Just five years.  That’s the average amount of time managers and professionals stay in one job according to the US Bureau of Labor. Consider where are you in that cycle.  No matter whether you’re one month in or twenty years, it’s never too early to think about how you want to be remembered and what you want to leave behind – otherwise known as your legacy.  

Legacy connotes “that which lingers after a person has left.”  Your focus and your choices now determine what you’ll leave behind.  Too many of us rush haphazardly through our days without considering the bigger picture of what we’re building.  Greatness is a choice.  To help you make the biggest impact, determine what you want your legacy to be, and work with an eye to that every day.

There isn’t just one type of legacy to think about in your work.  Think about legacy in three ways.

No. 1: The Compliance Program

Imagine the compliance program in its best form in one year, three years, five years, and ten years.  What has changed?  What technology has it implemented?  How big is the team?  And most importantly, what can you contribute to make the biggest impact such that you leave the program significantly better than you inherited it?

If you’re stuck, consider two things.  First, your risk assessment. Implementing mitigation strategies to manage your company’s greatest risk will leave a legacy.  But also consider this –  what are your strongest skills? Do you write clear and concise policies?  Do you give training sessions that people enjoy?  Do you have close relationships with board members?  Whatever your strongest skill, consciously use it.  Polices will be in place for years, good training will stay with the employees, and board members who understand compliance will be priceless for those who come into the company after you.

No. 2: The Company’s Culture

Consider how you can most effectively help to create a culture of compliance so you can leave the company better than you found it.  To start, look at your compliance and ethics survey/engagement survey.  Are there obvious places you can begin?  Are people afraid of retaliation? Do managers know how to receive complaints effectively?  Think about how you can remedy the most pressing problems in a systematic and focused way.   

Let’s say that retaliation is a major concern.  Can you focus on monitoring for retaliation by checking in regularly with whistle-blowers after their complaints have been resolved?  Maybe you can add a section on non-retaliation to new manager training?  Or release aggregated figures from the compliance and ethics survey showing that people are disciplined and terminated for retaliating so that employees get more confident that if they report, they’ll be protected?

Your focus on improving one or two elements of the culture means that you are likely to be remembered for truly advancing the company’s culture in an important area, rather than spreading your efforts thin trying to fix every little problem.

No. 3: Your Team

If you’re a manager, think now about how you want your team to remember you.  Do you want to be remembered for the encouragement you gave?  Perhaps you want your team to be grateful to you for pushing them out of their comfort zones to stretch their skill set?  Your greatest legacy will likely be the people you have inspired or influenced as their boss.

If you’re not yet a manager, consider how you can encourage your co-workers to see compliance and ethics in a more positive light or work on building genuine relationships so that people see the face behind compliance, making them more comfortable with reporting.   

Time passes quickly, and before you know it, it will be time to take a new role.  By focusing on how you want to be remembered and what you want to accomplish before you leave, you’ll build yourself into the person you need to be to leave the legacy you envision.