Become A Legend, Not A Myth

Every one of us could tell a story about someone in our company. It could be someone we know and work with or someone we’ve never even met.   That’s because every company has its "memorable" employees… the machine operator who discovered a way to streamline the system and made the company millions, or the young exec who penned an unattainable seven figure deal no one else could land. Then there are the “other” stories… the marketing geek who asked the CEO "boxers or briefs” at the most inappropriate of moments (is there ever really an appropriate moment?), or the supervisor who thought bikinis in the lobby would increase job applicants. After a while, these stories become ingrained in the company’s history, the mythology that makes work life interesting and infuses fun conversation points throughout the year (especially if some of these people still work for the company). These folks are branded as the lucky - or unlucky - few destined to be part of the company mythos.

There is another type of employee - the Legends. These are the ones whose career is filled with such stories. These may include tales of challenges exceeded when the odds were against them, of leading teams from destruction to creation, of routinely facing down the senior executives in such a way that the people behind him knew he could be trusted. These people have a reputation, not always flattering, which when someone asks who they are, everyone chimes in with stories, tales, and opinions. It is always fun for me to see a new hire be "advised, warned, or coached" on how to "deal, approach, or work" with these people of renown. A leader known for his intensity, challenging questions, ability to pick apart any argument, or even belittle you into thinking you are back in the third grade is a force to be reckoned with especially if there are hours of stories behind these traits which continue to be told over and over again at the water cooler.

Legendary employees can come in all types.  I have known many Legends whose reputation for screaming, belittling, intimidation, and backstabbing have taken them a long way up the ladder of success. I have also known Legends who are known for their intensity, fairness, and drive to be the best while inspiring that in others. But for both of these kinds of Legends, their careers are not about one event, it is a collection of stories both true and untrue that foster the reputation of the individual and inspire people within the company to at least meet this person and at most work for/with them.

You want to be a Legend.

Make your career a constant practice of behaviors, values, and drive which define who you are. Be consistent in all you do each week. Be bold, when you know you are in the right and be humble when you blow it. Be intense in your passion but don't crush the passion of others. Legends are shrewd (David and Goliath), Legends are bold (Robin Hood), Legends are flawed (Lancelot), but they are defined by who they are, not some luck streak.

On the practical side, once you become a Legend it's a lot easier to get things done. People respond to your reputation before you even meet them. Other people will guide employees to how you like presentations made, arguments presented, and expectations executed. You become a bit bigger than life and this can be helpful when you need to get things done. After you have left a company, your legacy remains and that is a testimony to the impact you have left on people. It's good to be remembered.


Copyright © 2011 Mike Baumgartner | HR | Consulting | Coach |  Human Resources | Search - CEO, Worklife Survival Center LLC