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The #1Failure of Retiring CEO’s

The #1 Failure of Retiring CEO’s

Do you know Jack?

Jack is a recently-retired-highly-successful-former-CEO of a Fortune 500 Company.

Like most smart leaders, Jack planned ahead to ensure he would leave his company in good hands, and carefully chose and groomed his successor years before his retirement party.

At the top of his game, he was a competitive typical Type A high achiever who was respected by many (and feared by some).  Before he retired, his wife described him as a “workaholic.”  Now she says he has too much time on his hands and six months into his retirement, he is “driving her nuts.”  To make matters worse, the kids are making rude comments under their breath, “Mom, there’s a grumpy stranger living in our house!” In other words, Jack’s now become a bit of a pain in the a**.  He’s gone from “Hero to Zero” in his own castle.  And Jack can only play so many rounds of golf (or tennis) before it’s just not as much fun anymore.

Fast forward, a few more months into retirement:  Jack now feels restless, dissatisfied and somewhat useless.  His family doesn’t “snap to attention” like his employees did when he walked into the room.  In fact, they often disappear. To make matters worse, Jack’s wife has her own interests – without him.  She spends time with her friends, enjoys her part time job at the hospital and has recently taken up scuba diving.  Jack is also notices they snap at each other more, short conversations are sprinkled with biting sarcasm and now they occasionally argue loudly in front of the kids.

Jack thinks to himself, “If this is what retirement is like, I’d rather be back at work!”

The problem:  While Jack responsibly prepared his company for his exit, Jack failed to prepare himself, and his family, for his re-entrance.  Jack’s wife was right. He was a workaholic … and for a good reason: Human nature.  Jack spent much more time at work because with his title came a strong identity, a purpose and a sense of accomplishment (and a big paycheck).  Whether he spent less time at home because he didn’t feel as accomplished and purposeful as a father or husband as he did being a CEO, or the other way around, who knows?  It doesn’t matter what came first, the chicken or the egg.

Jack wasn’t a bad father or neglectful husband.  He was still an ordinary man, just human.  Because, as “just humans” we will naturally spend more time doing what is familiar and what makes us feel good, than where we don’t feel as rewarded.  Gradually, we spend more and more time at work and less and less time at home.  To compound the problem, we naturally prefer to avoid the discomfort or conflict we are having at home, actual or perceived, and spend more time where we feel more satisfied.  Unfortunately, Jack sees evidence which only supports his “theory” that “they (i.e., Jack’s family) don’t give me respect.”

The solution:  Become the CEO of YOU before retirement.  Jack’s transition back into family life would have been much more successful and satisfying had he started his Personal Transition Plan at the same time he started his succession plan.  Had he done so, Jack (and his family) would have found the re-entry to be much smoother.

If you are like Jack, what hobbies, interests or “someday goals” can you begin explore, cultivate or even take action on now that can be in full swing by the time you officially retire?  What are you willing to do now to build (or repair) relationships with your spouse or your almost-grown-kids so you aren’t “the grumpy stranger in the house?”

Here’s my challenge to you now:  Prepare yourself for how you will answer the question: “What do you do?” after you are retired.  Will you be able to answer with ease and confidence … even though you are without a title or a job? Hint:  If you can answer the question: Who are you?  you will have this one in the bag!

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