Q&A: Meet our new board chair, Jean Molino

Jean Molino became chair of the Convergence Board of Trustees on January 1, 2019, while winding down a successful legal career as General Counsel and Partner at McKinsey & Company. Jean joined our Leadership Council in 2012 after a friend encouraged her to attend a Convergence event, and joined the board a year later, serving as chair of the Governance and Nominations Committee. Jean looks forward to slowing down a very busy work life and putting energy into Convergence and other groups that are important to her.

We sat down with Jean to hear her thoughts about her new role and the future of Convergence. 

Tell us a little bit about yourself. 

I am a lawyer by profession and have practiced law for 43 years. For 34 of those years, I served as General Counsel to McKinsey & Company, the international management consulting firm. When I joined McKinsey, I was its first and only lawyer. Our global legal team is now comprised of close to 80 lawyers, plus dozens of other legal professionals. McKinsey, during that time, has grown to close to 2,000 partners, and more than 30,000 employees worldwide. I started my legal career in 1976 at a diversified energy company, having an interest in labor law and workplace conflict. I quickly migrated to a broader corporate and commercial program, overseeing many areas of legal practice. I had a tremendous learning opportunity at my first company and left as General Counsel to join McKinsey in 1985.

I am on the Board of Trustees at my alma mater, NYU School of Law, and received my undergraduate degree from NYU as well. I have an MA from the University of Wisconsin, and my time in Madison, Wisconsin is the only period of my life during which I did not reside in the State of New Jersey. I grew up in Union City, New Jersey, am a first generation American, and remain in touch with a group of friends I know from childhood.

My husband, Greg Smith, is a fine arts dealer and publisher (we met at my first job out of law school), and we have two sons, Dan and Alex. I enjoy traveling, gardening, cooking, reading, theater, movies, art and, of course, spending time with my family. I especially love spending that time on Martha’s Vineyard, where our family has vacationed for more than 20 years.

What excites you about Convergence?

A number of things.

First, I believe working with stakeholders of diverse, often opposing, ideologies and interests, who frequently come to issues with deep skepticism if not cynicism about our collective ability to problem solve, and working to build trust across such groups to find shared goals…the work that Convergence does…is critically important, maybe essential, to the effective functioning of our society, at all levels, in all spheres of engagement/not just at the government level, and on all topics of consequence. I am excited by the fact that Convergence not only promotes collaborative problem-solving, but actually does the hard work of helping others come to agreed actions over a period of time.

Second, I believe that what we do is replicable and so I think of our potential impact over time as much more than the collective sum and impressive results of particular projects, but in getting the message of collaborative problem-solving out there, recognized, talked about as a way forward, learned and baked into how we…meaning the many places where problem-solving needs to happen…engage with one another in good faith to find solutions to our challenges. I am very eager, in whatever small way I can as our chair, to find ways to encourage us…all of us…to think big, within and outside of our projects.

Third, I am excited by the fact that so much can come out of the efforts of such a small organization; this is a lean team. The Convergence approach is a leverage model; our stakeholders are the principle reason impact happens. But the Convergence commitment and approach is the magic sauce that brings it altogether.

Can you share a lesson you have learned from McKinsey that applies to us?

I believe I am attracted to organizations that promote and are about collaboration, merit, openness, finding the best answer, and getting past differences in the interest of positive impact. I think recognizing and purposefully promoting, even celebrating, underlying values and a culture of collaboration is a good thing to do. Convergence should feel really good about its values and culture and how these attributes enable the great work that it does.

How will your leadership style influence your role as chair?

I hope to do what I have done chairing other groups, which is to create an atmosphere for excellent conversation where people feel comfortable expressing their views. I also would like to strengthen personal connections between and among our wonderful board members, as I believe that sort of bonding can go a long way.

I am also a purposeful person who has a strong bias for conversations to end with something actionable. Part of my role, I expect, will be to synthesize inputs in a way that captures everyone’s best thinking to help guide the organization forward.

Last, I’ve always tried as a business leader to be as available as possible to my teams, to roll up my shirt sleeves and help them with the matters for which they are responsible, and to try to do so in a way that further develops their knowledge or skills. I’m not sure what the equivalent is at Convergence, but I’m eager to think about how I might be helpful to the terrific staff, beyond the more traditional elements of board chair.

What challenges do you want to address?

We are still too much of a secret. The people involved in or who have experienced Convergence are true believers, and that feeling comes through. If more people come to know about us…the Convergence approach, the impact we have had…greater attention and resources will follow.

Where do you see Convergence in five years?

I expect we will have completed many more projects on a variety of important topics, that we will have more to say about the impact that continued to flow from our current and recent projects, that our network of friends and supporters will have multiplied, that many more people will know about “the Convergence approach” and want to be part of it in some way, and that we will have experimented with and have a path for replicating this model.