on the community around us.
“What we do matters,” reflects Martine Domingues, Property & Casualty Director, expressing a common sentiment found among our people. “I’m proud of the importance of our work. It’s so much bigger. It’s about protecting families, the jobs, and the livelihoods of the community we live in.”
“‘Do the right thing’ isn’t just a mantra here,” Jordan Sullivan, Project Management Director, explains. “It’s really how business is conducted. Every day.” Our core values are commonly quoted among team members and can be seen demonstrated in many of the agency’s policies and community impacts.
In addition to this sense of pride, feeling trusted in and empowered to do their jobs while being offered opportunities to grow and succeed is a common thread between our leaders.
“They recognized my uniqueness and gave me opportunities to grow,” Jordan says, “They believed in me right from the beginning.” Similar words were spoken by many of the women who have moved up in the ranks of M&G’s masthead. “I want to be the kind of leader who provides to my team the same kind of opportunities which were given to me,” Martine asserts, expressing deep gratitude for those who laid the foundation she and our team of leaders today tread upon.
Names like Barbara Sutton and Greg Morris are frequently reiterated when asked about the mentors who’ve most inspired the kinds of leaders our management team aims to be and continues to look up to. “They were committed to our agency’s core values. Even before they were printed on our walls,” Martine recalls.
Through continued engagement and connection, our leaders at M&G are committed to supporting both their peers and their departmental teams to continue the legacy of our agency for generations to come. “It’s these decisions… This dedication that cultivates such a healthy and motivating energy here” says Zheila Pouraghabagher, Employee Benefits & Corporate Development Director. “We really make a point to listen and reflect and put into action the support needed to make the greatest impact on our people.”
“I trust M&G,” Jordan says, “And I trust they have my best interest at heart because that’s the kind of support I’ve seen and experienced.”
It’s maybe in this crucial point where the leaders at Morris & Garritano have cracked the code to the ominous question of “work-life balance.”
“I love my job,” Zheila states. “When you do what you love, you don’t feel like life is out of balance.”
“I would come home from work and, around the dinner table, just talk about work! About how much I loved where I worked and the people I worked with,” recollects Sheri Bruner, Commercial Lines Service Manager. “And out of that, I have two kids working here with me at the agency!”
The importance of family-friendliness at M&G is felt deeply as several of our employees, like Sheri, work with family members — be it their kids, spouse, or siblings. For the rest of us, our coworkers and collaborative teams become our family.
“It’s not just about doing the job,” explains Celia Silacci, Employee Benefits Service Manager. “We know each other. Marriages, babies, illness, everything.” She continues saying, “Work isn’t something at the end of the day I have to put away. Our culture here is a way of life. These people… They are my family.”
Even through the shift to more virtual and remote interactions, our leadership team has made efforts to intentionally remain vigilant in their dedication to maintaining genuine relationships and compassionate support for our people.
“Flexibility and life-management was a part of the conversation at M&G long before COVID became a household name,” Jordan recalls. “So, when the shift to remote and hybrid work became a necessity, we were ready.”
“I’m extremely proud of how well we’ve adapted to our hybrid work environment,” beams Kerry. “We’ve proven we can be flexible and remain supportive providing the best care for the wellbeing of our people and maintain the same level of service to our clients.”
Additionally, the permanence of M&G’s hybrid workspace has allowed our people to manage family obligations and priorities in new and outstanding ways, giving our leaders the space they need to work in a way that suits them best.
“It’s been huge to have the ability to work remotely,” adds Angela Toomey, Human Resources Director. “Just to have the flexibility to make that time for personal needs, family obligations, whatever… and offer that bit of control back to help manage those priorities.”
For many in our ranks, family is their biggest priority. “To know that I am in a workplace that understands the importance of those priorities, respects them, and supports them,” Zheila says, “is everything to me.”
Our leaders know investing in the wellness of our people, pours back out into our people. “Being strong internally allows us to be strong externally, and that same care provided for our people inside is then extended to our clients outside,” Angela tells.
There is much to be said of the healthy, supportive, and productive culture within M&G, and our leaders are consciously protective of it. “It’s who we are,” Sheri explains. “We do a great job of presenting who we are, what we value, and finding others who match that personality. We continue to bring on great people.”
“We go above and beyond to create a fun work environment, “Celia recounts. “The relationships, the conversations… they’re genuine. The culture comes naturally out of that.”
Committed to continuous improvement and always doing the right thing, our leaders are dedicated to continuing their support of each other and our teams to carry on the legacy of our agency.
“It’s about keeping communication open, listening, being able to evolve and adapt to best serve the needs of our team,” Zheila says. “We need to lead by example,” Sheri adds, “we have to be the ones that are setting the example, making the time to engage and connect in meaningful ways. It’s about our approach and being mindful.”
“When I think about the legacy of M&G,” Angela reflects, “some of the things that are done as a company, the traditions that we’ve carried on, the agency’s generosity… it inspires me. And working at a place where my values are matched by the company is the most important thing.”
Morris & Garritano’s continued dedication to excellence and cooperative efforts of our entire team has earned us numerous awards and recognitions for the agency’s client service, community impacts, and positive workplace culture.
“We know we have something really special here,” says Kerry. “And it’s up to us to make sure that carries on for generations to come.”