Fortunately you never had to rely on the childhood game Rock, Paper, Scissors for help. You are a time-tested executive who has won your share of business battles and learned from those you lost. So, why would you need the help of an executive coach at this point in your career?
Executive coaching is not reserved for those who are up-and-coming. After working with more than 300 senior executives, coaches recognize the benefits that come from having a trusted confidant, because a coach is sometimes the only source of honest feedback you are going to receive.
- Unbiased feedback. The saying “It’s lonely at the top” can only be appreciated by someone who has been in that seat. You wonder if people are only telling you what they think you want to hear; you are blindsided by bad news because your people are protecting you; or, people have their own agendas that often influence their advice or counsel.
An independent executive coach provides unbiased feedback the good and the bad and is motivated by taking your game to the next level so that you and your business can be successful.
- Confidential conversation. Almost all top executives have been burned by someone sharing confidential information about them at some point in their careers. These breaches of confidence are not only hurtful; they can also be extremely detrimental to the business. Your unique relationship with a coach allows you to talk about personal and professional challenges in complete confidence.
- Senior executive experience. The most effective and empathetic executive coach is one who has walked in your shoes. A certified executive coach who is also a seasoned senior executive can provide enormous perspective and insight, can help you weigh alternative strategies and approaches and can talk to you honestly about the need to raise the level of your game without risking your job.
Senior executives are learning the hard way that there are different skill sets required for success in today’s business environment. Although there are many reasons to engage an executive coach, there are several common challenges: dysfunctional senior team relationships that interfere with business results; learning to lead in a challenging, multicultural business environment; and successfully building and nurturing a positive relationship with the board of directors.
- Aligning a dysfunctional senior team. There have always been and will continue to be challenges in managing relationships in a group of ambitious, aggressive, competitive executives. An experienced professional coach can facilitate an open dialogue about how the team must function to capitalize on opportunities in the market.
- Capitalizing on a multicultural work force. The hierarchical command-and-control leadership style that once dominated U.S. business is no longer effective. Only by encouraging people to challenge the status quo can U.S. companies innovate and compete globally. Authority has been replaced by the need to influence so that organizations can benefit from the diverse insights that come from a multicultural work force and customer base.
- Strengthening board relationships. CEOs are faced with changing board relationships. They used to be able to hand-pick board members with whom they had much in common, but Sarbanes Oxley now requires the addition of independent board members.
CEOs often forget that this introduces a powerful new dynamic that requires focus, time and energy so that they develop and nurture relationships with new board members.
Rock, Paper, Scissors is a decision-making game of wits, speed, dexterity and strategy between players who can’t reach a decision using any other means. There is only one winner.
Whether it is dealing with an increasingly diverse work force; finding a need to think through confidential, complex business strategies or people decisions; or needing help to successfully navigating peer and board relationships, having an executive coach can be enormously helpful in making sound decisions that will contribute to the growth of your business.
Gail R. Meneley is a principal in Shields Meneley Partners, a firm that provides confidential career and life-transition services to seinor executives. Reach her at (312) 994-9500 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about Shields Meneley Partners, visit www.shieldsmeneley.com.
But, when it comes down to making the final decision, there appear to be two primary factors that push or pull an executive toward an entrepreneurial venture age, and how long he or she intends to work. In a study of more than 300 senior executives, almost 50 percent seriously considered being an entrepreneur but fewer than 20 percent actually pursued it. That 20 percent shared common characteristics that might be of interest to other top executives trying to decide between a corporate or an entrepreneurial role.
Interestingly, data collected from a recent study indicate that personality characteristics are not a major factor for entrepreneurs. For example, many people would assume and many studies suggest that you must be an extrovert to be interested in an entrepreneurial role. Data indicate that a high or low score on extroversion doesn’t predict whether someone will choose an entrepreneurial endeavor over a corporate position.
In fact, personality inventories such as the Myers-Briggs don’t find any discriminating characteristics between the two groups. So what are the differences?
- Early work experience. Executives were more likely to return to entrepreneurial work if they had done something similar when they were younger, such as having a lawn mowing business in high school or a pizza delivery business in college.
- Desire to combine personal interests with work. In the latter stages of a career, these executives wanted to consider turning hobbies or interests into money-making ventures. They developed golf courses, built luxury homes or created new businesses.
- Higher acceptance of business risk. Executives were often frustrated by the risk-adverse nature of most organizations, and recognized that their comfort with taking appropriate risks had always differentiated them from their peers. Those who chose an entrepreneurial path were drawn to opportunities that have less bureaucracy and greater potential for rewards.
