How to leave a successful legacy in the workplace

When building your personal brand, consider how you want to be remembered at work.

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As Warren Buffett once said: “Your premium brand had better be delivering something special, or it’s not going to get the business”. This truth applies as much to you and your own career as it does to businesses and organisations that we work within. To grow your career it is essential to be viewed as someone who stands out in your field, expertise or area of work. It is rather like a brand of food standing out on the shelves of a supermarket in such a way that it becomes the brand of choice by shoppers. It is not enough to simply hold a nice job title with a well-known company. Neither is it enough to simply have an impressive looking LinkedIn profile.

Everything about you is part of your branding, about how you are perceived, viewed, thought and spoken about. Great branding enables you to stand out, be memorable and potentially be a person who:

• The boss trusts and would turn to when needing a job well done

• Is respected and stands out as the obvious successor to fill their boss’s shoes

• Is liked and admired through­out an organisation or

• Is the preferred person a client would wish to work with.

It is the sum of all aspects of you and how these appear to others. When your senior colleagues are talking about your career potential, it is what they say about you and how they think of you that can be called your branding. Perhaps it is your great time management, infectious optimism, good delegation skills or your technical skills. It might be aspects of your behaviour or mindset such as being ethical, persistent, collaborative or a great team player. Alternatively it might simply be your calm and reflective demeanour when others are stressed and anxious.

Think about what the strengths and positive qualities that you want to use more and be known for. We all have unique combinations of factors that make up our brands. You can never hope to emulate exactly another’s branding, but you are encouraged to acknow­ledge, admire and to learn from those who seem to have outstanding brands – individuals who seem to exude positive qualities and are go-to people in their fields and professions.

Globally recognised examples might include outstanding leaders and performers in business, media, sport and government such as Richard Branson, Nelson Mandela and Steve Jobs. Closer to home, which of your work colleagues come to mind as having well developed and impressive personal branding, elements of which you might aspire to copy? Or perhaps you know someone socially whose personal branding is something you might like to emulate.

Do beware of letting your brand-building go to your head and becoming all about massaging your ego. Do not elevate yourself at the expense of others. You need to strike a balance by ensuring that your skills and contributions are visible without it appearing that you are showing off. If you are part of a successful project management team, share your group’s success by email, in conversation or in a company newsletter using “we” more than “I” when describing the success.

A key part of your own branding is to ensure that what you do and achieve will outlive you. I like to call it “sustainable branding”. No matter whether you are being promoted or are retiring, if you are leaving a job role how would you like to be remembered and what would you leave behind as your legacy?

It is not enough to excel only during your time at work. To be able to look back on your career with pride you cannot simply retire, resign and move on without having ensured that you leave behind a positive legacy. Such a legacy in the workplace can take many forms:

• Having been an inspiring boss and excellent colleague

• Ensuring that your successor in your job role has been coached and mentored by you to ensure his or her success

• Taking away positive memories and only speaking highly of your past colleagues and employers

• Leaving behind a trained, motivated and engaged team members and

• Being available to support your former colleagues after you have left the organisation.

The best method of ensuring that you will leave a great leg­acy behind is to plan and to work on it while you are still working. In this way you are not just excelling while working, but also in what you leave behind. Aim to leave a legacy that will live on long after you have left that organisation.

Nigel Cumberland, a Dubai-based leadership coach, trainer and author, is a founder of The Silk Road Partnership and a member of the Gulf Coaching Alliance