What legacy will you leave at your workplace?

What legacy will you leave at your workplace?

There’s a certain arrogance or hubris about what some people bring to a workplace and how they go about it, and there are those who leave a positive, lasting legacy.

What mark will you leave at your workplace?

I’ve just read Legacy by James Kerr. It explains how one of the most successful sports teams ever, the All Blacks, have maintained exceptional standards for decades. Ultimately their success is attributed to culture and character — at an individual level, and translates into taking responsibility for their actions and leaving the jersey in a better place than when they joined. No pressure…

Most of us would think a team with as high a win rate as the All Blacks would have a certain level of hubris, possibly arrogance but it’s not in their culture — the Maori and Polynesian cultures don’t tolerate it. ‘Getting above yourself’ is deeply frowned upon. As a result, humility is not only embedded in the culture of the All Blacks team, but is seen as a vital part of a player’s character. In many instances, players haven’t been selected not because they weren’t the best, but because they didn’t display character.

Relate this to your workplace and the parallels are immediately apparent

It reminds me of the story a CEO of a large manufacturer once told me. He had a brilliant sales guy, someone who had overshot his targets year on year, even the audacious stretch targets. The company hadn’t seen a better sales person.

He was a selling machine but a loner, he was on the road all the time and they hardly saw him. He was also judged differently to the rest of the sales force. He didn’t report for meetings; he didn’t submit his sales reports weekly like everyone else. His reports were inconsistent — some came monthly, some six weekly, one even took three months for the sales manager to receive. Yet there were no sanctions. Mr Big Sales was untouchable, he lived by a different code.

And then disaster — Mr Big Sales become Mr Sales Director. Within months people were leaving, it started with the sales team but soon spread to the admin support team. The exit interviews told the same story. No-one could work with Mr Sales Director, he was ‘too arrogant’, ‘lacked empathy’, ‘had no cultural alignment’, ‘displayed questionable ethics’ and so the list went on.

Finally, Mr Sales Director was asked to leave.

How to define your legacy at your workplace

The legacy you leave at your workplace or the company you started has to do with your purpose. Only once you’ve clearly defined your purpose can you decide on, and work towards, leaving a legacy. It could be a new business model, a new process, a methodology, a set of values and principles by which you do things around the workplace, an invention or innovation, transferring your skills, mentoring and motivating other employees, etc.

No matter your role, every person has a chance to improve what it is they do and how they do it for the next person.

A good starting point is to write down your purpose

There is a lot of reading on purpose, but two questions stick out for me:

  1. What are you passionate about?
  2. Why do you do what you do?

A great place to start is Simon Sinek’s ‘Start with Why’. Sinek’s position is based on the premise that

Knowing your ‘Why’ gives you a filter to make choices at work and at home which will help you find greater fulfilment in everything you do.

If you can articulate your why, you then have a clear purpose, you are able to excite yourself about what you do and why you do it; most importantly you will excite and engage those around you by your purpose.

Only once you have done this will you be able to start exploring the legacy you’d like to leave and ultimately how you leave your business or the business you work for in a better place.

Think of those you have worked with who have left an indelible mark on the organisation and then ask what they did and how they did it. You’ll soon discover it’s not only the senior people in a business who leave a legacy, but those in admin, on the workshop floor, driving the delivery trucks or the executive assistant, among others, who are more often than not the ones who have left the workplace a better place than when they joined.

At the risk of ending up as the next Willy Loman — the sad, unfulfilled character in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, know your purpose and then work to leave a positive legacy.


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