Where are your fingerprints going to show up?
It’s a question I have often posed to long standing volunteers as they reach the end of their tenure with an organization. It’s a way to help those wonderful contributors reflect on all the good things accomplished on their watch. To focus their transition then on success and the great work they have done, instead of on the fear of losing connections to friends or losing their influence. I encourage them to start about a year ahead of when they think they might depart. Spend that last year celebrating what has occurred during their time in service; and celebrating the foundation they helped build so others could follow and create even greater success for the organization.
Everybody knows their volunteer service won’t last forever. I just encourage them not to wait till the end, as they are walking out the door, before taking a moment to reflect. Never let that in-the-moment grieving get in the way of the celebration. I want them to remember how positively they’ve impacted the organization.
To those volunteers getting ready to move along, look at all the places your unique fingerprints show up. It isn’t just on capital projects, nor just with programs, nor the governance or practices you have helped put in place. They will be on the people you met along the way. The ones you helped mentor or helped to carry the burden of service. Noting where the fingerprints are will also remind you that other fingerprints were comingled with yours. And, that there were fingerprints under yours to remind you that you too built on the work of those who went before you. Just as those who follow you will be layering their fingerprints on top of yours.
One of my greatest joys is hearing years later how this bit of advice helped these community builders move on from one community effort to their next. To feel like the time they invested was worth it to those who needed to benefit the most. Declare early, reflect on your contributions, and let those you’ve helped celebrate your involvement.
You don’t have to stop here. Think about your immediate family or your best pals. Help them understand their influence as they acted on their passions and resulting success. How they supported their families and friends through the various hiccups in life. We can learn from each experience, and if we pay attention, we can make the most of future opportunities. Families are our most powerful cohorts. The fingerprints of families create the collage that often gives us the greatest joy. Celebrate and put accomplishments and challenges in the right context. For all of life’s challenges, there are far more times of wonder, times with happy moments, and times of celebration when we take a moment and listen to the melody that has been created.
Use the fingerprint tests in your work life too. With the ever-increasing pace of modern work obligations, it’s easy to forget about all the great things that have already happened, or about accomplishments and plans that are already underway. Think about those roles, about the work already done, about the great projects and your contributions – about how you participated and made them better. You will smile a little brighter each time you look around. Don’t wait for performance reviews or annual reflections. Focus on what’s been accomplished, and do it often so you and others can celebrate the contributions you’ve made. People will still have to deal with the challenges of their current day-to-day, but they will enjoy doing it with this broader perspective. And fingerprints will always be found with the fingerprints of others. We all eventually figure out we would not have found the same success without the contributions of others. In the shorter term, we will become more empathetic with co-workers, subordinates, and superiors. We find we also broaden their perspectives, help them feel more engaged, and help them draw greater satisfaction from all they do.
But, don’t stop there.
Continue to look for the fingerprints of others. For it is in the efforts of all that we most positively experience life and all it offers. Others enrich our lives in ways we seldom realize, yet always should. As we interact with people remember they’re part of an almost endless list of places where your fingerprints are already comingling with theirs. Sounds like a great way to start a celebration.
If you would like help with your team, to benefit from the broadest possible perspectives and to celebrate successes in ways that encourage more, let us know. We would be pleased to meet with you to discuss ideas or to share our experiences with the many companies and not-for-profits who have benefited.