A Conscious Legacy

Last night, I was doing some blog surfing when I came across a blog by a gentleman named Rick Forbus.  In one of his posts, he was recanting the recent loss of his father and the importance of the legacy that he left.

Rick made a great statement in his post, “Leaders are conscious of their legacy.

As the night went on, my mind kept drifting back to this statement.

I think there is real truth and power in this statement.  I have one small tweak though  – “Good leaders are conscious of their legacy.”

And not only are they conscious, but they are also deliberate, passionate, and diligent when it comes to the legacy that they are creating.

They realize that they have the power to build up, grow, nurture, develop, encourage and inspire others; just as much as they have the power to do the opposite.  The question though is, “What will they choose to do with their time?”

One of my favorite leadership quotes is from baseball hero Jackie Robinson who said, A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” 

As stated by Al Duncan, what Jackie meant was “Do something to breakdown a barrier or carve out a path for someone else, not once, but as often as you can.”

Leadership is not about one time; it’s about as many times as possible.

There are many types of legacies that leaders can leave, but what I want to focus on here are four words for those of you aspiring to be good (or even great) leaders.  In thinking about the legacy you will leave, be:

  • Conscious.  Be aware of what you are doing.  Know what your words, body language, and actions really say.  Know how they impact others.  Be self-aware of the message you send – always.  Leaders are always “on”.
  • Deliberate.  Be intentional about growing and developing others.  Seek out opportunities to nurture others – don’t be a passive bystander.   The greatest legacy you will leave behind is that in which you have invested in others.   Purposefully and actively think through how those within your sphere of influence will best be encouraged – and then act on it.
  • Passionate.  Be fanatical in your advocacy and support of other people.  Clear their path, give them the tools, and then get out of the way – and not just once – do it over and over again.  When they don’t think they can do it, lend them your energy and inspire them to new heights.
  • Diligent.   Be tenacious.  Developing others is hard work. It may take you many attempts with some people, but I promise you that the reward of seeing them blossom is absolutely worth it.

Leaving a legacy is not something that happens after you’ve left this earth.  Leaving a legacy is about now.  It’s about the investments that you made yesterday, today, and the one’s you’ll make tomorrow.

So, be conscious – be deliberate – be passionate – and be diligent in the legacy that you are creating in others.

What are you doing about your legacy today?


Calling an Audible

I love American Football.  Besides the competitiveness and game itself, there are so many parallels to life and business.

I was reminded of one this last week; the art of the “audible”.

I found myself in a meeting with several senior executives.  My presentation was ready to go.  But then, as I listened to the pre-meeting conversation, tone, and watched the non-verbal cues, I decided to cut my presentation short and eliminate one of the elements.  I called an audible.  Did this work out for me?  Only time will tell.

For those of you that are unfamiliar, an audible is simply changing the play based upon what you are seeing.

Peyton Manning calling an audible. Source: Indystar

If you’ve ever watch a really skilled quarterback, they are amazing at reading what is in front of them and have a knack at making the changes to best deal with the situation to gain the best possible outcome.

The same is true in business.   You should be very familiar with this concept.  You probably do this often instinctively without thinking about it.  Your environment isn’t what you expected, so you adjust.

However, more often than not, we find ourselves calling audibles at times that we didn’t expect or over situations that we didn’t expect.  This makes us reactionary.  We end up having to rely on our gut, experience, knowledge, instinct, luck, and the ability to pull it all together suddenly to make it all work.  Some people are better at this spontaneous activity than others.  And sometimes it works out for us and sometimes it doesn’t.

What if you weren’t so reactive, but rather – proactive?  Would you improve the odds of your audible being successful?

As I mentioned earlier, there is an “art” to the audible.  So, my answer to the above is yes – you can improve your outcome.

What is this art?  If you study great quarterbacks, you’ll notice that they have a few things in common.

  • They are knowledgeable.  Simply put, they know their business.  They have a wealth of information and experience to pull from.  While this serves well in a reactionary mode, it is even more potent when it is used proactively and you are calculated in making adjustments.
  • They are skilled at reading their environment.  They pay close attention.  They notice every detail.  They are anticipatory.  They are aware of everything that is happening around them.  They understand what changes in their environment mean.
  • They have alternative plans.  They have pre-planned and created alternative scenarios.   Based upon specific changes in the environment, they already know what to do differently – and even better – what to tell the team to do differently.

