Making the courageous decision to close a professional chapter is a surreal & strange time. You can be unexpectedly gripped by torturous grief, elated by what lies ahead, or simply relieved that the agonizing decision is over. More than likely, you experience a concoction of the three, pending your departure terms.
No doubt, the professional “break up” reverberates less the more it is considered.
Saying the words “I’m resigning” out loud makes it real. Confiding in your best friend at work enables you to test the waters. If your delivery is a little clunky, you have the forgiveness trust affords to course correct for the conversations ahead.
Over & over, you “break up” with each of your team. Then your clients. The looks on their faces tug your emotional strings a little harder each time. Finally, it’s done. Then comes your last paycheck and the jarring impact of your network access is suddenly denied. You’ve become a corporate orphan—your old work family, now a part of your history.
While physically you’ve moved on, your professional spirit lingers. Past colleagues, customers & competitors all become custodians of your legacy.
Your most valuable asset.
One of the most impactful lessons I learned after resigning from a long and successful career in the medical device industry was understanding the difference between what was meaningful from that chapter and what wasn’t. Awards and material possessions that for years fed my ego suddenly felt as lifeless in my heart as they did in my hands.
On the other hand, sentiments from customers became my most treasured possession. While I couldn’t touch them, I could feel them. Their meaning possessed a pulse that became a lifeline to my old life. In this moment, the power of my legacy struck me hard.
It had nothing to do with what I had accomplished and everything to do with what I stood for. The personal values that governed my professional existence. The behaviors others saw and the impact I had on their lives.
I learned my legacy referred to my values, not my valuables. My most powerful asset, my reputation, was now out of my control.
As I describe in my work wellbeing memoir My Beautiful Mess, this revelation led to a curious itch, “What if we were to lead with our Legacy rather than leave it behind?”
By raising the consciousness in our minds of how we would like to be perceived by others, we can design our daily behaviors to reflect our authentic intentions, minimizing the risk of being misunderstood and enhancing our ability to build the trusted relationships required to propel our efforts forward. The consequences of poorly considered actions or complacency suddenly become more significant with our reputation at stake.
We invest in our reputational capital, an influential factor of career performance.
By defining our Legacy at the start of a professional chapter, we can commit to daily behaviors that reflect our alchemized values and passions, better known as our purpose. These can be brought to life through our strengths and preferences.
They become our north star. Guiding and holding us accountable for how we are perceived in the powerful eyes of those around us. Its future custodians.
Have you ever considered the Legacy you are in the process of creating?
Here are 8 questions to ask yourself to get you started:
I’ve always believed that we represent ourselves first. It’s a mindset that doesn’t enable us to hide behind the skirt of a brand. Nor does it allow us to be someone we aren’t. We are too exposed to hide the lie.
Intentionally leading with our legacy throws who we are and what we stand for courageously into the arena for all to see. The person people see is the person people come to expect and expectations are repeated and supported, building trust.
Leading with our legacy enables us to show up each day as ourselves and confidently test the limits of our performance through the courage it affords. And if there is one thing my life has taught me, it’s that our most satisfying moments are birthed from our most courageous efforts.