Do we use our life well? Why Marchionne's final exit left us all wondering.

Sergio Marchionne, CEO Fiat Chrysler; Chairman, Ferrari (1952-2018)

Sergio Marchionne, CEO Fiat Chrysler; Chairman, Ferrari (1952-2018)

(Extracted and adapted from Beppe Severgnini’s “Usiamo bene la nostra vita”, Corriere, 27.7.18)

I happened to be travelling from Switzerland to our holiday home in Sicily in the days leading up to Sergio Marchionne’s unexpected death.

From north to south, from the nearby Zurich Universitätsspital where he was being treated, across the border and down to the south of his home country, not one channel, newspaper or radio station missed to worry about Sergio’s health. In a genuine, incredulous effort to give an explanation to the unbelievable.

On Wednesday, the man who fixed Fiat, Chrysler and Ferrari, Sergio Marchionne, died at age 66.

His death was sudden—a surprising turn of events following complications from shoulder surgery. For 15 years, the Canadian-Italian executive, clad in his signature slouchy black sweater, had stood up in defiance of global market forces that seemed almost certain to put the Italian industrial giant to bed. That his health were to take a fatal turn as he was arranging for his replacement to take the helm seems too ironic. (Mike Manley, the British head of Fiat Chrysler’s Jeep brand, has been named Marchionne’s successor.)

As I reported the news to my father, who had been checking the news daily, during a stroll in a local shopping center, I was met with a deeply sad and incredulous stare, his own, and those of about four other clients who just happened to walk past us as I spoke, and gathered around me in disbelief. The genuine sadness and incredulity struck me.

Why has his death hit a nerve and left such a strong mark? Is it because he was a world famous Italian? He wasn’t the only one, luckily. Is it because his departure was premature and sudden? It’s not the only one sadly.  Perhaps because his fame went well beyond automotive? Italy has an incredible number of outstanding brains across many sectors, but the commotion seen in the last few days is reserved to very few.

If the departure of Sergio Marchionne has hit deeply Italy’s sensitivity – a nation that these days loves to come across as insensitive, lying to itself – the reason lies elsewhere.

It is perhaps the most simple, deepest yet most difficult reason to confess.

Successful, rich, envied, he departed unexpectedly, leaving everything behind. Wealth and rags: affluence, success, envy and flattery. Instinctively, we wondered: if everything is so fast and drastic, are we using our life well?

Our time is limited and we must use it well. “Be like gardeners: invest your energies so that everything you do will last a lifetime or longer”, he said two years ago in a speech addressing university students in Rome.

Why did it have to be Sergio Marchionne to remind us of all this? Because, accordingly to the world’s standards, he had so much: power, fame, money, admiration, the dynamism of the new, long “middle age” – and with so much he had to depart, abruptly.

It made us all more humble, in a time proud of its own arrogance.

Thank you old boy, with your ever present sweater.

(Extracted and adapted from Beppe Severgnini’s “Usiamo bene la nostra vita”, Corriere, 27.7.18)


168 hours, make them count. Mrs Moneypenny for #FearlessFridays

Energy is the hallmark of success, and your energy comes from only one source, you.
— Prof. Heather McGregor

ownthewayoulive Heather McGregor fearless fridays

London, April 30th, light rain and wind do not seem to bother the busy and energetic Mayfair vibe as I walk past the familiar Ritz hotel, heading to my 2pm meeting on the historical St. James street.

As I push open the heavy doors of her office building I am greeted by a polite and matter-of-factly “Hello. You must be here for Heather”. I get in the elevator and realize that no matter how many wonderful and famous people I have come across in my life, I still have an incredible admiration for women and men that have left a mark, on society and on my own life.

As a curious reader of her column in the Financial Times for many years, as a reader of her highly inspiring books and later as I prepared material for my work at the World Economic Forum this year, I could never stop admiring, being inspired and amused by her wit and wisdom.

Director of headhunters Taylor Bennett, author of the Financial Times' Mrs Moneypenny column (in which she refers to her children as cost centres one, two and three, this had me empathizing long before I had children myself!), executive Dean of Edinburgh Business School, champion of diversity in the workplace, CBE (Commander of the British Empire) for services to business, director of Non-Standard Finance PLC and IGT plc, and member of the Honours Committee for the Economy. Does this sum up Prof. Heather McGregor?

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Her book ‘Mrs Moneypenny’s Careers Advice for Ambitious Women’ has helped women all over the world to conquer their career challenges with her wit and straight talking, and has been praised by Arianna Huffington as a wisdom-filled guide that “does the invaluable service of redefining success and happiness for everyone.
She is described as an international business leader with many strings to her bow, an academic, author, TV presenter, philanthropist and financial journalist. Somehow she also has found time to qualify as a private pilot and do two seasons of stand-up comedy at the Edinburgh Fringe.

