If you seek a monument

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The Great Fire of 1666 destroyed two thirds of the City of London. Christopher Wren was the architect who was responsible for rebuilding much of the city.

The work included the rebuilding of over fifty churches. Among the most magnificent of those buildings is St. Paul’s Cathedral. Wren is buried there. 

His tomb is covered by a simply inscribed slab of black marble. Nearby his son placed a memorial inscription in Latin. The English translation reads: “If you seek a monument, look about you.”

Wren’s buildings are everywhere. They are so much a part of the world of London that you almost overlook their influence. His ideas, like his monument are all around.

There are some managers who will grace the covers of business magazines or be memorialized in books. But most bosses don’t get that kind of recognition. They still have monuments, just not marble ones.

Over a decade ago, I spoke at the retirement of Art Jones. Art was, simply, the best supervisor I’ve ever seen up close. He was a man of immense integrity, great professional skill, and powerful simplicity.

Art was a police sergeant in the city of San Leandro, California. In his years as a sergeant he supervised every person who later rose to high rank. They spoke at his retirement, too, along with other officers and civilians who had worked with him.

Long after Art retired, I was sitting in on a meeting of senior officers at the department where Art spent his career. One of them had a proposal for a change in policy. Then another asked the question that was asked whenever someone wanted to do something.

“What would Art say about this?”

If you seek a monument …

Boss’s Bottom Line

You may never get formal recognition for your good work. You almost certainly won’t get a marble monument. Your monument is in the lives of the people you lead and the people they touch.

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