The Footprint Left Behind

The Footprint Left Behind

I had a conversation with an old friend just the other day.


It’s been almost 20 years since we worked together but in the span of that 32 minute phone call it all came streaming back – the memories, the crises, the successes, and yes – the failures.


He promoted me to a higher-level leadership role almost 30 years ago – a senior executive who took a chance on a young upstart.  The next 10 years would present massive challenges as our company grew exponentially – but this guy for some reason believed in me.


So I did too.


It’s funny how the passing years have stolen some of the memories of our time together – but I know now that he taught me things I carry with me to this day.


He demanded excellence from those around him – in fact, would tolerate nothing less. He inspected what he expected – sometimes to an almost nauseating degree – until he knew you could “play the position.”  If he deemed you worthy he would step aside – and let you run.


But that doesn’t adequately describe the legacy he offered me.


No, his gift was something more.


He was the first to help me understand that fighting the storms of the business world was the easy part.


EVERYONE focuses time and attention on the task at hand – hitting the profit projections, or the sales numbers, or the earnings reports.


Effectively living a quarter-to-quarter existence that ebbs and flows like the tides – and disappears just as quickly with the passage of time – never stopping to recognize the storms of the business world never subside– they just morph into more gales.


No, his legacy was something more. He taught me the storms were situational. It’s your people that are the constant. How you interact with others transcends – or it doesn’t.




  • Respecting them.


  • Honoring their role.


  • Supporting them.


  • Demanding excellence.


  • And most important – TRUSTING them.


My friend helped me realize that if you build a work force that “wants to be” then “how we get there” would be the easy part.


And he was SO right.


Old fashioned you say? Yeah, I guess you’re probably right. So old fashioned that 20 years after we worked together I still talk about what I learned – and share some of those principles in my seminars and work shops.


So old fashioned that when I read the flurry of articles and research about the 400 billion dollar plus impact of questionable employee engagement in this country that I shake my head.  And watch ill-fated companies toss good money after bad with more advanced corporate strategies even when reputable firms like Gallup offer us insight on the one galvanizing factor that distinguishes highly productive cultures from the masses – namely Best in Class bosses.


I wonder how many of us tasked with leading organizations or divisions today will enjoy even faint mention 2 decades after we walk away from the fight.


I wonder what OUR legacy will be.














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