Do you consider yourself successful? My guess is yes. We all do to a certain extent. Just one look at our resumes or LinkedIn profiles confirms it. They are the tools most of use to market our success to the world.
Good resumes and profiles demonstrate our success by providing specific examples of accomplishments and achievements, not just descriptions of past job functions. Often that takes a lot of words and multiple pages. But is it possible to capture the essence of our success in one sentence?
A friend who left a job told me that he received a lot of nice emails from colleagues expressing thanks and well wishes for the future. (We talked about the people he surprisingly never heard from too, but that’s a topic for a future blog.)
One email he received in particular stood out because in a single sentence it perfectly captured the question we’re considering. It read, “You left this place better than you found it and in my estimation that is the measure of a person and a leader.”
Exceeding revenue goals, driving efficiencies, successfully launching new products or campaigns…these are the type of phrases that populate our resumes and profiles to prove how successful we are. And rightfully so, prospective employers need to know specifics about what we bring to the table.
But in the end isn’t the real goal to make a mark by leaving something better than how we found it, even if just a little?
It may seem like an impossibly vague, daunting standard. Yet the reality is the great accomplishments we admire or aspire to don’t happen in one bold leap. They are the product of many small steps, making things better incrementally and consistently over time. All of us know this, it’s a simple concept to understand. But simple to understand doesn’t mean easy to do. Even the best leaders struggle.
The key is to start small. Today it may be as easy as asking yourself how can I make things a little better in my next team meeting or 1:1 with a colleague. There’s a subtle but critical difference between getting through an agenda for a meeting versus making things better. It requires more energy, thought and contribution. Often it means putting aside whatever agenda you brought to the meeting in favor of someone else’s.
The truth is the accomplishments we detail on our resumes and profiles will fade with time. What will stick with the people you work with is if they feel you made things better for them. In the end that’s the only metric for success that truly endures.
Adapted from original blog published on March 20, 2020