No audio version this week, sorry none of it works without you watching the video.
Future You, Reviewed
Quick: in ten words, how will people you worked with remember you in twenty years? A question worth thinking about. It’s a bit of a wake-up call.
Will they sum you up with:
“She was passionate about cutting costs”?
“His ability to claim credit for other people’s work was unrivalled”?
It helps clarify where your values lie.
I got some moving messages back from people after I wrote about my late Dad the other week. About 20 people wrote back to say it made them cry, and that was genuinely wonderful. The story got me thinking about legacies.
How To Improve Funerals
But first, an idea. I’m the family eulogy guy, since when I was young. It always strikes me as a total waste of goodwill to do them after people die.
I know ceremonies are an essential coping mechanism for the survivors. But you watch all these glowing things said to a coffin, and think: you’ve left it till now to say them?
Is this the best tribute system we can think of?
Why don’t we do pre-death eulogies? If your Nan gets to, say, 75, everyone gets dressed up, goes to a nice function centre and people make nice, formal speeches about her.
With her in the front row, surrounded by people she loves, beaming at what a lovely day she’s having. Because she hasn’t “been taken from us too soon”. Then tea and sandwiches. How much better would that be than a funeral?
You could say “that’s what 75th birthday parties are for” and true but it’s a different vibe.
If there are speeches, they’re always half-arsed filler about thanking people for being there, “especially those who’ve come a long way”. It’s not the same as summing up a lifetime’s achievements.
“Mr Pigden … you’re alive!”
Which brings me to a video clip that came up in a conversation last week.
In which 90s England football star Ian Wright is re-united with his childhood teacher, who has the most English name possible: Sydney Pigden. For added perfect Britishness, he was a wartime Spitfire pilot. Wright thought Mr Pigden had died.
If this doesn’t bring a tear to your eye, seek help.
— Ian Wright (@IanWright0) December 2, 2019
The bit where he takes his cap off gets me every time.
The story got me thinking what separates the great bosses from the good ones.
Good business owners and managers are commercially-minded, with a clear focus on hitting their KPIs. They build a business that’s successful and employ a lot of people. That’s a major public service in itself.
They might bump into the junior who worked for them fifteen years ago, they recognise the face but not remember the name. Great to see them but, you know, things move on.
Be More Mr Pigden
The great managers are more Mr Pigden. They deliver the same business numbers or more. But it’s how they go about it that sets them apart.
They get intrinsic enjoyment helping people develop into the best version of themselves.
There’s joy in spotting the hidden potential in some clueless junior and giving them a chance to step up. Rather than saying “If you can’t do the job I’ll find someone who can.”
It just takes one good boss to create a transformative effect that cascades all the way through someone’s working life. In turn, they pass it on to others.
You’re instilling much more than the skills to get a team to complete a to-do list. Good bosses can install a code of values that help on so many levels.
Pretty sure there were a lot of choices in Ian Wright’s adult life where he thought: what would Mr Pigden want me to do? Without that guidance from the past, would he have had the discipline to achieve at an elite level?
(There are at least two other vital stories here, on male role models and the value of teachers, but they’re outside my business lane.)
It’s Good For You And Your Business
The Mr Pigden approach isn’t just a benefit for those being taught.
It’s always a thrill to see people I worked with a decade or two back, and they’re out there killing it. Some were sailing pretty close to the edge back then. But we recognised that spark and found a new spot for them to thrive somewhere else in the business.
Obviously their success now is all their own work, but it’s deeply rewarding to know they picked up the odd useful tip when they were working for you.
(Not saying I’m Pigden-level, but I try.)
Good feelings aside, it’s the best commercial approach as well. If people feel like they’re developing, they stay with you. You don’t have the expensive, morale-depleting churn that saps your margins via endless recruiting and basic training.
Customers can feel the positivity, so they stay too. Hello, profitable cash flow.
You don’t have to be the boss to adopt the Pigden mindset. You can get the same benefits out of committee work in your industry association. Or just helping out the people who work around you.
Pigden Class Of 2020
The Mr Pigden effect will also apply to managers who navigate their staff through the treacherous shoals and whirlpools of this bastard year.
This is a stressful time and in future, it will reach mythical status. In times like these, leadership memories are magnified. People will re-tell the tales of how they made it through this, and who helped them do it.
Not saying you must only do nice things. That’s not realistic. This is a time for telling people straight what’s going on, good or bad, and getting them involved in the mission.
The stars of tomorrow will become visible by how they behave through all this. If you can recognise them and give them a bit of extra guidance, you’re set to thrive in the future.
Great management is about giving, not taking.
I’m guessing you learn that when you risk having your arse shot out of the sky by Nazis.
But you can still do it from the safety of an office chair.
More Ian Wright on Mr Pigden, after his death.
— BBC Radio 4 (@BBCRadio4) February 16, 2020
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