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Living Legacy

Living Legacy

By Verne Harnish & Robert Fish

People often joke that the best moments of boat ownership are the day they bought the boat and the day they sold it.finger-567279_1280

There are similar punctuation marks in our lives—the day we’re born and the day we pass away. As busy executives, if we’re not careful, our personal lives can end up as neglected as those vessels, forever docked in the harbor (or parked in storage!).

I’m a big believer in building a living legacy. Your life will be more meaningful if you treat every day as if it was your last and, instead of rushing from one obligation to another, you proactively establish personal priorities and align them with your professional goals.

As readers of this column know, there are four decisions you must make to build a thriving company: People, Strategy, Execution and Cash. In your personal life, there are parallel areas: Relationships, Achievements, Rituals and Wealth. Commit to writing your goals in these four areas, just as you weave the Four Decisions into your business plan. To guide you in creating a personal one-page plan, here’s a link to a “ME: Living Legacy” tool.


Relationships

At the end of the day, what matters most in life are relationships. The first step in using the Living Legacy tool is to list the key people in your life on whom you want to have a lasting impact.

In business, you have a tremendous opportunity to influence your employees or customers. In your personal life, the important people in your life will likely include your family, your friends, and those in the various communities to which you belong. Limit the list to 25 people, so you don’t get overwhelmed.

At the same time, there may be some people in your life who are destructive and/or distract you from your higher goals. There’s a space on the form where you can note relationships you want to end. Doing so is important, so you can free time for the people who matter most to you.


Achievements

Many CEOs find that even when they reach critical milestones for growing their company, they feel they haven’t made a real difference in the world. The achievements section of the Living Legacy tool can pave the way to a more meaningful life. Think about the major ways you’d like to make an impact through your work beyond reaching monetary goals—perhaps by mentoring others or setting up a nonprofit organization or pro bono initiative—and set objectives in these key areas.

In your personal life, you’ll want to think about how you can make a real difference to the key people in your life. For instance, you might aim to have a happy marriage, instead of just staying married, as many people do. Signing on to facilitate the 5-year strategic plan for our children’s school was something I enjoyed prioritizing this past six months.


Rituals

Establishing regular routines in your life will help you achieve your larger goals. Examples of rituals might include a weekly date night with your spouse and booking some “alone” time with each child once a week. For distant family members, you might build a regular routine, like taking a vacation together every two years.

You might also want to establish rituals with people whose presence in your life supports your bigger goals. Meeting regularly with a workout buddy, for instance, can help you maintain good health—something that’s important to achieving any goals you set.

Like destructive relationships, there might be some bad habits or behaviors you wish to stop – list those as well.


Wealth

Rather than financial wealth being an end in itself, see it as a resource for supporting the rest of your personal plan. Set goals for the amount of money you want to donate to causes that matter to you. Decide what you need to set aside to support activities with your family and friends, investing in experiences that create lasting memories. In the cash section of the Living Legacy document, you’ll want to make note of any financial goals you must meet to fuel your living legacy. And when you let money flow through you to help those around you, it seems to appear more effortlessly.

It’s not easy to do this type of planning, but just getting yourself to think about what matters most is 90% of the battle. You want to make sure that what you leave in the wake of your life as you sail along is a legacy worth living.

Moral Character Wins

Moral Character Wins

By Verne Harnish & Robert Fish

Companies that build teams with strong moral character win. Their teams are happier, perform better and are more successful overall.refugees-1020218_1920

This bold claim stems from the work of Jim Loehr, renowned performance psychologist and author of the book The Only Way to Win. Loehr´s research, which in part is based on his experience taking 16 world class athletes to number one in their sport and working with thousands of “corporate athletes,” shows that the satisfaction we get from achieving extrinsic accomplishments (number one in tennis, a new job, winning a deal, building a company) is mostly shallow and fleeting.

Instead, what gives us a long lasting feeling of fulfillment and happiness is having practiced integrity, generosity, gratefulness, humility, optimism, and compassion in the pursuit of these goals. CEOs with the mindset of a “servant leader” are in a unique position to support the development of these strengths.


Characted Strengths Win in Sports

Loehr recently founded a junior tennis academy at his Human Performance Institute. On their first day, the students hear: “We care about your tennis but care more about who you become because of tennis. Our most important imperative at this academy is winning with character.

Working from a list of moral strengths, the students are required to journal about lessons learned that day, on and off the court. Not surprisingly, this has helped their performance. All 15 students going through the program are currently nationally ranked.


… And in Business

What Loehr has learned works in business, as well. After the tragic loss of his wife, Jay Steinfeld, founder and CEO of Blinds.com, reached a turning point. “My future really began to take shape only when I began to define my success as being in the act of continuous improvement and improving the lives of others around me,” he recalls.

Realizing, as he put it, that he was “an overly burdensome micromanager, always finding fault in others,” he concentrated on identifying and recognizing the successes of his team. As he became more empathetic, his team relaxed—and performed better. To help his employees to stick with their own self-improvement goals, he put up a white board where individuals could share such commitments.

As the company has grown increasingly successful—it is now the world’s largest online retailer for window blinds and shades, with $120 million in annual revenue and 180 employees—Steinfeld has tried to help his team stay true to its humble beginnings. He personally brings new recruits to a run-down alleyway in Houston where the thriving company had its first office back in 1996. There, he shares the history and core values of the company. He even built a reproduction of the alleyway at the company’s new offices.

“This way, we keep our humble history fresh in our minds and it also reinforces our core value ´Help People Achieve What They Never Thought They Could,’ ” he explains.


Identify Success Patterns Through Jounraling

Boston Centerless, a manufacturer of ground bars and grinding services, recently completed its first eight month leadership program where character building, not skill building was the focus of the curriculum. Participants developed very specific plans about who they want to be and what kind of change they want to create in their behavior. As at Loehr’s academy, one of the key practices taught in the Boston Centerless program is journaling. Research shows that writing, especially by hand, about one´s thoughts and feelings, is one of the most powerful exercises to provoke lasting character change.

Martin Seligman, the father of positive psychology, suggests a simple but effective journaling routine: Every night write down three things that went well that day and why they went well. This helps the writer to identify personal patterns of success and highlights how moral character strengths make good things happen in business and in life.


Andre Agassi’s Daily Journey

Andre Agassi shares in his memoirs how writing down his goals every morning and how he wants to achieve them that day helped him gain that “steely resolve” that brought him back to the #1 spot in world tennis. “After putting them on paper, saying them out a loud, I also say aloud: `No shortcuts.’”

As Loehr emphasizes, Agassi’s reinvention of himself—from an obnoxious player who became number one but hated his fame and wealth and at one point battled drug addiction—to “the compassionate, generous, thoughtful and humble person he is today,” as Loehr puts it, shows how moral character development ultimately supports performance. When he focused on improving himself, he came back as number one and was happier.

As a servant leader, consider how you might use your company as a vehicle for building your own character strengths and those of your team. The results will likely astound you.