by Tom Casey, Managing Principal Discussion Partner Collaborative
2015 is a transition year for many Boomer Executives whom will be reaching the milestone age of 65!
Granted Charley Watt’s of the Stones and Ringo Starr are 74 and still touring….yet there is something magical about this age as It was the age when most of our parents left the work force.
At the time however, after they got their gold watch, took a cruise, there was not much life left based upon actuarial tables and cultural norms.
All of that has changed now…..just ask Ringo, a new album, book, and summer tour!
Discussion Partner’s launched a Transition Advisory Service offering in 2013 after the publication of our book Executive Transitions-Plotting The Opportunity!
Since that time we have worked with several hundred executives in a variety of sectors.
We have organized our Transition Advisory support to executives in four phases.
Phase 1-Preserving The Legacy-succinctly put taking proactive steps to insure that the efforts you undertook, and the success you engendered are recalled in the most positive terms.
In Discussion Partner’s experience regardless of age and psychographic profile it is prudent to substitute the question of “How will I focus my energies for the next 3 to 5 years” vs. “What will I do with the rest of my life”. This is the principle of Inflection Point we utilize in our discussions with executives whom have an extensive work history often with one to two employers.
The below represents a baseline from which we develop tactics for executives whom are departing from a “continuing concern”.
- Control the Communication Process-avoid relying only on the formal elements of communication. There is a need to augment this effort with an informal communication process to personalize, and engage in conversations with selected managers
- Confirm the Legacy-there is a need to define “how I want to be remembered”, with “how I am perceived”. The most effective way to do this is to have a dialogue with trusted advisors where you point blank ask the question, “what will you remember about me”
- Networking-Classify your internal and external networks capturing the contact information for managers whom would provide insight/access for you in the future, what we refer to as the “Nifty 50”. This is the minimum! There is a need to commit to interact with these folks at least on a quarterly basis, recognizing that the interactions will be sustainable provided the dialogue has mutual value.
- Relationship Sustainability-The first order of business is to prepare and send subsequent to the formal announcement an e-mail to at least these 50 executives internal and external embedded with a. preliminary thoughts as to career focus, and b. contact information
- Accessibility- independent of the networking activity above there is a need to utilize multiple vehicles e-mails, social media, and the lost art of letter writing to maintain contact with a broader number of executives
Phase 2-Ensuring Enterprise Continuity- making sure that care and thought are given to the preservation of momentum as manifested in the Succession Plan….through constructive access, advice, and prescriptive documentation.
Interim Period Issues-Post Successor Selection
Be mindful there is oftentimes a “rock in the middle of the river” attitude to be avoided in a post announcement environment. Be advised we usually find it well intentioned and focused on the executives “best interests” so as to “not bother them”.
Still however it is difficult to be working in an environment that seems to have forgotten one has a pulse.
We use the sequence of John Wayne to reinforce the point in terms of reinforcement of a visible career.
Career Segment Description
Early On Who IS John Wayne
Traction Get me John Wayne
Popular I need more John Wayne’s
Waning Get me someone who was like John Wayne
Exit Who WAS John Wayne
The key here is two-fold:
- Don’t take it personal….it is the normal cycle
- Consider acceleration of your departure from the office in favor of working remotely at some point….
Regardless of timing there is a “Snagglepuss” phenomenon, the appropriate time to “exit stage left”! The time frame is accompanied with the likely outcome of SARA even though it is your decision.
There WILL be a feeling of emotional disorientation associated with departure. It is most advisable to recognize that Retirement is a platform to other areas of personal and creative expression.
I can presume the suggestion of this exercise may seem odd; however our experience is that it is very useful when a Successor may not be up to the task immediately. It is also non-trivial in reaffirmation of legacy.
The value of having a brief treatise on your experience with a limited distribution is it a) helps others see “your role through your eyes” and b) it reduces “blowback” in that after you leave, it reduces the possibility that you would be blamed for others mistakes.
Our concept is a 1 to 2 page memorandum that focuses on the following:
- The initiatives you feel were executed well
- Those that are in process and/or you feel were deficient
- Two to 3 top of mind suggestions for securing progress in your previous role
Phase 3-Rejuvination Break-taking a break to recharge and reflect on next steps in career trajectory. DPC perceives as inevitable regardless of means, age etc. as those whom are Type A….don’t change their DNA.
The Concept of the Commercial Sabbatical
The foundation for the “Commercial Sabbatical” concept we promote derives from our research and client experience. Based upon Executive Demographics and Aspirations, it is embedded into our hypothesis that successful executives after a period of rest, are desirous to reengage in commercial activates
- Older Executives (65 plus)-focus on 2 to 3 activities part time post-employment
- Bridge Executives (55 to 65)-focus on 2 to 3 activities part time post-employment for a period of approximately 2 years then return to “work” in an Advisory and/or Employee capacity at a level of at approximately 50% of the time until age 65 or older
- Off-Ramp/On-Ramp Executives-(55 and below) focus on 2 to 3 activities for a period of approximately 1 year and then return to work as Advisors and/or Employees until age 65 at a level in excess of 50%
Phase 4-Cyclical Planning- conceptualization, deliberation, and implementation of the plan developed prior to departure and refined subsequent to departure.
Transitioning Executive Research
The below represents our current thinking on the question. “Where are Executives likely to spend their time post-employment”? Our assumptions are derived from a research project of over 2,000 executives and our Transition Advisory work with clients.
DPC Theoretical Framework-Creation of a scenario strategy for 3 to 5 years embedding the context of Commercial Sabbatical.
Discussion Partner Transition Focus Assumptions (2 to 3 Part-Time is our experience)
- New Role/Alternative Employer
- Consulting Advisory
- Academic Pursuit as Adjunct Professor
- Personal Investor
- Commercial Board Membership
- Political Involvement
- Social Responsibility(including NGA Boards)
- Higher Education-Student
- Entrepreneur-non Commercial
- Start Up Initiator
- Other-Rock Star?
As this is likely an area of “pursuit” we wanted to provide some additional detail. DPC has a matrix approach for thinking of Board positions. Our mental model is that the maximum be three Boards to avoid becoming a “professional” member. Essentially, if you are on more than three, you are working close to full time.
Board Primary Role
2 Committee Chair
3 Key Committee Participation
As you can see from the above 3 Boards could be very time consuming.
Tammy Ericson, Ken Dychtwald and Bob Morrison in their seminal HBR article It’s Time To Retire Retirement asserted in an elegant way that Retirement is not a phase down from relevance. Moreover it is a platform for one to pursue alternative interests and avenues for personal satisfaction.
Discussion Partner’s research and advisory interdictions, would reinforce their hypothesis. Moreover, given the stabilization of the economy and emerging career opportunities, it is optimum to be mindful of how to channel personal and enterprise Executive energies.