A while back, Marshall Goldsmith wrote on his blog about dealing with being a “lame duck” in an organization—those senior, influential leaders who are either retiring or moving on. As usual, he hit the nail on the head. Rather than holding off on announcing a senior departure until the last minute (which can be operationally unnerving and is what tends to happen in a lot of organizations), he advised announcing with plenty of time for the exec to be a “happy and productive lame duck” – making decisions, aligning people around goals, coaching their successor, etc. I posted a comment to the effect that, having coached a couple of “lame ducks” in my time (including the executive administrator of a large hospital), I’ve found that framing the conversation about leaving around the concept of leaving a legacy has been both useful and helpful in keeping the exec on track as they move towards the exit.
I got a nice comment back from Dr. Goldsmith, and thought no more about it until I got an email from a colleague who was very much struck by the idea of “focusing on one’s legacy” (she called it an “amazing point”)—and encouraged me to blog about it.
Legacy is at the top of the pyramid of accomplishment that any of us can draw about our own lives, either personal or professional. Often we think in terms of legacy as being something for the wealthy and famous, and something that’s planned for towards the “end,” if you will, as in Bill Gates will leave an enormous legacy, while Joan Cook not so much. Bill’s legacy will be important to millions because he’s famous, and famous for his foundation and the money he can put towards global endeavors. I’m not famous (or wealthy!), but in my circle of family, friends and colleagues, my legacy matters to me as much as Bill’s does to him.
No matter who you are, the idea bears thinking about now: looking back from the “end” (retirement, the end of life, moving on from your current position, when your kids leave the house for good, when you sell the company or turn it over to a new generation), what legacy would you like to have created in your professional and/or personal life, and what steps taken now will get you there in the future? What do you want to be remembered for? A good coach can help those who are intrigued by or interested in the concept of legacy figure out what that means to them, and how to position themselves, and take the actions, to have it become a reality.