By Phil Keil
We are lucky to be living at a time like this. That may be a bold statement to many reading this as I’ve read my fair share of articles about how 2020 has been a terrible year, and COVID-19 is only one of many reasons. However, this year, my son was born, and we’ve recently moved to New Orleans. As things slowly settle into place, it has afforded me the opportunity to reflect and regain perspective. In many ways, this is one of the greatest moments to be alive. Humanity has never been in a better position. There has been a Facebook post going around about the hardships and perspective of someone whom was born in 1900 that can really help shift your viewpoint. Sure, there is a lot of uncertainty, privation, and suffering. I’d like to challenge you to reframe your reference on the world today in order for you to see the tremendous amount of opportunity that this time presents.
Great leaders are shaped by their time and environment just as much as their natural or developed ability. Rather than waiting for the new normal to emerge, what are you doing to create the new normal? It makes me think of American poet, Marge Piercy’s, words “A pitcher cries for water to carry, and a person for work that is real.” Let us reignite our passion and intensity and stop going through the motions and wasting time. This fundamental impulse is not bounded by age. It is time, not to leave a legacy, but to live one.
Our mission at Zweig Group is to “elevate the industry.” I believe the foundational building block of this is the individual. Leadership can come from any level in our organizations, and what we need now are leaders. What would you like your legacy to be and how can we bind together with like-minded individuals to push beyond the limitations that have held us back? Is your vision to build people that build the future, create a more equitable world, ElevateHer, generating better health and well-being through design, to inspire healthier communities, to reinvent how people share knowledge and use their environment, world domination, or some other colossal purpose?
A quick aside for those that think I’m being too ethereal. People want to do business with, work for, and most importantly contribute to those that believe what they believe. Concentrating on living your legacy will certainly be reflected in better revenue, profit, and return to shareholders, employees, and your communities.
After speaking with firms around the country, many have a one-word strategic plan at the moment “survive.” This is also the bias many leaders in our firms have during “normal” years as well, though. They put legacy issues on hold and concentrate on managing the near-term concerns. This generally means doing whatever needs to be done to meet the most urgent demands at any given time. This is why in survey after survey, senior executives say that setting a clear and differentiating strategy was “a significant challenge.” The most certain way to build a company whose leadership will outlast your own, however, is to focus your attention on the few things that your company can do better than anyone else and reinforce that focus in every decision you make. It will help you win market share, generate sustainable growth, and even turn around a decline.
Legacy isn’t something you arrive at by copying your competition. Developing a legacy-building strategy means looking within to the sources of your greatest purpose and potential. Where do you, your customers, and your community need you to be uniquely great? Once determined, ruthlessly concentrate your time and resources in those areas. This is “strategic coherence.” It is having a single compelling view of how your company creates value in the market, the capabilities to do so, the way those fit into a system, and the way that relates to the services you provide. This is the only way to consistently create value today. Finally, once you’ve determined how you will live your legacy building strategy, communication is key. Constantly ask yourself if your team can articulate what it is and how you hold each other accountable for keeping focus.
How are you living your legacy? We want to hear from you. Stay tuned for more information and resources as we lead up to our ElevateAEC experience this year. Leadership, legacy building, and elevating the industry will be a major focus for the next year.
Phil Keil is director of Strategy Consulting, Zweig Group. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.