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Leave It Better Than You Found It

A recent social media post took exception to a programmer’s comment about the lack of success his replacement had with the same radio station they programmed. I’ve never understood why some want their successor to fail or perform more poorly than they did.

Don’t you want to be able to proudly say that you worked at a great radio station, that is still held in high esteem and that others admire? We only remember the most recent past. A failure that follows your success is remembered as a failure for the brand. The brand is bigger than any one individual.

Thinking about that post made me flash on a similar social media comment about my success rate in Cleveland in the early-mid 80s first as a PD/OM and later as a Station Manager. The writer noted that while I’d seen success, the person who followed me saw greater success and performed at a higher level. Despite it being written as a negative, I took it as a positive.

My successor is a brilliant leader and one whom I admire. Shelve the jealousy. We should leave our posts having shown success and in better shape than when we found it. That’s the job. That’s the expectation. 

We should set up our successors to have an even bigger impact. The “heavy lifting” should have already been done. Our exit point is their entry point and a new perspective, with different priorities, alters the objectives for the next member of leadership. Successful businesses are ever-evolving. Help that evolution by pointing out the theoretical “landmines”  that may exist. Share insight and experience. Offer perspectives that may be helpful. Be objective. 

You should also be prepared for those insights to be rejected or their importance to be looked at in a diminishing way. Don’t take it personally. I can tell you that while I want to learn as much as I can in advance of starting a new position, there’s a line where influence must be drawn so that one’s own opinions can be formed. You’ve been hired for your experience, opinions, insights, approach, and leadership style.

An anthropological approach is warranted as you learn the culture of a new group, but you also have to exert your own style to make a difference.

When I returned to my consultancy, I had the opportunity to overlap with my successor for eight weeks and then consult at a high level for an additional 12 months. My quote at the time was, “My ceiling is your floor.” That statement magnifies my belief that if you care about a company, and are proud of your accomplishments, you should want to see its continued growth. I am – very much so. Success begets success. Leave it better than you found it.

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