“Don’t be in such a hurry to move onto the next thing. Make sure you linger long enough to leave your footprint.”
Years ago, I had a boss impart those words of wisdom on me. At the time they went in one ear and seemingly out the other. I was 27, working at PepsiCo and newly appointed into a General Manager role. I had been successfully “climbing the corporate ladder” to that point with a new role every 2 years. At that point, I was largely focused on how fast I could increase my responsibilities and check the boxes on jobs I’d held.
It wasn’t until my last weeks in that job, almost four years later, that I think I truly understood. It was about making sure you stayed in a job, a company or a career long enough to have left your mark. To have changed the business or people in a profound way, so that your impact lasts well after you are gone. His words, now 12 years later, have had a profound impact on my leadership style and on how I have viewed my career and my life.
It has taken some time, but over the years I have realized that my footprint, my legacy is all about the people I have impacted along the way. My footprint is in the people I have hired, trained, mentored and helped get promoted. It is in the skills I have helped others develop and in the dreams I have inspired them to chase. It is in the culture I helped create and in the sense of unity that we shared.
When I decided to start my coaching business, the outpouring of support and well wishes from former employees (some of whom I hadn’t spoken with in years) was both humbling and inspiring. But, there is one note that sticks out in my mind over all the others. It was from a gentleman who had been a delivery driver for me. He was outspoken, often negative, and seemed to gain enjoyment out of stirring the pot.
Over the 4 years I led that office, I got to know him and his family well. I spent the time to develop his skills, along with our other frontline employees, and gave him opportunities to use his outspoken nature to positively influence changes in our workplace. Today, he is now off the delivery trucks and is a salesman. I like to think I had some hand in his promotion.
Getting back to his note. As I read this former employee’s words about how I had been such a great coach and leader for him and our entire team tears came to my eyes. He went on to say that because of the impact I had on team all those years ago, that he knew I would be a great asset to my new clients. It was that single moment, more than anything else I have done in my career, that made me realize I had left my footprint on not just an organization, but more importantly on people’s lives.
Don’t always be in a hurry to get to the next job, achieve the next step or start the next project. This doesn’t mean reduce your expectations, motivations or goals. I’m just suggesting you slow down a little. Make sure you are giving and getting the most out of each experience and enjoy the journey along the way!