Making Up for Lost Time

Over the years, various leaders have come to me following discussions of “legacy,” and expressed their desire to do something (or whatever they can) to make up for lost time and opportunities at work to leave something of lasting significance behind.

They’d come to realize legacy is a scoreboard – tallying up all the plusses and minuses of the way they’ve worked with others. It isn’t just a measure of getting the job done or delivering business results … but a statement of how they went about it, and the residual effects of their methods.

Legacy measures relationships – the overall sum of their interactions. And how people feel about the leader? Respect for some. Resentment of others.

At some point, they’d begun to wonder how they’ve done on a personal level?

Can They Change?

If they were to do things differently, the question is, “How hard would it be for them to change the way they treat, train, encourage, and support their people?” Fortunately, it’s never too late to increase the positive deposits they make into their relationships account. But simply stated, “They gotta wonna.” Every leader must decide if they’re willing to put in the effort to clean up this area of their leadership practice?

Even the most “stubborn, results-only, no B.S., stick-to-the-facts and get-the-job done” leader, can succeed by implementing some simple fixes that improve the way people respond to them. The pay-off is in the quality of the work that gets done.

What Could They Do to Make a Positive Difference?

I suggest, why not go to their direct reports and ask, “What can I do to help you become more successful?” That would be a good start.

And then pour themselves into their staff’s personal / professional growth. That means across-the-board – with everyone – not for just a chosen few. Becoming a proactive mentor, champion, and supporter.

This means going beyond encouraging, but participating-in, and celebrating their progress. Showing each person that she/he believes in them … and they are, or can become, the most capable workers in the business. The leader exists to help them make steady progress / advancement / get results.

It also means making sure they know how important their work is. How important their contribution is. How confident the leader is in them. How thankful he/she is for their efforts. How much they’re valued.

What’s the Main Point?

Of course, a longer “to-do” list can be made, but these points illustrate that leaders who leave a legacy (achieve a lot) are those who focus on finding greatness in every person. And actively pursue it. As stated in Sheryl Sandberg’s book, ‘Lean In,’ “… performance is highly dependent upon the reaction people have to one another.”

Leaders leaving a true legacy don’t ignore their workers, or compete with them, or diminish them, or try to fix every fault. They don’t harbor ill-will. They set aside differences and work for the benefit of all. They take imperfect people (which includes themselves) and build them up. They root for them. Put effort into them. Care about them.

When Do They Do This?

Regularly. Every day. At all times. They see this as the focus of their position. It’s their work. And it’s what’s important. It’s what succeeds … and makes the business succeed. It becomes excellence in all their endeavors.

Everyone wins with that.

– Jerry Strom

Twitter: @JerryRStrom. For more information about our leadership and team development programs, please visit . Join the mailing list to receive new articles as they are published. This article is based on research conducted for ‘Relationships at Work Research,’ by Jerry Strom & Company, Inc. Find short insights on Twitter at #Relationships Report

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