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Use Legacy Thinking to Give Focus and Meaning to Your Organization

Replace Self-Focused Goal Setting with Legacy Thinking to Achieve Better Results

There are no secrets any more. Not for long.

Organizations now need to operate as if everything will be known.

The world is awash with organizations that now regret taking a narrow, self-centred and short-term approach to vision and strategy; think of the reputational damage that has been done to VW (diesel), politics (the expenses scandal) and media organizations (phone hacking) by decisions that may have driven short-term advantage but have huge repercussions when they come to the public's attention.

So is there a better alternative? At One Leadership we think so, and we call it Legacy Thinking, the title of our chapter in Kogan Page's new book Coaching in Times of Crisis and Transformation, edited by Liz Hall.

What are you here to do together? Who are you doing it for?

A team needs a shared endeavour to give focus and meaning to the thought and action of the members. And each team member needs to have a strong connection with and commitment to that endeavour.

Legacy Thinking can be a powerful tool for building this; what others will later say of your work, leadership, and achievements as a team.

Think of your stakeholders: Professor Peter Hawkins in his book Leadership Team Coaching (Kogan Page) recommends paying attention to six groups: customers, staff and colleagues, investors and regulators, suppliers and partners, the communities in which you operate, and the natural environment as you affect it. We suggested to him one other group - future generations - and he liked that.

What do each of these groups want from you? What do you want for them?

In years to come, what do you want them to say of your actions today?

This can be a powerful exercise to do as a senior team. When doing so, individual team members may connect differently with stories told from each of the viewpoints, so allow them to speak of what matters strongly for them. You will learn a lot about each other, and become much closer in creating results together.

From Vision to Legacy

The traditional approach to clarifying an organization’s vision and mission begins with “what do we want?”

This can be powerful. But by being sourced in “what do we want?” it inevitably tends towards the self, and can become selfish or self-serving - for you, your team or your organization.

By contrast, Legacy Thinking invites us to take account of what others want.

This “thinking beyond” will be more powerful for team members, and more attractive for those around you, than self-focussed goal setting.

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