How do you become good at calling an audible?   Certainly, practice will make you better.  Being knowledgeable and having good alternative plans involves knowing your own business, pre-planning, and knowing when to invoke which alternative plan.

Reading your environment though is a skill you have to develop.  Paying attention to what is happening around you is important.  Listening to tone and words.  Watching non-verbal cues (e.g., body language, eye contact, facial expressions).  Understanding what they all mean.

You can hone this skill by being deliberately attentive.  Try it in the next meeting that you attend.  Read your environment.  When you leave the meeting, take a moment to recap.  Was your read correct?  If not, what did you miss? This is a skill that will serve you well beyond just calling the audible.

As you’ve read through this post, you’ve probably thought of a few times where you’ve had to call an audible.  If you tried to count the number of times you do it, you will probably find that you do it more than you would have thought.

Calling audibles is a natural part of business, especially for leaders.  The goal, however, is to become good at it.

How good are you?  What can you do to become better?

3 Reasons to Embrace Your Scars

I was rummaging through some business photos the other day, when my youngest child said, “Daddy, what’s wrong with your face?”

The photo she was referring to was my “professional head shot” photo for work.

As I looked at the photo, I realized what she was referring to.

When I took the photo, the photographer immediately uploaded it to his computer and started doing his “magic”.  He said, “It’s amazing what the camera can see.”  When I asked him what he meant, he said, “I can see where your skin is damaged.  I can see blemishes you didn’t know you had.”  When I responded with an intrigued (and somewhat concerned) look, he said, “Don’t worry.  I can fix them.”

Then I watched him work.  He smoothed some skin out here.  Removed a scar there.  Gave me a little color.  Fixed my collar line.  At the time, I thought, “How cool.  This must be how they do it in the movies and magazines.”

What I didn’t realize at the time was that he wasn’t really capturing me.  He created a version of me that looked, well….”plastic”.   And my little one was sharp enough to pick up on that.

I looked deeper at the photo.  I started to account for the scars that were missing in the photo – and what each one stood for.  One from falling out of a tree.  Two from chicken pox when I was a child.  One from an outpatient surgery.   And others…

Scars mean many things.  They remind us of our adventures, risks, and even some of the dumb things we did.  Sometimes they remind us of success, while other times they remind us of defeat.  Sometimes they are a reminder of a funny story.  And sometimes they tell the tale of a painful and tragic event.

Regardless, they are a part of who we are.  And from the funny to the tragic, they tell the story of where we’ve been.

Personally, I have found that embracing my scars is an important part of my well-being.  I am mentally healthier because I allow them to remind me of:

  • Life lessons.  Most of us can account for every scar on our bodies – we know what happened, how, and when.  We remember the lessons that we learned – and are keen about not repeating our mistakes.
  • Identity.  Not all scars showcase a mistake, sometimes they tell the tale of who we are.   When I was a younger man, I worked for a short time for a farmer.  Before he hired me, he asked me to show him my hands.   When I did so, he nodded in satisfaction and said I could work for him.  Confused, I asked for an explanation.  He said that my hands had nicks and scars and that showed him that I wasn’t afraid to work.  Scars showcase experience and tell a tale.
  • Survival.  Regardless of whether the scar was caused by a major tragedy or a minor folly, they remind us that even in the worst of times – we had the fortitude to survive.   We persevered.  We endured.  And that reminder gives us hope the next time we face a difficult situation.

As I reflect on my own scars, I think not only about the physical scars, but emotional and psychological scars as well.  All of these together represent many lessons of risk and reward; recklessness and consequence; tragedy and triumph.  And it is up to me – it is up to you – to determine how to view our own scars.

We can try to hide and forget our scars and let them bring us down when we catch a glimpse.  OR we can embrace them, remember the lessons, and live stronger and wiser because of them.

Personally, I choose the latter.  These scars are part of who I am.  Their experiences have molded and shaped me into the person I am today.  I am thankful for them.

I have since retired my “professional head shot” photo.  I’ll go back and take another at some point, but this time, I’ll have the photographer leave the scars there – to properly reflect the real me.

How do you view your own scars?

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