21 Ways to Leave a Lasting Legacy No Matter What You Make, Sell, or Do

What Does It Mean?

You could see it from the road…

The image of a lizard chipped into the stone's desert varnish.

It's nearly three feet long, over 1,000 years old, and probably took the artist several months to complete.

Standing on that hot windswept ledge with my wife and daughter in the Utah desert, many miles from the nearest person or car, looking at an ancient masterpiece, it was hard not to think about legacy.

Why is it there? What did the artist mean to communicate? What does it have to say to us?

Many of these answers are lost in antiquity. We simply don't know whether the images had spiritual significance, were ancient billboards, or were artistic displays meant to celebrate their subjects and the artists' ability.

What Will Survive You?

Every day you go about your work: you work with your team to make things, or sell things, or learn things, or work with clients and customers.

If you are especially talented or fortunate, you may make something that endures and changes the world…maybe.

But even if you do make, learn, or sell something amazing - how long will it endure? How long will it have significance? (The petroglyph lizard is very cool, but no longer has its original significance.)

Long after you are finished with your reports, spreadsheets, fundraising, meetings…long after the organization you started or work for has closed, sold, or you have left it…long after your daily work is forgotten…

What will survive you?

It isn't the "stuff" - the products, the sales, the decisions…many times, it's not even the organization. These things are no guarantee of a legacy.

It's the people.

Long after everything else fades away, your influence, your relationships, and how you impact the people around you…these things endure.

21 Ways To Leave a Legacy With Your Team

  1. Treat yourself as a human being - Create room in your life to laugh, to love, and to grieve. Invest in relationships that connect you to yourself and to life. It's hard to treat others with human dignity if you don't first do it for yourself.
  2. Listen - hear the joy, grief, frustration, and enjoyment in others. Learn their values, what motivates them.
  3. Create times to share life with your team. Something as simple as a meal and a discussion of dreams and accomplishments connect you to the people around you.
  4. Do not take yourself too seriously. The engineers sending astronauts into outer space factor in some margin of error - you are permitted to make mistakes. Learn from them. Then try it again.
  5. Invest in healthy conflict - from Crucial Conversations: when you're upset with someone, ask yourself why a reasonable, rational person would do such a thing, find out what part of the story you're missing, focus on solving the problem AND building the relationship
  6. Make eye contact, greet people, wish them well. Ask "how are you" and wait for the answer.
  7. When team members are struggling, ask how you can help.
  8. When you screw up, apologize.
  9. Acknowledge tough decisions - don't sugarcoat difficult truths. Be upfront about suffering and appreciate individual and team sacrifice.
  10. Be sincere. If you can't talk about something, say so.
  11. Once you've trained and equipped people, get out of their way.
  12. Celebrate success. Celebrate failed experiments. Celebrate the past, celebrate progress, celebrate present persistence.
  13. Expect excellence, practice fairness. Firm, but fair.
  14. When someone's spouse or child is very sick, send them home.
  15. Say thank you.
  16. Imagine yourself in the other person's situation. How would you want to be treated?
  17. Always, always, always treat people with dignity. Even when terminating employment, you are talking to another human being. Your own humanity is at stake. Don't compromise it.
  18. People are never problems. They may not be a good fit. They may have stolen something. They may be quarrelsome. You may have to remove them from the team - but those are problem behaviors. People are not problems.
  19. Give opportunities - to stretch, to grow, to tackle a new challenge.
  20. Nurture strength - be on the look out for talents, ability, and passion. Invest in it. Provide opportunities for others to learn more and work out of their strength…even if it means they leave your team.
  21. Every day acknowledge the beauty, skill, or competence in someone - and include yourself!

Your Turn

How do you ensure that no matter what you make, sell, or do, your impact on people outlives you?

Take care,

David M. Dye