Rest Easy, Chief

I count myself exceptionally fortunate to have worked with so many wonderful people during my professional life, which is now in its fourth decade. From time to time (mostly during one of my daily walks), I reflect on how some of those people have shaped my career, either through the things they taught me or in the way they treated me and others. Those moments usually leave me both humbled and grateful in equal measures, while inspiring me to do the same for others I work with.

One of those people was Peter Shortall, who took me under his wing during the early years of my career and who remained a close and loyal friend long after our working days had come to an end (in 2004 when our employer left the Irish business landscape).

There was something about how Peter went about things – seamlessly spotting those important moments to say or do the right thing when it was needed most, or not at all.

He was a constant source of guidance and reassurance – the ultimate mentor, role model, confidante and friend.

Tragically, Peter died in December 2022 and left a large hole in the hearts and minds of those who knew him and those who loved him. I feel grateful that I was able to spend a little time with him a couple of times before he left this world, as we recounted the good times and reflected on life and family – the things that mattered most to Peter (apart from Golf, Leinster Rugby and Chelsea FC).


Something that I noticed about Peter was that he often called those he worked closely with, “chief”, either in everyday interactions or simply as a welcome or farewell gesture on a phone call. I initially viewed this as a simple term of endearment for everyone but later came to realise that it was, in fact, an accolade bestowed upon a select few that he respected deeply, both professionally and personally. I feel honoured to have been among those he addressed in this way.

In more recent times as the occasion of his first anniversary approached, I began to contemplate on his use of the term “chief” as a sign of respect for others, and what this actually said about him. In my view, the very essence of this accolade rests within the qualities he showed in his own life.

C is for … caring, courageous and courteous

Peter cared deeply for those he worked with, in ways that extend far beyond getting the job done. He was the ultimate gentle giant (being as tall as he was), with the enviable courage to question things on behalf of others to ensure we got the right decision, all while being courteous to everyone and everything, in every way possible.

H is for … helpful, honest and humble

I genuinely think Peter spent the majority of his working life helping others, no matter what the cost to his own duties. He gave things the precise amount of time and energy they needed in order to get the best outcome, often sacrificing his own time and energy, and did so with a sense of honesty that any person will do well to emulate in their own lifetime. God help you if you tried to thank him or compliment him, too, because he was humble beyond words in that regard, and always reflected the thanks back onto the person expressing the gratitude – selfless in everything he did.

I is for … intelligent, inclusive and inspiring

Peter was an enormously intelligent person and a brilliant problem solver – qualities that he put to good use in every aspect of his life, inside and outside of work. He was also very inclusive of others in his work – long before the term Diversity, Equity & Inclusion was coined – and we all took great inspiration from how he approached his work, not just in terms of the outcomes he got but also for the manner in how he went about getting them.

E is for … empathetic, easygoing and endearing

Showing empathy was a big deal for Peter, although I don’t think he ever did so consciously as it was just a part of who he was. His listening ear was ever present and was accompanied by a level of understanding that was hard to equal. His easygoing nature was a natural complement to this, all of which made him one of the most endearing people you’d have the good  fortune to meet.

F is for … fair, funny and friend

If you asked Peter for an opinion on something, he gave it to you. It may not have been what you expected or wanted to hear, but it was always a fair and honest assessment of the situation based on the facts as he saw them. His fairness never once left you feeling offended or disappointed, though, just more informed and energised. 

He also had an incredible sense of humour to suit every occasion – deadpan and dry when needed as well as quick witted and well timed when delivering the killer punchlines.

Most of all, though, Peter was a friend to all who knew him. Apart from his duties as a family man, this was by far his finest quality in my view, and one we’ll all do well to emulate in our own lives.

Rest easy, Chief, and thank you!