A Lasting Legacy

When delivering training on leadership skills, I often start by the asking the delegates what legacy they want to leave by the end of their careers. I ask them to imagine they get a plaque on the wall when they leave the business and to tell me what they would like that plaque to say about them and what they have contributed.

On one notable occasion, a female director who had already expressed a wish to apply for Managing Director announced that her plaque would be inscribed “she was a really nice person, liked by everyone”.

Oh dear!

I have two problems with this:

1. It is good to be liked and lovely to be nice, but as business legacies go it might suggest she will be instantly forgotten. It’s weak. It’s soft. It smacks of a team player not a team leader. Is that what she wanted to convey?

2. The best legacies are often left by people who spent their life striving for more, pushing for change, achieving what others felt (or even said) was impossible. To do this you have to make life uncomfortable at times. You also have to make tough decisions, be prepared to be a bit ruthless and you will definitely have to enjoy pushing others out of their comfort zones. Nice people who want to be liked seldom do any of these things.

So what would your plaque say? Assuming you continue with your career for the next 20 years, at the end of that period, what would you like your legacy to be? If you can, why not take a minute to think about it now? (And remember that committing it to paper will bring it just that little bit closer to making it a reality.)

And now you know what legacy you want to leave, can you identify anything that might prevent you from actually achieving that? Now is the time to identify and deal with the potential blockers i.e. the things that will prevent you from achieving what you really want to achieve. And no one wants you to look back in ten or twenty years and think ‘if only I’d …’

And while you are thinking about your ‘blockers’, here are my thoughts about two of the most common blockers I regularly observe, plus a few ideas about how to overcome them:

Blocker 1 – Aversion to risk:

Achieving stretching goals and doing something that others may not have done, often comes hand in hand with taking risks. They might be calculated risks, but even just committing to seeing if you can punch above your weight involves risk. Making changes involves risk. Taking out financial investment involves risk. Employing people involves risk. Risk is inherent in almost everything we do and aversion to risk is a serious blocker to achievement for many.

If this is you, take time to think about what risks you feel comfortable with and what risks make you lose sleep. Not all risks will make you lose sleep so don’t even try to use this as an excuse (and if you doubt this, just ask yourself whether you see yourself as taking a risk every time you get in a car to drive somewhere or every time you go on-line to make a purchase). Analyse your actual fears around risk, then identify what you can put in place to minimise risk (and therefore stress).

Think through the benefits to be gained from taking risks. Remind yourself of why you want to take risks and what the rewards might be. Then build up your ability to handle risk by regularly taking risks; just little risks at first, then slowly building up to bigger risks. This way you should slowly develop your comfort levels and if ever anything feels like too big a risk, just take it down a notch and then slowly build back up again.

Blocker 2 – Lack of confidence:

I once heard a business coach say that he was yet to meet a managing director who did not at some point say ‘I’m waiting to be found out, I’m waiting for my staff to realise I’m not up to it!’

How many times have similar thoughts gone through your head? Others might not own up to it, but I can guarantee that the majority of those you know who have set up their own businesses will regularly be having similar thoughts. So my first message to you on this one is ‘you are not alone!’

But getting back to the actual confidence issues, did you know that about 80% of our ‘head’ talk is negative. We endlessly berate ourselves, tell ourselves we should have done better. Could have done better and think about what we’re not good at.

Go on! Think back to that half hour soliloquy you had with yourself on that last car journey when you were convinced nothing was going quite right!

But ‘head’ talk is destructive and damaging so be strict with yourself and stop it. Simply ‘stop it’. For 80% negativity in a day is enough to make the strongest person crumple. So don’t allow yourself to continue this damaging ‘head’ talk. I do not give you permission to wallow in negativity! You must not give yourself permission to wallow in negativity! Instead, turn it around and make sure that from this moment on you make sure that 80% of your ‘head’ talk is positive.

Developing confidence… it can be that simple!

And, returning to the legacy you are going to leave, how about really committing to it now by telling all of us what you are striving for, using the comments box below. We will all be delighted to encourage you in your journey and by sharing your aims, you never know, you might just inspire others as well!




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