- Enjoyment of short-term goals and changing work schedules. Executives-turned-entrepreneurs realized that they wanted more flexibility. They were willing to work hard and put in long hours, but they wanted to make an impact quickly and see the results of their efforts.
- An idea or an unexploited market opportunity. These executives did not think of entrepreneurism as a last resort. Many honed a particular idea for years or observed a market opportunity that others hadn’t pursued. No longer encumbered by corporate dictates, they were free to pursue the market niche.
- Management style. These entrepreneurs enjoyed managing people as much as their corporate counterparts. But, they also enjoyed the initial stages of a business the creative and strategic processes and didn’t enjoy latter-stage planning and goal-setting.
- Operating backgrounds. A limited number of executives come up through new product or brand development, sales or marketing. Without this background, it is hard to deal with the dynamic nature of a new business. Senior executives who lacked that relevant experience and who pursued entrepreneurial ventures anyway did so with their eyes wide open and put good people around them with the appropriate experience and skill sets.
Just because you are an independent, highly extroverted senior executive, don’t be lured into thinking that you should spend the later stage of your career as an entrepreneur. But, if you are comfortable with risk, enjoy an unpredictable schedule and are motivated by short-term goals, it might be time to consider leaving the corporate world behind.
Gail R. Meneley is a principal in Shields Meneley Partners, a firm that provides confidential career and life-transition services to senior executives. Reach her at (312)994.9500 or at email@example.com. To learn more about Shields Meneley Partners, visit www.shieldsmeneley.com.
Despite having an outplacement benefit available, few top executives take advantage of it. A recent survey found out why.
- Reality of retirement. Executives pictured retirement as days filled with endless rounds of scratch golf. Only in hindsight after their outplacement benefit had expired did they realize the need for greater intellectual challenge and engagement, and then they had no support system or structure to pursue other alternatives.
- Unrealistic expectations. Executives who wanted to move into another top management role had been courted by executive search firms throughout their careers. They fully expected their phones to ring as soon as headhunters learned they were available. That didn’t happen they allowed their networks to grow stale, and didn’t know where to turn.
- Limited value. Senior executives viewed outplacement as a service designed for entry to middle-management staff. A one-page psychological profile, a 30-minute meeting with a junior consultant every couple of weeks, a shared office and a basic resume were considered a waste of a senior executive’s time.
The last reason is the most common, and traditional outplacement models really have become a waste of a senior executive’s time. Typical outplacement has become a cost-driven commodity where service is limited, consultants have little personal contact with clients and their approach is one-size-fits-all.
Clearly this approach does not meet a senior executive’s needs. For them, a career transition represents a life transition that raises questions about the future they had once imagined. The complexity of these issues requires highly customized service designed to address sophisticated and complex choices.
Research demonstrates that most senior executives want to remain actively engaged in some type of work, but only 50 percent want a job like they held before. In many cases, executives seek multiple roles where they can reduce the pressure but utilize their hard-won knowledge <\m> a life of variety as a member of a board perfectly describes it.
And let’s face it, the traditional job market isn’t friendly to senior executives whose career horizon only spans another five or ten years. That means that executives have to find resources that connect them to nontraditional channels. After advising hundreds of top executives through successful transitions, we know that 83 percent did not hear about their next career opportunity through a recruiter or an ad. They learned about it by networking at the right levels the top.
Although executives know many people, most focus on the challenges of their business and fail to keep their personal and professional networks current. Although they network at business club meetings, they do it to promote their businesses, not to develop relationships that could be called upon at a time of transition. At the senior executive level, active networking is the name of the game and there are only three degrees of separation between an executive and the next opportunity. If someone is pursuing a nontraditional role, networking is the only way to be considered for something new, whether it is consulting, board work, an entrepreneurial venture, academia or leading a not-for-profit.
It is possible to successfully translate your life’s passion into your life’s work but not through traditional channels. A lifetime in a specific industry doesn’t limit what you do next if you work with transition advisers.
Gail R. Meneley is a principal in Shields Meneley Partners, a firm that provides confidential career and life transition services to senior executives. Reach her at (312) 994-9500 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about Shields Meneley Partners, visit http://www.shieldsmeneley.com
Executive couples almost always discuss and negotiate various career moves and options. But when it comes to retirement the most significant transition of all they tend to make large assumptions based on very few facts. If they talk about retirement at all, it is to discuss where they might want to live, or to calculate the answer to the all-important question, “Do we have enough money?”
