goodManners: What’s your legacy? How we can all resolve to set a better example

The beginning of a new year has become culturally synonymous with new beginnings. If you’re like the rest of us, your New Year resolutions may include living healthier, or maybe some business and personal growth goals.

There is a new one that I’d like to add for 2008.

This year I’m including a goal of “make time for unplanned opportunities to demonstrate and teach what it means to conduct yourself with integrity.”

Time is such a precious commodity for all of us. Therefore, the objective for this new resolution is to use your time conscientiously in the most effective and meaningful way possible.

A former manager of mine in corporate America once said that goals should be a stretch, something you really have to work hard for.

I was fortunate enough to spend a large percentage of my professional life working for a gentleman that I feel comfortable calling a pillar of integrity. I learned so much from simply watching him make decisions, implement plans and manage people. Rarely did we have detailed discussions about his decisions, but when challenged he would simply look at the over-arching goal and say, “it was just the right thing to do.”

He didn’t always make the most popular decisions, but he was always fair and always “took the high road”. In return he was one of the most respected and sought after managers to work for. When I helped organize his retirement party, almost everyone that I spoke to had a very personal story about how he either helped or stood up for them. I remember thinking what an incredible professional legacy, but then I thought about it a little more and changed my thinking. I striked out the word “professional” and changed it to simply – what an incredible legacy as a person.

This may seem morbid, but take a moment to think about your life in reverse. Pretend you are writing your obituary today. Better yet, read some of the longer obituaries in the paper and you will see that they have nothing to do with how much money someone made, degrees achieved, etc, but rather how they “touched” other people and made the world a little bit better.

We often underestimate how much children learn from observing how we conduct ourselves. Opportunities to teach right from wrong are around us all the time. We simply have to make the decision to pause, recognize the opportunity, and do the right thing depending on the situation. Or, discuss observed situations where an individual did not do the right thing.

As parents we have the awesome responsibility to teach our children right from wrong, and how to sort through the “gray”.

I can think of no better etiquette lesson than achieving that goal with our children. What better legacy to leave then raising children that conduct themselves with integrity?