Thoughtfulness, transparency, music, and positivity. Lynn Bruns integrates them all into ISG’s firmwide culture of success and collaboration. Learn more about Lynn, his interests, and his journey to becoming ISG’s CEO.

What was your journey to becoming ISG’s CEO?

I’m attracted to challenges and accomplishing things we haven’t done before. In 2004, the opportunity to lead an office and be part of a growing firm attracted me to ISG. Three other new people started that day, making the office a total of eight people. There were 55 people in the firm. From there, I moved to La Crosse in 2012, and grew to fit into firm leadership and development roles. In 2019 our CEO, Chad Surprenant, led ISG’s leadership group through a process to position our firm and leadership team for continued growth. The group selected me as the CEO, and we filled other strategic leadership roles. The opportunity to serve as the CEO was─and continues to be─a humbling experience.

Why did you choose a career path in civil engineering?

There are two big reasons that I chose my career path.

One, I like the creativity of developing built environments. My favorite pastimes growing up were playing with Legos and digging in a sandbox. I loved building things, digging trenches, conveying water, and understanding how different systems worked.

Two, I have a passion for problem solving. I enjoy solving both technical and people problems. In 2003 I made the decision to pursue my MBA and focus on the business and people side of problem solving. People give me energy and helping them develop their capabilities and accomplish their goals is more fulfilling for me.

What was the reasoning behind ISG’s conversion to a 100% employee-owned firm in 2017?

The ESOP ownership model simplified the ownership transition process, positioned us for growth, eliminated distractions, and amplified our culture. That path allowed us to apply effort to what really grows the business—our people. This choice makes such an impact on motivation, simplicity, and accountability. It builds a different culture unlike the standard corporate culture. Our firm is proof of that.

What would surprise others about your role as CEO?

More often than not, the role requires you to ask the right questions, rather than to have all the answers.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Seeing the team succeed and what the whole team contributes to help make an impact that will last for years to come. Also, seeing what is possible when people believe in themselves.

What can you not work without?

Coffee and music. Coffee for energy. Music, because it influences my mood. I like to integrate music into our quarterly Owner Update meetings,, live virtual updates with all our employee owners where we reflect on recent accomplishments and share upcoming plans and strategies. When I am writing, I listen to instrumentals. My go-to writing song right now “Someone You Loved,” performed by the Piano Guys.

What is one thing that people would find surprising about you?

I like to dance. My favorite is probably ballroom dancing. I’ve taken several lessons, and am getting better each time, although I’m no Fred Astaire─yet.

Which of your strengths resonate with you the most?

Individualization: I am consciously aware of this strength because I see the value in everybody. People give me energy, and I love the people part of my job. The Achilles’ heel of that strength is that the group can get too big or inclusive, so awareness is key.

Belief: My other go-to song is “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey. It reminds me that believing that you can do something is half the battle, and sometimes the whole battle.

Positivity: People are usually as happy as they make themselves out to be. Your attitude makes a difference to yourself and others. Given the choice between positive and negative, I’d choose positive. When I’m down, I truly appreciate those who pick me up.

How do you recharge after work?

I look forward to going home to see my family. When in working in La Crosse, I have a 20-minute commute from Onalaska, which allows me to recharge by listening to music or talk radio. Family time with my six kids and time in the car on the way to my kids’ activities also helps me recharge. I love spending time outdoors, on the basketball court, and on a golf course.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

To read minds. It would be noisy, true. I’d want it on a switch though. My reasoning is that too often we don’t ask the question, “What are you thinking?” I think it is important question to ask.

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