Author Your Legacy

Published: January 30, 2015

We are about five years away from the boomer generation becoming a minority in the workforce. The change in demographics has businesses dusting off succession planning documents and asking increasingly urgent questions about strategic direction, talent quality, bench strength, and legacy. Leaders face a critical choice to begin the process: set the table for my successor or leave a mess for someone else to clean up?

In an ideal world, shepherding an effective leadership transition is aligned with the team’s strategic plan. A three year preview of the organization’s vision shapes business goals, tactics, and accountabilities. Once everyone is on board with the overall direction of the enterprise, who/what/where/when questions are easier to navigate. The “how” question is a bit tricky.

The legacy of a leader if often determined more by the way in which he or she finishes the job than by the accomplishments that populate a resume, a LinkedIn profile, or an award banquet speech. It takes a blend of confidence and grace to make space for the person who will someday occupy your desk. Like the passing of a baton in a relay race, both the giver and receiver have interdependent roles.

Follow your strategic plan with whiteboard session:

• Invite the right teammates into the room.
• Begin with a conversation about the transitions that lie ahead.
• Acknowledge the delicacy of the exchange and fill it with respect for old, new, similarities, and differences.
• Draw up the organizational chart of the future from current state to change state to desired state.
• Collaboratively evaluate your talent needs over time.
• Voice a commitment to stewarding a healthy change and divvy up responsibility for the tasks required to make it happen.

Author your legacy.

Photo of Steve Ritter, the co-founder of The Center for Team Excellence

Steve Ritter

Steve Ritter is an internationally recognized expert on team dynamics whose clients include Fortune 500 companies, professional sports teams, and many educational organizations. He is on the faculty of the Center for Professional Excellence at Elmhurst College where he earned the President's Award for Excellence in Teaching. Steve is the former Senior Vice President, Director of Human Resources at Leaders Bank, named the #1 Best Place to Work in Illinois in 2006 and winner of the American Psychological Association's Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award in 2010. Steve provides ongoing workplace culture consultation to many thriving companies including Kraft Foods, Advocate Health Care, Kellogg's, the Chicago White Sox, AthletiCo, and Northwestern Mutual Financial Network.