Oct 112011

What Will People Say About You When You’re Gone?

What’s really important about the work you do? At the end of the day how do you want others to remember you? Not everyone wants to leave a legacy and not everyone gives it consideration, but in reality the question is not whether or not you are leaving a legacy, but what kind of legacy you will leave.  What is a legacy and what can you do to leave a positive one?


Your legacy is simply the total sum of the difference you make in people’s lives. It’s not always obvious; it can be direct or indirect, formal or informal.  You won’t always know the impact you have on other people’s lives.  You certainly don’t sit and wonder about your legacy, or base our decisions on questions like: “What will this decision do for my legacy?”

A positive legacy doesn’t just happen; you have to work at it by influencing those around you with your words and actions. These actions may include standing for what is right, and taking risks with quiet tenacity.  Being good teachers and remembering that everyone has to learn and grow.  Being approachable and creating a safe and positive environment in your workplace.  It certainly requires being a visionary and charting a course for the future.  You influence those around you by demonstrating the way you live, the words you speak, and the actions you take in your daily lives.

Do you believe your leaving a legacy?  If you answered no, then think again, because we all are creating and leaving a legacy.  The question is not if you will leave a legacy, the question is: what kind of legacy will you leave.

Here are three key things you can do to create a positive legacy.

  1. Maintain a positive attitude
  2. Be persistent and make the extra effort
  3. Look in the mirror

Yes mirror. You need to look in the mirror of your life to see if you are striving to improve, making sure you are living up to your ability and expectations.  It’s important to regularly ask your spouse, close friends, executive coach and trusted colleagues what they see.  The answers won’t always be what you want to hear because you don’t always make the right calls. But if you accept the feedback in the sincere manner it is given, consider it a gift.  Without the mirrors you probably won’t receive it at all.

It’s not complicated to get that feedback.  Simply ask:  “How am I doing?”  Then sit back and listen without interrupting and without arguing.  This is a time to sit quietly and just listen, deeply.

You might be the rainmaker in your organization. You might be a brilliant strategist, the best salesperson, the one who drives in all the business, but if you quit or disappeared today, what would you leave behind? Would those who were around you think about things differently or would they emulate what you were doing? Would they say: “I’m never going to do that/be that/or act like him/her?”

It’s not about being popular or liked.  It’s more about being respected.  When you treat people with dignity and respect, when you support them, recognize them for the work they do, make them feel wanted and valuable, help them build their skills and show your confidence in them, it will make your and their job easier.  It will help create a lasting positive legacy.

The way that people think, behave, approach work and life as a result of having known you is the legacy you leave. It has little to do with your abilities, how well you performed our job or how smart you were.  It has everything to do with you, the person at work and in life. It has everything to do with your natural you, not your title or responsibilities.  You are the custodian of the future, and it’s up to you to make sure you leave things in better shape than you found them.

How are you measuring up?


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