Get to Know Mike Zychinski: Deloitte LLP’s Chief Ethics & Compliance Officer
Mike Zychinski is Deloitte LLP’s chief ethics and compliance officer. He was appointed to this role after 32 years of experience as an audit partner and office managing partner. In this interview, he talks about his career, his new role and his leadership approach.
Mike, how did you come to be at Deloitte?
I started straight out of graduate school, class of ’76. I graduated Friday, August 13th, took a two-day vacation and started on Monday the 16th.
And why Deloitte?
I’m an audit guy. Back then it was the Big Eight, so that’s who you interviewed with. I always thought of myself as an individual. I cut my hair for the interviews but kept my beard. I had fairly solid credentials. Four firms said if you change your personal appearance we’ll give you an offer, but four gave me offers anyway.
I chose Deloitte over the others because I felt like I could be myself back in those days. They seemed more open-minded — professional, but flexible. I connected with the people that I met. The managing partner in those days, Andy Ries, and I have kept up a relationship for over 30 years now.
If you had to pick one word to describe your experience at Deloitte, what would that word be and why?
One word – wow! Rewarding. Challenging. Fulfilling. Those are words that jump to the top of my list. And now I’d have to add inspiring. This position I’m taking on has only been offered to two people in the history of our organization. And Harold Tinkler [former Deloitte LLP chief ethics and compliance officer] has set the bar pretty high for all of us who follow him.
How have you taught your own kids what’s important in life?
Years ago when I went to training I had to develop my leadership credo and I thought about advice I had given to each of my sons when they went away to college. I had some pointers printed up on a small wallet card for each of them to carry — and actually, I carry a copy of the cards myself. The cards include the following points: "Lead by example. Enrich yourself spiritually. Act with integrity. Character counts. Invest in others." That’s what I try to live by.
If we asked five people to name your best skills, business-related or personal, what would be the top two or three things they’d say?
Some people would say I’m a great listener. Others would point out that I work hard to develop meaningful relationships. I believe this is a relationship business. It’s not just about cranking out the charge hours. And I hope people would say I don’t play favorites, that I give everybody a fair shot.
Do you play golf?
If you were to ask people I play golf with, they would say no. I don’t play much and I don’t play well. But when I do play I don’t take it too seriously and I have a good time.
What’s your biggest "guilty pleasure"?
I’m not a connoisseur, but I do like a glass of red wine with dinner. Since the kids left home, my wife and I have come to enjoy that. We kick back and appreciate our time together. I’m really not too guilty about it!
What previous role or experience has prepared you most for this role?
They all have, in a way. I grew up in audit and have a pretty keen awareness of the compliance side of the business and the need for us to live by the rules and regulations.
As office managing partner in St. Louis for the last eight years, I had to wear different hats and broaden my view to look at things more cross-functionally. We’re all on the same team, after all, and I always addressed messages to my office to "the Deloitte Team." I believe in consultation, communication, collaboration. Part of my internal management style is to manage by walking the halls.
If you could “walk the halls” and talk to each of our 50,000 people, what’s the one thing that you would want them to take away from the experience?
I would want them to feel that I’m a person who cares about our organization and each person in it.
My leadership style is leading by example and making that personal contact. I would hope they’d say that the new guy with the unusual name walks the walk, talks the talk and brings a positive message. If my Deloitte team members can say that in a few years then I think we’ll continue making progress — making it memorable!
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