I found out years ago that the average life span is 4,000 weeks. Normally this statement announced to adults results in a collective gulp. The day I found out that our weeks are zipping by in a blur I decided I was going to shift gears and own the way I lived my life (that’s where the name of my 4 year old blog comes from, in case you are wondering) and leave behind highly uninspiring energy drainers, arrogance and people who love to hear themselves complaining. I have been on a mission since then to achieve the milestones and goals I had for long dreamt about, to surround myself with positive doers and givers. How did she do it I wonder? 

mrs money penny career advice Manuela Andaloro ownthewayoulive fealessfridays

“What you know represents the foundations of your career. But you won`t be able to build much above the first floor if you don’t have the right materials, and the most important material of all is connections – a network. The truth is, if you want to achieve your goals in life, you need to be both good at what you do and good at building relationships with people who matter.” (Extract from Careers Advice). Needless to say that part of the inspiration that led to one of my businesses, SmartPlan, comes from her advice.

And may I add, you will need your best emotional intelligence, strong soft skills and charisma to be able to connect and stay in regular contact with your network. “Developing a style that works for you and shows people the real “you” – personal chemistry counts for a lot”. “A good place to start is offering help to others when you don`t need anything yourself. What are the top two or three things that you want people to remember you for?” (Extract from Careers Advice)

Less than a year ago I was sitting in our garden on a weekend watching my kids playing while (re)reading two of her most famous books. Thinking of timelines, business plans and figures and getting inspired by who I consider one of the most successful leaders on self-brand and witty thought leadership.

Fast forward of 10 months, I have left my corporate role after 17 years, set up two running businesses, have opened many doors, and the one I am pushing open right now is the door of Heather`s London office.

As I enter our meeting room, Heather is finishing a business call, I sip my tea and write down a few early thoughts next to my meeting agenda, a few seconds later she wraps up her call and greets me with a welcoming smile and much interest. One great “secret” of the best leaders I know? Not only showing, but genuinely having interest in who sits in front of you.

We speak for 45 minutes, about her current projects and mission, of my businesses and past career, of combining motherhood with busy schedules, my years in London, her years writing for the FT, time management, learning to say no and third dimensions. We agree to this interview, and to a few more next steps, we speak some more about the importance of social capital, her current platform with BBC, and I even get her fresh perspective on social media channels.

Heather McGregor Manuela Andaloro ownthewayoulive fearlessfridays SmartPlan

Q. Heather, much has been written about you over the years and in many interviews. Today I would like to reveal a few angles of your professional life and the impact you have had. Shall we start with who is Heather McGregor today?

A. I am a full-time academic and head of the Business School at Heriot-Watt University.

Q. What is the best and worst decision you've ever made?

A. Best – to marry my husband as he is the most supportive husband you could ever find.

Worst – probably selling my house in London just before property prices really took off.

Q. What do you think is the most significant barrier to female leadership?

A. I think there are 10 major barriers that stand in the way of a women’s career progression and I list all 10 in my book Careers Advice for Ambitious Women but to give you an example think about the dual language people use when talking about male and female leaders, when did you ever hear the word ‘strident’ used about a man?

Q. What woman inspires you and why?

A, I meet new women who inspire me every day, to give you an example I recently interviewed Jayne-Anne Gadhia, CEO of Virgin Money, who I found very inspiring and whose new book, the Virgin Bank is a must read . I feel equally inspired by the woman who leads my business in Asia, Sarah Crawshaws, who qualified as a helicopter pilot at the age of 21.

Q. You once said “do not let a year go by without a clear goal to pursue”. Only one?

A. I have one goal for personal development reasons, but I’m sure there’s lots of other goals you can set to do with work and family. But I think every woman should have one personal development goal they should set for themselves which if they achieve will add massively to their self-confidence.

Q. What’s a typical day like for you?

A. I travel a lot so no two days are the same. But if I’m in Edinburgh, my day normally starts with my husband bringing me a cup of tea at 6 o’clock in the morning, I drink this while looking out at the Marina and reading the morning papers. I then normally cycle along the Union Canal to my work at Heriot-Watt University where I try to see as many people as I possibly can in the hours given and then I cycle home. We are lucky to have lovely light in Scotland till late which allows me to cycle rather than take the car. Once home I have dinner with my husband and go to bed.

Q. If you had to start over from scratch, knowing what you know now, what would you do differently?

A. I would qualify as a chartered accountant; this is the one thing I regret in life.

Q. What’s the most important business or other discovery you’ve made in the past year?

A. The power and brand of Adam Smith who lived from 1778 to when he died in 1790 in Panmure House, a building purchased and rejuvenated by Edinburgh Business School which is opening in the Autumn of this year.   

Q. Any success habits you would like to share?

Credits: Time magazine

Credits: Time magazine

A. There are 168 hours in week make them count. This includes sleeping!

Q. How do you manage your energy?

A. I’ve learnt to say no. People ask me to do things all day long, and its not always pleasant but saying no is a necessary life skill.

Q. What drives you?

A. Wanting to make a difference.

Q. How would you describe the impact you have had on people and on the world?

A. I hope my legacy is the foundation  (Taylor Bennet Foundation) I established in 2008 to develop black and minority ethnic graduates  so they have a better opportunities in the job market.

Q. There is a large debate going on around the future of work, talent retention, women and millennials values. What do you think the future holds?

A. We are going to live longer and we are all going to have multiple employers. I think everyone should plan for this and visit the 

Q. A few final words of wisdom for our career-oriented, professionals and entrepreneurs alike, women and men?

A. There is no such sentence as I can’t do it; the correct sentence is, I can’t do it alone.

Thank you Heather!