26th July 2015
My Memories of Craig Norgate
It’s been a sad week with Craig Norgate’s funeral in Taranaki, and along with many others, the tragedy of losing a colleague and friend too soon has really sunk in. I first met Craig when we worked together at the formation of Fonterra in New Zealand in 2000. He was my direct boss and we spent a difficult, tumultuous, yet ultimately rewarding two years together. In 2013 we renewed our contact, this time our consulting business supported the merger of the Institutes of Chartered Accountants. I last saw him for lunch a few weeks before he and Jane headed to London for their much anticipated, yet ultimately sad adventure.
So I’ve been fortunate to have had two fairly significant opportunities to work with Craig up close, and I’m a better person for it. If you’ve seen the coverage in the mainstream and social media over the last few weeks, you’ll start to appreciate the fact that Craig was an enormously talented, smart and big-hearted man. While it often takes the occasion of one’s passing for the true picture to come clear, it’s apparent that he was a much-loved and admired bloke, with a depth and balance that most people didn’t get to a chance to understand.
Now he wasn’t perfect – none of us are. But he was extraordinary in many ways, and certainly ended his journey with a legacy of achievement that many of us should be lucky enough to have created, but most won’t. I particularly think of a lot of the commentators and critics on the sideline who never got on the field and ran with the ball like Craig did. It’s only recently that a more honest and complete scorecard on Craig’s life has emerged.
So I’d like to add to that scorecard and tell you three things that really stood out about him:
He was the smartest person in the room
While we were consulting to Craig in 2014, we sent a very detailed, multi-pages proposal on some work we were hoping to do with the Institute of Chartered Accountants. He wasn’t signing off on it, but needed to review and recommend it. Anyway, it took our team a lot of time, with tons of detail on objectives, process and costings. We worked it, we tweaked it, and we proofed it, and finally sent it to him. 10 minutes later, I got a call “Yeah thanks. I read it, I think it’s good and thorough and the right way to go. I’ll recommend it” he said on the phone. I replied “Thanks, but did you even read it?” I asked him. “Yes every page…. and by the way, you better check the spreadsheet on page 22 – the numbers in the 7th row aren’t correct”. So I did, and yes, he was right!
We’ve done a lot of testing in our executive assessment practice over the years – more than 500 people in fact. We recently ran some aptitude testing (a proxy for intellectual capacity) for some senior executives that Craig wanted to be included in – he was super-keen to do the tests as well. When I got his results back I realised why – he recorded the highest scores we’ve ever had in them, virtually perfect results. So yeah, he was the smartest guy, yet I never saw him being an intellectual snob.
He was compassionate and cared for people
As the Head of Human Resources at Fonterra with Craig, I worked hands-on in effecting a lot of change; change that was necessary for the business but affected many people directly. When you’re involved in these things, it’s easy to forget the human element. Change can result in people losing their jobs, losing their confidence and at times, losing their way.
I can recall in these moments where the voice of reason, the voice of consideration and the voice of the less powerful people was often Craig’s. Underneath that big, gruff exterior was an emotional being who had a great feel for the ‘person in the street’, and he brought a sense of grounding and realism to situations where they could easily be forgotten. Sure, he was no angel, and at times was self-opinionated and stubborn, but his drive towards a fairer and better result for the greater number of people was always paramount.
He had a go and made a difference
The Greek philosopher Socrates famously said: “The Unexamined Life is not worth living”. The idea was that you should look inwardly and ask yourself what you’ve done to be better, help others and make a difference. Now that Craig’s life is over, the wash-up would suggest that he did live a worthy life. He sought to make things better, and gave his time and energy to make a difference. He was hugely proud of his family, his mates, his roots, and his country. And while not everything he did worked out the way he planned, nonetheless he had dreams, he had guts and he stepped off the ledge with conviction.
I can think of no better quote to pay tribute to Craig’s life that that from the American President Theodore Roosevelt, known as the Man in The Arena:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” Theodore Roosevelt
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