It has often been said, the best way to be remembered is to leave a place better than you found it…but what does that really mean? In today’s marketplace, unlike the market of our parents before us, we won’t stay at one employer for our entire careers. Though I believe that to be a bit sad, it is reality. Oddly enough, it may ultimately make it more difficult for us as employees to be remembered for the contributions we make to our organizations and our colleagues during our careers. Because of the very nature of our work which is now more temporary or transitory, I put so much more time and effort into leaving a legacy for those who follow me. I believe that your legacy is represented by your body of work at each stage of your career and it often defines who you are as an executive. So now that we know what leaving a legacy is, how do we focus on improving it? I think we might start by asking ourselves if we are impacting people more than profits or if it is the other way around? Make no mistake, doing things like increasing profits, working longer hours and staying on top of the competitive landscape has a tremendous impact on the organization and it is certainly a way to garner top honors. As many of us know, it is also even more impressive to sustain that advantage year after year. Being the perennial top producer in your organization is a phenomenal accomplishment and companies should continue to recognize and reward employees with those accomplishments.
What sometimes gets overlooked are employees who demonstrate genuine affection for their colleagues, come to work every day as if that day were their first, and whom place others before themselves. People who make you feel good when you’re around them and give you the feeling nothing is impossible are truly unique. Their impact and their contributions stand the test of time simply because they help to create a culture of respect. Every day they are reminding their colleagues they truly care about them when times are good or when they’re bad. They extend that culture of respect and admiration to people at every level in the organization. Isn’t fostering that type of culture or “paying it forward” a big part of leaving your legacy? People who make that level of impact on an organization are always so difficult to replace. We hear that comment all too often when someone truly great retires after years of dedicated service. Over the last several years, I’ve paid more attention to the individuals who are the quickest to speak fondly of those people when they leave. By no surprise, those individuals themselves have learned the importance of leaving legacies and have made sharing their positive energy and their time a priority.
In retrospect, leaving a legacy is really our opportunity to “give something back.” It is our chance to honor those before us by making sure it not only doesn’t stop, it gets even better for everyone who follows us. I will be building my legacy by doing things that make my mentors more like my inspiration. These individuals give selflessly and make everyone around them feel like the most important person in the room. They focus on excellence in every aspect of their personal and professional lives. Their passion energizes everyone around them and it makes you excited to take on the next challenge. Though we might not always be “at the very pinnacle of our game,” we can certainly lend a hand by sharing the attributes that make us successful with one of our colleagues. Just taking a moment to see the skills we’ve shared with our coworkers make them successful is incredibly inspiring in and of itself. I tend to think that is where leaving a legacy starts. My father once said, “The most impressive thinkers in the room are often the most thoughtful.”
*Vice President of Sales, Walmart & Sam’s Club – Pepperidge Farms
*Title and company of the author reflect their position at the time article was written.
The opinions expressed here by guest bloggers are their own, not necessarily those of Stout Executive Search.