Management is a sometimes thankless, stressful, and difficult profession. Most of us don´t do this kind of work for the money or the fame and we often get neither. We manage because we want to make a big difference. We step up and into the mucky muck because we know we can leave things looking, sounding, and feeling better than when we took over as manager. That´s the vision that ties together millions of dedicated managers. I love working with managers because they are the engines of the organization. If the engine starts running 10% better, the effect is amazing. All managers want to make a difference. The particular shape of that impact is your legacy. When you leave the job or company, what mark do you want to leave?
What kind of a legacy would you like to leave? Is there a particular project that you want to be known for? Would you like to create an amazing team? Do you want to revolutionize the way your company plans for innovation? Do you want to lead record-breaking gains in financial performance? Imagine that you are a fly in the elevator one week after you leave. Two people are talking about you. What is it you want them to say?
In addition to the broad or grand accomplishments you seek, think about the ways in which you want to be known as a role model. Do you want to be known as the queen of exciting meetings (that would be my goal)? Or the king of provocative analysis? Do you want to be known for always being organized and prepared? Creative and innovative? Fun? Think about for what you want to be known and the type of reputation you seek to build.
Can you visualize your legacy — can you see it come to fruition? Notice the details of how success looks and include these details in your weekly and daily planning regimen. Spend 3-4 minutes every morning and every afternoon visualizing the legacy you want to leave. Repeated visualization is a powerful tool that will seep into your daily choices, actions, and conversations.
Being What You Seek
This subtitle is inspired by one of my all time favorite quotes from Mahatma Gandhi, "You must be the change you wish to see in the world." I believe this is true and remind myself of it often when I am dissatisfied with a result. You are leaving your legacy today — the question is, are you leaving the legacy you want to leave? If you want to be known for helping to turn around the department — start turning it around today. If you want to be known for being prepared and organized — be that today.
Being it today does not mean that we have arrived at the final level of performance — it means that who we are being is consistent with our goals. A really clear way to describe this is to use the example of diet and fitness. Let´s say you are 50 pound overweight and inactive. Your goal is to be vibrant and healthy and to one day run a marathon. You can´t run a marathon today and you should not try, but you can behave in a way that is consistent with being vibrant, healthy, and a runner.
- Consistent: Eat lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein, walk two miles, do 20 minutes of weight training, finish the evening with 20 minutes of yoga stretching and relaxation.
- Not consistent: Say you´ll exercise tomorrow, have a cheeseburger, fries, and cola for the third day in a row for lunch, think about what you will eat differently tomorrow.
Do you see the distinction? Sure, everyone has to have a Big Mac every now and then, but on balance are you being the change you seek to make in this world/your company? I had one pal who I both worked along side and coached. He wanted to leave a legacy of a strong and collaborative leadership team. The problem was that his style was sometimes too provocative, pushy, and intense. He was the biggest barrier to the team´s collaboration? On days that he remembered this, he was able to be consistent with his goal and modified his approach to build conversation and collaboration.
The best way to ensure that you leave the legacy you seek is to start being it today.