172. Today’s Hero: Werner Puchert (and the way of brutal, but caring honesty)
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!
You might wonder about his nationality, but the moment he opens his mouth, it’s obvious that Werner is from South Africa. He’s also — just barely — old enough to have grown up on the white side of the fence during the Apartheid regime, that got ousted in 1994 by Nelson Mandela and the ANC.
But while that opening could have lead to a story about a disgruntled, middle-aged White man, who dreams himself back to better days, nothing could be further from the truth.
So what is the truth about Werner — or at least the truth according to me?
The truth is that I’ve met few people, who manage so often say they don’t care (“I don’t care about that bullshit, dude!” is a favourite saying of Werner’s), but who so obviously do. About friends, about colleagues and about family — but also about strangers, nations and the world at large.
I met Werner in 2016, at the first College of Extraordinary Experiences. He was there to help facilitate it, and I was (more or less) in charge of it. We hit it off immediately, finding in each other a kindred spirit and a shared love of outrageous jokes, deep cynicism and the underlying genuine appreciation of humanity that often underlies the two aforementioned traits.
Since then, I’ve worked with Werner on several projects. He’s part of our core team at the College. He’s the producer of my podcast, The Business of Extraordinary Experiences. And he’s one of those people, that I just like to hang out with, because no matter if we’re ranting about corporate life, laughing about our kids (his is slightly older, but only by a little) or hatching up a new scheme that will lead to world domination, we’re having fun.
He also has this amazing quality, that I admire enough to try to copy it, but rarely manage with the same effortless style; he mixes brutal honesty with humor and a deep sense of caring, and to me that’s a potent cocktail in a friend and business partner.
This means that he’s never afraid to challenge an idea or to poke holes in a dream that I’m trying to justify, but he does it with an underlying note of compassion, that makes the wise cracking and the sarcasm endearing, rather than off-putting. He’s someone, that I can entrust with a secret and I know that while he might support me in doing something stupid, he’ll be sure to let me know that it’s stupid first, often with a grin on his face and a penetrating analysis. And if I remain unconvinced, he’ll support me even so.
But apart from the sharp mind and the crooked grin and the wisp of a beard, that he likes to pretend makes him look savvy, while secretly rejoicing in the fact that it makes him look at bit like a mercenary arms dealer… apart from those things that I wish I could steal from him, Werner Puchert is a man, who will profess that he doesn’t give a shit, while not only giving two, but also managing to let you know how he feels about things in a way that’s both entertaining, useful and unfailingly honest.
And he is probably going to swear at me when he has read this blog post, but that’s something I’ll just have to live with. It wouldn’t be the first time. :-)
In closing, I want to say this: If you get a chance to work with Werner, you should do so. Whether it’s by hiring him as an expert podcast producer, retaining his services as a digital transformation consultant (he has a past in Deloitte Digital, after all!) or you want him to lead a workshop for you, he’ll deliver — and not only will he deliver, he’ll do it with integrity and style.
Just don’t expect him not to tell you an uncomfortable truth or two if needed.
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?