Gone and Not Forgotten?

A few months after my retirement I sent out a request to over 100 leadership team members asking for some input into my leadership as the Superintendent of Schools/CEO. At the time I was eagerly anticipating some positive comments and affirmation on how I had influenced and lead the school district. In all honesty I was looking forward to seeing positive comments thereby boosting my ego. But what happened was totally unexpected.

I was surprised that of the 100 people that I requested input from, only four replied. Really, there were 7 but 3 honestly said they could not because they were too busy to do so. Now I don’t know the reasons were for such a poor response. What a disappointment! And what a blow to my ego!

Right away questions were kick started and a negative narrative began. Were my contributions forgotten? Does anyone really care or notice that I spent so much time and energy, carried a lot of stress and anxiety to support and care for those people? Especially when I thought they knew I loved working with them and I loved the work I was doing.

Was I upset and angry wondering why only 4 out of 100+ people cared to respond? Yes, I was. But upon reflection I was more disheartened and that feeling lingered for quite a while.

I was gone but was I forgotten?

If you asked me then, my answer would have been yes. But when I took some time to re-read and reflect upon some of the responses from the 4 respondents, my answer today would be no.

What I read was surprising. Even though I was angry, disappointed and discouraged that only 4 of the 100+ shared their thoughts, I missed the positive and affirming comments shared by the four that did respond.

My negativity, bitterness and discouragement totally blinded me to the influence and impact that I had on these individuals who did respond. Their comments were not all affirming and positive. But their comments were honest and straightforward. And for the most part they pointed out that I did have some influence and impact on their leadership and how they would lead moving forward. They clearly indicated that they had learned from working with me.

But I almost missed this. I got totally off track. Instead of looking at and appreciating what a handful of people wrote, I was more concerned with the poor return rate. Instead of looking for the depth I looked for breadth. I saw the response rate as being more important than the value and worth of what was written.

I had overlooked, that at least to these four individuals who took their time to honestly share their views on my leadership, I was gone but I was not forgotten and for that I am appreciative and thankful.

So for those of you worrying about the impact that you will make or have made when you move on from a job or organization don’t make any assumptions like I did. If you do ask for input don’t do it to get an ego boost. Check your ego at the door and don’t worry so much if you are forgotten. Your accomplishments have most likely been forgotten by the majority of people anyway because someone new has replaced you.

But if you have made an impact on one or two at the very least you accomplished a great deal for them. So be happy and affirmed for that. Because in reality, we all will eventually move on.

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