I had the privilege recently of attending the funeral of my great aunt. She was one of my grannie’s older sisters and lived a blessed 93 years. You can learn a lot at a funeral. For example, I learned she and my great uncle married in 1934 following the Great Depression and raised 7 kids during some very troubling economic times. And today, this couple is responsible for 75 direct descendants.
The funeral was probably one of the sweetest funerals I have ever attended. Three of her grandsons shared memories of “grandma” and she had even been taped singing some of her favorite songs which were also played at the funeral. As the sister of my grandmother, I could certainly relate to the stories and enjoyed the chance to see many, many cousins and family.
So what is the leadership lesson here? Think about those 75 descendants: 7 children, 19 grandchildren, 44 great-grandchildren and 5 great-great grandchildren. All of whom are still living, by the way.
What impact did this woman have on others? Simply ask her family and you will quickly learn the strength of her legacy. And that is a lesson I believe we can all learn. Think about these three truths:
#1 A strong legacy isn’t restricted to job title. To my knowledge, my great aunt never worked outside the home; but she certainly wore the job titles supervisor, manager and director in a house of 7 kids. The truth is everyone – every day – is creating a legacy of some kind and it has nothing to do with your job title. You –regardless of what is printed on your business card – have a circle of influence. And simply because of that influence, you have the opportunity every day to build a positive, helpful and meaningful legacy through your actions and words.
#2 Your legacy is created primarily through relationships.
At the funeral, story after story was shared about how my aunt cared for and interacted with her family and those in the community. I know she always made time to talk to me and hug my neck when I saw her. No one mentioned her possessions or donations made to her church or other charities. The time was spent on her relationships. And in our workplace, the same is also true. Those you interact with every day will remember the times you paused in your busy day and gave your undivided attention. They remember that you are a person of your word. Chances are they will never remember how many promotions you received or any awards you received. But they will remember how you treated them and that creates a long-lasting memory.
#3 Your legacy isn’t restricted by age.
My great aunt lived a full 93 years and she saw many changes in her long life. She experienced nine decades and just imagine the experiences that came from being a little girl in the 1920’s to the technology age of the 2000’s. Her legacy was built in each decade and yours is too. In your career you may only spend 2 years in a certain company. So what will your legacy be in those short 24 months? And who knows, your career may span 20 years in one organization. How will those years contribute to your legacy? Age really has nothing to do with it. A twenty-something and fifty-something have the same opportunity to make a difference.
You would have liked my great aunt. She lived a good life and made a difference in the lives of her family. So what about you? Legacy. Making a difference. Impacting others. What is your story? I know I’m challenged. Won’t you join me?