Leaders, I hate to be the one to tell you this but you are not as young as you used to be! As the calendar keeps turning you may be thinking as much about how people will remember you tomorrow as you are about the impact you’re having today. Legacy is always a tough subject to begin to consider, especially for high-paced leaders who have big dreams, big visions, and big commitment to seeing success.
Your legacy, of course, will only be meaningful to the people who mean the most to you. A very small percentage of leaders will leave a trail of impact which will provide inspiration to generations of leaders but the truth is that your legacy will likely be felt by a small group of people. This doesn’t mean your leadership is not significant or that your legacy won’t change the world! You never know what difference you make in the life of one person will mean to their future.
Yet legacy often requires leaders to run at a different gear than they assume. We sometimes think we need to be going full speed, full throttle, knocking down obstacles in our way and crushing it on our deliverables. And there’s definitely a season to be doing this kind of work. 5th gear has a time and a place. The truth is that you likely don’t need much coaching to understand how to get yourself up to 5th gear – you’re passionate, you’re committed, you understand the work you are called to do and you see the path forward for success. If you’re willing to be honest, the real challenge for you is learning how to gear down, learning how to balance being productive with being present. The tendency to live your entire life in 5th gear means you’re missing the opportunity to do your most meaningful work in the lives of people who will carry on your most meaningful legacy.
Let’s take some time to think about life in five gears, what each gear might mean for you, and how you can consider some intentional ways to gear down. Remember, this isn’t about being less effective. This is about being intentional about how you invest your time and energy to be as effective as possible in every circle of influence in your life. It is possible to be both fully present in your relationships and fully productive in your work. In fact, not only is it possible, it is crucial for you in your future success as a leader and in leaving the kind of legacy you hope to create.
To begin, have a look at this diagram which describes the five gears of life. Now think about the last week of your life.
- Can you describe specific times during each day when you were intentional about being present and productive in each of the five gears?
- Which gear comes most naturally to you? Which gear is the most difficult?
Senior leaders generally don’t have a hard time getting up to 5th gear. The tricky part is learning how and when to gear down. Part of this is learning when 5th gear is absolutely the right speed for you and how you can be your best during those times. Block off time in your calendar for 5th gear work. Take a day away and let your team know you are not able to be reached unless it’s an emergency. Print a sign you can stick on your door to let people know you’re in 5th gear and shouldn’t be bothered. There are some things that you can only do in your executive role which require you to press forward in 5th gear! But time with your kids and shooting the breeze with your staff are not those times.
Learning instead to gear down, intentionally creating triggers in your schedule to get out of 5th gear and transition down to 3rd gear, carving out time weekly in your calendar for some 1st gear time – these are all habits which are crucial for the long-term, legacy-building future you want to create as a leader.
- Thinking about your team at work, when are some times you can proactively create some 3rd gear time to be more social as a team?
- What healthy boundaries can you create to promote and sustain the benefits of 3rd gear at work?
When it comes to transitioning from your work relationships to family relationships, what’s a trigger you can name to mentally prepare you to gear down from 5th to 3rd? Is there a physical landmark on your drive home or a habit of walking outside as you finish your work from home which can tell you that it’s now time to get out of 5th gear and intentionally gear down?
Take your calendar:
- What would your calendar look like if it were to reflect a “5 Gears” life of being fully productive and fully present in both the work and relationships which mean the most to you?
- How do you see this productivity and presence impacting the legacy you hope to leave?