What do you want your professional legacy to be? This is very personal. Only you can decide what you want your legacy to be and what price you are willing to pay to make it happen. If you don’t decide for yourself where you ultimately want to be, the decision will be made for you. You will end up ceding control over your future to your employer and probably feel like a victim as a result. It is very likely you will take the path of least resistance. For some people identifying what they want their legacy to be is easy because they have already done the self examination necessary for the process. For others, the end goal is not so clear. Here are some questions to ponder as you contemplate what you want your executive legacy to be: What do you want to accomplish by the end of your executive career? To start with the end in view, you need to be able to visualize what the end is. Then you can work backwards to determine what you need to be doing now to make that happen. For example, you may want to look back at the end of your career and think fondly of sharing your knowledge of the field in TV interviews or perhaps being published in the mainstream media as well as in a professional journal. To work towards this goal you can start now by building professional relationships with journalists and editors of professional journals so that they know what you have to offer. It’s usually easiest to start with your local paper and work your way up from there if you eventually want exposure in the national media. How do you wish to be remembered by colleagues and direct reports? If you want to be remembered as a collegial, highly competent executive, then you need to be building that legacy now. You need an accurate assessment of how you are currently being perceived, and if that perception does not accord with how you want to be remembered, work on changing that perception now. What aspect of your work life do you find most enjoyable? It would truly be a shame if you look back at the end of your career to realize with dismay you never really found your sweet spot. You will be happiest and most fulfilled at the intersection of what you do best and what you enjoy the most. My advice is that you should maximize your strengths and shore up your weaknesses. By focusing on what you do best and what you enjoy most, you will make your greatest contribution to the world. Do your current resume and social media profiles reflect what you most want people to know about you? In order to set your sail on the right course to accomplish what you want with your career, you need to send a consistent message about who you are and what you are capable of. Up to 80% of all employers are now vetting candidates through social media before they call them for an interview. If you are not communicating your brand effectively through social media, you lessen the chances of getting to your end goal. What you communicate to employers can have a profound effect on what type of opportunities come your way. The following video embed is the recording of a recent webinar I facilitated. All current and "wannabe" executives should watch it. Executive legacy image from Shutterstock
A leader inspires and motivates others to do and be better. It’s about being a servant leader who focuses on the growth and well-being of others, regardless of title, bringing out the best in who they are.
Anyone can be a leader if they choose to develop the right skills. I know! I’ve made many mistakes along the way by focusing on the wrong things (i.e. micromanagement, poor communication, lack of flexibility, you get it). Once I realized that leadership requires being able to connect, motivate, inspire, and be present, I began to make a real difference in the companies and people I worked with.
Here are four things I do to earn my leadership every day.
Strong communication skills include being a good listener as well as customizing your communication style to suit each situation and team member. This is an area I’m continuously working on. I have written down the following and keep it visible in my work area so that when I interact with anyone, I am conscious of my communication style:
- Present, Attentive, & In The Moment
- Ensure Active Listening
- Ask Questions (Open-Ended, Clarifying, Probing) That Engage My Audience
- Not Interrupting
- Withhold Judgment
- Share Information That Is Helpful
- Brainstorm With My Team
- Summarize My Understanding
A leader who has strong communication skills will build trust and improve morale across the organization.
I grew up in the “kill or be killed” era of business and I’m glad it’s changed to a focus of connecting with people to form lasting relationships. I’ve learned to be a more empathetic leader who is able to understand the needs of others, their point of view, what they are feeling, and why they act the way they do. That said, I still have more to learn as empathy is an emotional and thinking muscle that becomes stronger with use. What I try to do with my daily interactions is:
- Be Authentic
- Show Genuine Interest In Others
- Help Others Wherever I Can
- Be Self Aware
- Pay Attention To Body Language
- Be Open To Feedback
Empathy is a key element of servant leadership and leaders who are able to show compassion tend to be the most admired and are also able to drive significant business results.
Change is accelerating and at an unprecedented pace. In order to be successful, leaders need to embrace change in this constantly evolving global environment. I for one love change. While it can be somewhat scary at times, it can also bring about many opportunities. I’ve worked hard to embrace change and lean into the unknown by focusing on the following in my work and personal life:
- Being open to seeking and seizing new opportunities
- Have a clear purpose, develop a plan and prioritize new opportunities
- Remove obstacles that inhibit the path of progress to create quick wins
- Seek continuous learning and feedback
- Embrace risk-taking and the possibility of failure
- Take action quickly
Leaders who embrace change tend to be more adaptable, flexible, innovative, strategic, and have engaged employees. Change creates transformation and growth.
Develop Your Team
I was taught how to do my job but not how to be a leader who manages and develops teams. So when I first started managing teams, I struggled with continuing to do things myself vs. learning how to develop and inspire people. Along the way, I’ve made a number of mistakes, but through that, I’ve had some amazing nuggets of success that I work hard to put into practice all the time.
- Set clear goals and expectations
- Focus on serving, teaching, & mentoring
- Allow team members to problem solve
- Invest in people: resources, training, education
- Give direct feedback and ask for feedback
- Celebrate the wins and be quick to praise
- Foster collaboration and open communication
- HAVE FUN!
I’ve found that to earn my leadership every day requires a continuous journey of personal development and grace. Great leaders inspire others, bringing out the best in them while also leading by example. I hope these tips motivate you to earn your leadership. You’ve got this!
Read more Show less