It’s a common misconception that empathy is lacking in many business people’s ideologies. According to Michael Zuckerman, an associate professor of instruction in the Department of Risk, Insurance and Healthcare Management at Temple University’s Fox School of Business, that is not the case.
“You can’t ask someone to do something or help an organization unless you understand their business and what they are trying to do. You can’t lead successfully without empathy,” Zuckerman says.
Zuckerman was the managing director of Northeast Regional Health Care Practice and Alternative Risk Consulting for Aon from 2000 to 2012. Since 2012, he has been at the Fox School and also runs his own consulting firm, MMZ Consulting. Truly Temple made, he graduated from the school with a BBA in accounting and an MBA in risk management.
At the Fox School, he runs the Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) Conference every year, and due to COVID-19, 2020’s edition was run virtually. Grateful to help grow another generation of professionals in ERM, Zuckerman was proud of the online conference. Students interacted, learned and even debated with experts in the industry.
“It’s very rewarding to give back, to make sure that risk management and insurance is a sustainable industry. You need good, quality people for that,” he says. “I feel like I’m really doing an important job for the industry I came from, because I’m providing them with young, talented individuals who will be business leaders in coming years.”
He’s also given students opportunities outside of the school to improve their craft and knowledge. Last year, he sent several students to virtual conferences hosted by captive insurance companies–a subsidiary of a parent company that insures its parent company–as well as the ERM conference hosted by the Risk and Insurance Management Society. He hopes to send more in the coming years.
His industrial experiences rotate around consulting businesses, working for those businesses and teaching students. It’s given him a well-rounded expertise on the ins and outs of risk management and insurance, especially in the healthcare system.
“I had the opportunity to be in-house to work as a broker correspondent. I was able to see a lot of different things. When I worked at Aon, I was able to understand more about what our clients needed because I had to view things from their shoes. The way health systems work on the East Coast, for example, is not the same as it operates on the West Coast. And then having the opportunity to teach and be involved in leading the next generation of professionals. I think what I’m proud of was that I was able to have three very unique experiences that have helped me a great deal to teach and become more empathetic,” he says.
Without empathy, however, he says one doesn’t possess the ability to see through another’s point of view when consulting.
“For these organizations, their main concern is their stakeholders, and their main stakeholders are their patients. They don’t want to be sold. They want someone like myself to come in and talk with them and understand their business. If you can’t do that, you have no business selling them anything and you have no business being their consultant.”
In the future, Zuckerman hopes to help ERM studies grow at Fox through a unique laboratory that examines ERM issues and issues for companies that own their own insurance companies.
“I have found that there is a link between operating these insurance companies properly and driving good enterprise risk management operations through the parent organization. I’d want to use this lab, so to speak, for programming with not just one conference but with multiple executive education sections throughout the year so our name would be out in the community and we’d be providing something the risk management community could use,” he says.