Our Silent Partner

Our Silent Partner

The following insights are from an article by our founder and CEO, Maril MacDonald. Join the conversation on LinkedIn and share your story here.

This year, we are celebrating Gagen MacDonald’s 20th anniversary (I couldn’t be more proud!). Our firm was founded on a passion for helping companies around the world unleash the power of their employees and overcome the human struggle of change. Marking this milestone has inspired me to reflect on what has kept the dream alive. Our journey has taken us beyond what I could have imagined!

As we celebrate, I wanted to take this opportunity to divulge our Silent Partner with you.

What’s in a name?

After six years in business, we had the opportunity to rename our firm. As you might imagine when considering something as important as a name, we discussed numerous options (simply using my last name and going by MacDonald’s would have been slightly confusing!). Most importantly, I didn’t want the firm to be about me… every team member contributes to our identity.

During the period when we were discussing options and laboring through naming exercises, my father passed away. At my dad’s funeral, my six siblings and I reminisced and took turns sharing what we learned from our parents. Ultimately, the conversation turned into one about our family values.

What immediately struck me—and was reinforced at our annual firm retreat shortly thereafter—was that everything my siblings and I voiced about our family values reminded me of our firm. I had a moment of clarity: our firm’s values were my family’s values.

Our Silent Partner

Our Silent Partner isn’t a person, but rather a concept captured in a plaque that my father, Frank Gagen, Jr., had in his office for 40 years. As a lawyer, my dad represented individuals and the plaque served as a constant reminder of his role in placing their interests above his own, the dignity that accompanies a service mindset, and the value and nobility of work. The Silent Partner is about finding your true north and grounding your work in a sense of self. This knowledge and authenticity have proven incredibly powerful, especially when navigating difficult times.

During our next firm naming sessions, I told our team about the Silent Partner, what it meant to my father and how I saw it relating to our firm’s values. I shared how we are our clients’ Silent Partner, just as my dad was to his. After this story, one of my team members said, “Why don’t we call the firm Gagen MacDonald?” And that stuck. Gagen became our Silent Partner.

Over the years that have passed, “Gagen” has become something beyond my family name: it is our true north and a reminder of the very core that binds us.

Do you have a Silent Partner?

So as leaders, I ask all of you, do you have a Silent Partner? What grounds you and connects you with your sense of purpose? And how do you bring your values to life in your work?

We each confront shortcomings and vulnerabilities each day. When that happens, it takes courage to embrace these challenges and meet them with an authentic sense of self. Leading with and living your values each day provides your team with an example and standard, ultimately inspiring them to do the same. This practice has the potential to truly strengthen your foundation and make your team even stronger.

As you face into challenges, chapters and periods in your career and company, reflect: am I making decisions, leading my team and executing on our mission using our values as my compass?

I’d love to hear about your Silent Partners… please share!