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The Stakeholders: Perspectives on Leadership and Excellence. The stakeholders series features seasoned professionals sharing their perspectives on leadership, factors that led to their success, and what drives them to excel in life and career.

Photo of Patrick CanavanPatrick Canavan
Regional Employee Benefits Practice Leader,
New England
USI Insurance Services

Patrick is responsible for the Employee Benefits practice in New England and is focused on attracting and delivering proven employee benefit cost reduction strategies and solutions for clients.

How would you describe your leadership style?

Personally, I’ve never responded well to dictatorial styles of leadership. I always felt that the decisions of a group are better than the decisions of a single person.

Accordingly, I would describe my leadership style as collaborative. With the changes to work dynamics brought about in the last few years, this style has been both challenging but also appreciated. The challenge comes from the additional time investment to collaborate appropriately within the team. However, the team does seem to appreciate the desire to have a say in the decisions of the organization.

While the team does appreciate the desire for collaboration, there needs to be accountability for each of our team members. It is critical for us as leaders to listen to our team and involve them in the collective decision-making process, which requires me to be effective with my communications and establishing an environment of trust and support within the team.

What’s one challenge – internal or external – that you’re anticipating and preparing for in the next year?

We are fortunate to have continued growth, and with that comes the need to hire and retain. I am always concerned about turnover of our staff. It is critical for us to be an employer of choice to attract and retain top talent, and the best thing I can do to support this is to promote a positive work culture above all else. We have a hybrid work model for some of our team members and establishing this can be challenging at times.

Do you have a personal philosophy or mantra that has been a through line of your career?

I am borrowing from a good friend of mine: “Find a way to say yes.” This may be for non-standard requests from clients or team members. If it can deliver perceived value to them, you create raving fans and loyalty that is hard to break.

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

As a kid, I had visions of being a doctor, right up until high school biology when we had to dissect a frog. That did it for me. After that, I gravitated toward mathematics and business, which led me eventually into the benefit consulting industry.

Photo of Patrick Canavan on a sailboat with his dog, Zoey.

Patrick and his dog, Zoey, enjoying an evening sail on Saoire.

What was your first job, and what lessons did you learn in that role?

My first job was that of a lifeguard and swimming instructor. I loved working with the kids and seeing them learn and gain confidence in the water. What I realized in that role was that the kids – all people, really – respond best when 1) I am clear with my expectations and outcomes; and 2) I let them know that I believe in them and their abilities.