February 27, 2013 Philip J.W. Smith & Co.

Leaving a Legacy, Not a Mess Series: Finishing Well

Finish well.

This advice best sums up what is to be the first in a series of blog posts entitled, Leave a Legacy, Not a Mess. The focus of this series is to offer insights, best practices, and discussions on organizational leadership.

Finishing well has everything to do with being mindful of the day when you resign, retire, or are promoted. Often times, people only think about passing on organizational knowledge within the typical last two weeks of fulfilling their job or role, rather than being proactive and strategically implementing systems and training which empower others on one’s team to carrying on business-as-usual upon one’s departure from an organization.

To be honest, this proactive approach not only prepares your organization for a resignation, but also serves as a back up plan to extraordinary circumstances should you:

  • Suffer a debilitating injury
  • Be granted a sabbatical
  • Take a maternity or paternity leave
  • Become terminally ill, or have a close family member who quickly becomes critically ill
  • Need a leave of absence
  • Succumb to death

It would seem, however, that finishing well has everything to do with starting well. Consider the way you typically work, how you store information, and when you choose to collaborate. By setting up logical and efficient organizational systems right from the very beginning of your new role, you can lead your team by example by showcasing good practices for organizational leadership.

For example, consider how the following ideas could improve your organization’s efficiency and communication, let alone help you prepare for the worst:

  • Use secure online clouds and apps such as Dropbox to store and share your files with others within your organization, giving you and your team access to information anytime and anywhere.
  • Organize your inbox by creating folders for specific projects, clients, donors, staff, and service providers. Even consider using smart mailboxes which deliver e-mails from specific senders or types of senders to a specialized inbox.
  • Insist on using an online, cloud calendar such as Google Calendar in which everyone can add organization-wide events; view details of a scheduled meeting with a potential donor or the board; or anticipate important operating dates such as fiscal year-end, performance reviews, budget planning and tax deadlines.

Keep in mind that you’ll never truly personally reap the rewards of leading with the intention of finishing well because the brilliance of plan will only become evident once you have departed from your organization.

The reward, I suppose, is the reputation that you will both leave behind and take with you – a reputation that will have either left behind a legacy, or a mess.

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