How often do you stop and think about the reason you work, the work you do, or a personalized notion of why you work? On a superficial level we work for income and benefits and some people may stop there, however, many of us work for meaning, personal fulfillment, and to contribute to something greater than ourselves. We seek to leave something behind even after we are gone, an opportunity to share our contribution to the world in a way that outlives our lifetime.
The average human spends 30% of their life at work and while children are often considered a legacy it also stands to reason that the workplace is one as well. Once we leave an organization we are only as good as the memory left behind. So the question begs, how do you want to be remembered? and do you find value in seeing your work as more than a job? While a legacy is as unique as the person that leaves it, here some key practices to building into yourself and your legacy:
Succession Plan for the Future
Great leaders live in a growth mindset and understand that they will not always be the future of work. They come to the table with a respect for their multigenerational workforce and an appreciation for the knowledge of younger employees. They work with their teams to understand how things can be better and build into those that will eventually take their place. The opportunity to share your experience through mentorship and education will allow eventual successors to carry an understanding of the past into the future; this is your legacy.
Build a Culture of Engagement
There are the leaders that solely focus on numbers and metrics and then there are those that focus on culture, team, and engagement. Not only are the culture leaders as effective as those that just focus on a quick win, they drive results long after they are gone; these are the leaders that build a long-term company. By creating an infrastructure that is built on trust, respect, and learning, you create a space for individuals to be their best and that connects to a feeling rather than a conceptual understanding. You are creating a space where people feel connected to their work and the mission of the company and this creates legacy and memory.
Model the Behavior
Leadership is not a job; it is a lifestyle. When you live a life that models the behaviors you want to see from your team and the culture you seek to build, you are becoming the person worthy of achieving that dream. Be intentional about your character whether it is a Monday morning staff meeting or a dinner out with a friend. Setting the intention to treat people with respect and kindness and to create moments where you can inspire, guide, and lead will cement your reputation and the behaviors and character of those you touched, even in your absence.
Be a Champion
When leaders make the time to champion others and greater than the individual causes, they separate themselves from the majority and become influencers. To champion is to enthusiastically support the people and things that require support. It’s stepping up for the underdog, it’s challenging the status quo, and promoting a mission that may be different or unrealized. A champion is remembered through those whose lives they have touched and for stepping up when others wouldn’t.
Become a Communicator
One of the key qualities of historically revered leaders is their ability to communicate. A leader that leaves a lasting impact is someone who inspired others through their voice: they motivate, excite, and drive people toward a goal or mission. And they have the power to empower others by getting those around them emotionally connected to a vision. They derive feeling and meaning from others through their words and they coach, provide feedback, and develop in connection. In the words of the late Maya Angelou, “People may not remember exactly what you said. But they will never forget how you made them feel.”
We all have an opportunity to do more than a job, to ensure our life means something more than collecting a paycheck. We have a chance to change the people around us by changing ourselves and how we choose to show up. Whether you are in a job for a short time or until retirement, you can elect to walk away as someone who made people feel good and who added an element of longevity to the organization. Perhaps when you change the way you show up for work the work may change and then you might change and then those around you would change. Let’s seek a better outcome and a lasting legacy of our good impact.
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