Today’s Hero: Signe Hertel (and the way of the smile that lights up the world)

Welcome to the Heroes series. Here, I talk about people, who have inspired me and who I think the world deserves to know better. The mini-portraits I share are my personal observations and are done completely without any input from those, I write about. If you couldn’t care less, than I suggest that you stop reading, but if that intro appeals to you, read on!

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Signe at her best — in front of a captive audience, talking about spaces, structures and design

There’s something a bit awkward about starting out a post to honour someone with talking about a physical attribute. If someone asks you to say something nice about another human being and you compliment their teeth, it comes off as a bit shallow.

The reason I do it anyway is because Signe’s smile isn’t just a regular smile — it’s an extension of her personality, and whenever you’re near her, you can feel her almost bubbling over with energy and positivity.

Who is Signe? She is a resident of Copenhagen, Denmark and an old friend. She is also one of my heroes, though she might be blissfully unaware of the fact — which will probably be spoiled big time by this blog post. :-)

Oddly enough, though Signe is an architect at RUBOW arkitekter (and from all I know a very good one!), I have actually never worked with her in that capacity. But before she went into bringing buildings to life full time, she freelanced for my old company and helped bring dreams to life — and besides that, I’ve also worked with her inside the non-profit organisation that we both have belonged to for a decade.

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Is the doorway frame in the back accidental or a subtle professional reference? We’ll never know!

The reason Signe is one of my heroes has nothing to do with her chosen profession, though, and it doesn’t even have a lot to do with the many times I’ve seen her run workshops, guide teams and lead interactive experiences.

No, the reason for that is that she is one of those people, who sparks joy just by being part of a team. She has an ability to listen with skill, engage with passion and connect with others in a way that’s wildly impressive, while seemingly effortless. I have yet to talk to anyone, who didn’t warm to her instantly, and that is a rare quality to possess.

These powerful personality traits, she combines with a set of strong “soft” skills, though anyone who knows anything about soft skills is all too aware that they are hard to master. Yet, Signe is one of those who truly masters many of the crucial ones; she is an excellent communicator, a structured thinker and a highly adaptable professional —something that makes working with her a wonderful experience, even when the shit hits the fan and all the chips are down.

She is one of those rare individuals, who I’ve seen get rightfully angry, but have never seen get stressed.

These days, I rarely get to spend time with her (life happens to all of us), but I’ve often hoped that one day I’d stumble upon a real estate project, where I could bring her onboard. So far, it hasn’t happened (yet), but that doesn’t mean that the ambition is forgotten. Because that’s one of the qualities that Signe has as a professional — even if you only work with her for a short while, she’ll immediately go on your list of people you want to work with again.

The bottom line is a simple plea to all of you out there:

Whether you get a chance to hear Signe take you on a five minute tour-de-force of spatial design that leaves your head spinning and your imagination on fire, or have the opportunity to watch her navigate the treacherous waters of a creative workshop, I’d advise you to go for it.

And if you walk into the room and aren’t completely sure which one of the people in there is Signe, you just have to do one thing. Look for the smile, that lights up the world and trust me when I say that the person behind it is just as remarkable as it suggests. But don’t be fooled into thinking for one second, that it’s all she has to offer.

Because you couldn’t be more wrong.

Claus Raasted serves as the Director of the College of Extraordinary Experiences, is a Coach at McKinsey & Company and has just published his 30th book; “The Innovation Cycle”. He also has a past in reality TV, but these days, who doesn’t?

www.clausraasted.dk

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