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Leave Your Footprint

“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, my focus was largely on increasing my responsibilities and checking the boxes on all the roles I had held.

It wasn’t until my last weeks in that job, almost four years later, that I think I truly understood what he was telling me. His advise 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 14 years later, have had a profound impact on my leadership style and on how I have viewed my career.

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 fuel. 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 humbling and inspiring. 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 front-line 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 he knew I would be a great asset to my new clients because I had been a great coach and leader for him (and our entire team) tears came to my eyes. 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.

Stop being in such 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!

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