Despite having nearly 35 years of leadership under my belt when I became the CEO of Brown & Brown Absence Services Group, leading a fully remote team during a global pandemic was a wholly new challenge for me and one for which I was not fully prepared. There is no manual for “leading through a pandemic,” so those first few months were nothing short of a crash course in day-to-day decision making (with an occasional emphasis on “crash”). Over the next several months, the pandemic became the backdrop for one of the most important and enlightening years of my life. However, despite the many new and unique challenges COVID-19 presented, it was nothing compared to what was to come as we moved into the summer of 2020.
Only a few months after taking the helm as CEO, I watched with a heavy heart, the terrible effects of racism, bias, and discrimination, heightened by the senseless deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor. It was in these moments I was reminded that, while our nation has come quite far over the course of my lifetime, we still have great lengths to go to be a safe, inclusive, and unbiased home for all. As a leader, it is my responsibility to ensure that my teammates feel safe, included, and heard. Last year, I committed to go forward talking less and listening more – embracing discomfort and engaging in difficult, but important conversations. Despite these efforts, I knew this would not be enough.
It was one year ago that we launched the Brown & Brown Absence Diversity & Inclusion Committee. Several members of our senior leadership team are at the forefront of this effort and responsible for leading initiatives that include recruiting and retention practices, community outreach, and cultural awareness and celebration. We established this committee as a commitment by the entire organization to listen to and learn from our teammates as they teach us about the numerous forms of bias and discrimination they witness in their daily lives, as well as social reform resources and organizations that matter deeply to them.
The committee has produced eye-opening and insightful content about the struggles and contributions from those representing all walks of life. I have learned, rejoiced, and been inspired countless times in consuming their thoughtful words and work. While my learning journey is really just beginning, I am already being immensely impacted by the ride.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, I have encouraged our teammates to take care of themselves. That message has never been more important than it is today. We care for ourselves and others, however, not just by safeguarding our health and our physical well-being, but also by speaking out against racism and forces that diminish others – and by fostering equality in our workplace, our community, and our world. I continue to commit to these values and doing the hard work at Brown & Brown Absence Services Group, and beyond to make our shared vision a reality.
Let’s keep moving forward, together. Stay safe and be well.