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Mind the Gap

Building a legacy to be proud of

Posted by Amanda Whiteford

Each time we leave an organisation, we can leave a legacy behind too. It isn’t only something to consider at the end of your career. This blog provides some questions you might ask yourself to ascertain where you are on this journey.

Why do you want to leave a legacy? Is it to feed some inner motivation or desire? Or is it something you feel obliged to do, or something you want to do as it will help fuel future career moves? Understanding why we want to leave a legacy will help us find the motivation and time to achieve it and to focus on the right goal.

What do you want to be known for when you leave your organisation? By your clients, your stakeholders and your colleagues? Is it something concrete like a new system or way of working? A new product or service? Or is it something about leadership, trust and respect – embodying those values and living them out, influencing others to do the same? Whatever it is, it needs to be meaningful for you.

Having decided on the why and the what – to what extent have you already achieved the goal? Are you known as a change agent, bringing new ideas and initiatives to the business with a long track record of success? Or do you like the idea of doing this but feel compelled to leave roles after only a couple of years – to drive your career forward – leaving little time to build a legacy? Or perhaps you would like to be perceived as an inspirational, authentic leader, like others you admire, but in truth know that you need to develop your own leadership skills first.

If you have a clear goal and motivation regarding your legacy but feel you have yet to achieve it, then review your development plans. What have you done this last year to build towards your goal? What might persuade you to stay longer in a role, to put down roots and build long-lasting relationships? Do you require a coach to challenge you and keep you on track? Start making concrete commitments to work towards the legacy you desire. Leaving a real legacy takes time and dedication.

If you have already established the track record and reputation you desire, how do you turn this into a lasting legacy?
  • Do you mentor or coach others so you can share your experience, skills and expertise?
  • Do you run workshops or skills sessions?
  • Are you seen as approachable so others not only admire your achievements but feel they can approach you for support and advice?
  • Do you empower others, by giving them the space to solve problems for themselves, to experiment and learn within a safe environment?
  • Does your demeanour influence the culture within your team, your division, even your company?
  • Do you live out your values in a constructive, positive and supportive way?
If not, consider how you might doing some of these.

Is your desired legacy flexible enough to withstand change? Within a year or so of leaving a role the organisation might change dramatically – can the legacy you’ve left withstand this? Good leadership skills touch many hearts and minds and leave a lasting impression on others no matter what changes occur in the future.

Products, services and systems are often vulnerable to change unless we ensure we teach people what was achieved and why and continue to measure the impact and value provided to the organisation. I’m sure you’ve read about ‘lost corporate memory and knowledge’ following large redundancy programmes, and the same is true when individuals move around an organisation if they don’t realise the necessity of capturing others’ hearts and minds before they leave. Handover notes should be about far more than a list of files, processes and outstanding work actions.

We are often drawn to considering the legacy we may leave behind as our careers draw to a close, and the questions above will help you measure how far along you are on your journey. The questions will also help if you are even more pro-active, and aware that each time you move – even internally – you have the opportunity to leave a lasting legacy for good.