Excerpt from President & CEO Magazine
Leaving A Legacy
When your name comes up after you retire, will they remember your contribution? Are you planning out your legacy or are you outsourcing it to others, many of whom have different values? IN other words, are you so caught up in the day-to-day operations today that your are losing sight of this vital long-term objective, namely defining and building your legacy?
The legacy we leave behind is the imprint that lasts after we've retired or move on. It is the lasting impact that we've had on others throughout our careers. For the corporate owner, whose name is on the firm, legacy also reflects the corporate culture and the perception of the firm in the business arena and the community.
If you haven't thought about the legacy that you're building today, isn't it time you began contemplating it? Your legacy does serve a pragmatic purpose. As the corporate leader, the example you set in your words and actions influences the way business is done, how employees conduct themselves, and how they treat customers and each other. But there is a deeper, philosophic purpose as well. Building a legacy brings greater meaning and purpose to what you do every day. When you see your professional career as more than a money-generating enterprise, you begin to grasp how you can make a difference among employees, colleagues, the community, and society at large. This brings far greater satisfaction than social standing or material possessions.
Years ago, I read an article in the September 29, 1991, issue of Bottom Line Personal, the message of which remains with me to this day. The article described the findings of Dr. Gerald Kushel, an author and motivational speaker, who categorized people's lives according to their successful careers, satisfying work, and rich personal lives. All of the 1,200 people studied - from executives to blue-collar workers - had achieved success. But that success was often one-dimensional. For example, he found that 15% of those individuals did not enjoy either their jobs or their personal lives - even though they were considered to be successful. Another 80% enjoyed their work, but their personal levies were not satisfying. Only 5% enjoyed both their work and their personal lives, thus achieving success on all levels.
By this measure, how successful are you? While you may enjoy the financial rewards and a comfortable lifestyle, are you achieving the maximum fulfillment from your life? Without a sense of purpose, your achievements will seem less than satisfying. Your success will be measured only on one level, and the legacy you are building will be limited.
Building Your Legacy Today
Focusing on your legacy doesn't begin when you make your retirement plans. It is part of your leadership today. It is the essence of what Stephen Covey calls "beginning with the end in mind." While few of us start a career thinking about the impact make over the next 20, 30 or 40 years, a legacy - like a reputation - is built carefully and skillfully over time. Consider:
What values and standards does your organization embrace? Are they articulated in a mission statement that is communicated to all members of the organization, from the top down? Or is your mission statement merely a piece of paper on the wall?
Have the managers and employers at your firm emulated the mission, values and standards that you set? Do they reflect positively the corporate culture of the firm in their actions, how they treat their customers, their interactions, with each other, the way they communicate, and even how they dress?
Have you taken the time and opportunity to be a mentor to others? Have you extended yourself not only to your direct reports, but also to other employees? Knowing that you've made a difference in the lives of those around you will bring far more meaning and purpose to your life.
Life Well Lived
Finding greater purpose and meaning in our lives transcends job titles and socio-economic standards. In fact, I believe that the need for a deeper context for what we do every day is a basic human longing, which underscores our need for interpersonal connections.
I'm always awed when I meet someone who has achieved a level of financial or professional success who strives to make an impact on others. Many of these people express it as a desire to "give back" in gratitude for what they have achieved.
A few years ago, I was asked to give a keynote address to a group of top sales executives at the peak of their careers. What could I possibly say to motivate these top-performing individuals? To prepare for my presentation, I interviewed each of these executives, wanting to know what was a driving force for them now that they had reached virtually every professional goal they had set for themselves. Each of them echoed the same sentiment. They wanted to make a difference by mentoring and helping other who were starting out on their career paths. It wasn't enough to have achieved their professional success.
y challenge to you is to ask yourself, what is your legacy? What values and standards have you communicated to your staff that they carry out in the business world? What lasting impact are you making today, which will continue to influence the company far into the future?
Think about the legacy you wish to leave even if you have no intention of departing now - or 20 years from now! Living and working with a desired end-goal in mind, you will become more thoughtful in your actions, more purposeful in your communication, and more attuned to the meaning of what you do.