What most couples completely ignore is the importance of asking and answering the single most important question “What are we going to do with the rest of our lives?”
Today’s executives are retiring younger, healthier and wealthier than any generation in history. They have the opportunity to escape the pressures of a top job and pursue other interests while they are in the prime of their lives. Yet, they often have difficulty adjusting to full-time relationships with their spouses and balancing day-to-day family responsibilities with leisure pursuits.
Retired executives no longer have the structure and focus that their former positions imposed. To make the transition even more difficult, their spouses are often redefining their own personal and professional goals as they hit their mid-life stride.
Despite these challenges, retirement presents a unique opportunity for a couple to reconnect and redefine their goals, and to make conscious decisions about how they want to live the next stages of their lives.
Ironically, senior executives who routinely use sophisticated planning tools to solve problems in their business lives rarely invest equivalent resources to make complex decisions in their personal lives. They often think that once they complete a financial plan, their work is done. They haven’t even considered the broader issues that directly impact a financial plan health, lifestyle choices, family responsibilities, work and leisure pursuits.
The majority of executive couples need help thinking through the issues involved in retirement planning. Whether you work with an executive consultant or do this work on your own, we recommend that you include clear goals, action plans and metrics to measure your progress and to keep yourselves on track. Draft individual goals and then come together to refine them in an open discussion that ensures that the final plan reflects the needs of both partners.
Here are some examples of topics worth exploring.
Health and wellness. Address exercise, nutrition, preventative strategies, stress reduction, and other such topics. This issue more than any other, impacts future options and possibilities.
Financial planning. Revisit your financial plan since your life plan will capture how you want to live and provide far greater insight into the financial structure required to support it.
Work. This category focuses on paid work, because it is of great importance to executives who want to remain engaged in a more limited way in business for the intellectual challenge.
Family. Develop individual goals for your spouse, children, parents, siblings and others, since family issues can directly impact or constrain your options.
If you are a 40-something, invest the time and money required to create a written plan that reopens lines of communication, aligns your values and goals, addresses each spouse’s needs and accommodates unforeseen events. A Life Plan is both a journey and a destination, and like all journeys, it begins with the first step. Take your first step today.
Gail R. Meneley is a principal in Shields Meneley Partners, a firm that provides confidential career and life-transition services to senior executives. Reach her at (312) 994-9500 or at email@example.com. To learn more about Shields Meneley Partners, visit www.shieldsmeneley.com.
Why are corporate executives seduced by the siren's song of an entrepreneurial venture?
A sample of more than 300 "C-Suite" corporate executives between the ages of 48 and 58 in the midst of a career transition shows that more than half of these executives were interested in pursuing entrepreneurial rather than corporate roles.
Yet, these executives will tell you that despite the highs and lows, they had fun in their previous positions, enjoyed the prestige of their jobs and were well-rewarded financially. So why are they interested in pursuing other ventures when they could sit back and enjoy life?
Although many issues are at play, two appear to be dominant -- an executive's age and how long he or she always intended to work. These issues function in tandem but also work independently to "push" or "pull" executives in an entrepreneurial direction.
If you think of "push" factors as negative experiences, or circumstances that senior executives want to avoid, there are a number of themes that emerge.
Age discrimination remains a factor in hiring. After the age of 50, the length of time it takes to find a new corporate position lengthens significantly. CEOs age 55 and older who want to remain engaged in challenging work recognize that they probably won't find it in the traditional job market.
An increasingly hostile business environment. Corporate leaders are pressured to focus on short-term growth and performance targets that may have a negative impact on long-term profitability.
Job scarcity at the executive level. Executives who want to get back in the game often run out of time and patience, and pursue entrepreneurial activities as a "default" strategy.
The need to have an impact on the organization. Change in large organizations is often painfully slow. Senior executives may recognize that they have less time to make something happen, and they view entrepreneurial ventures as faster-paced and more agile in changing markets.
With the growing awareness of age and the end of one's career, executives also have pull factors that will increase their enjoyment of work.
Senior executives want greater control over their lives. They may have sacrificed their family, friends and personal lives for their careers, and they admit that they enjoyed it. But now, they want to build something that meets their needs.
They want to make things happen quickly. They want to see cause and effect. They want to develop the culture, set the strategy and drive results. It doesn't hurt that they can also generate additional wealth.
Significant net worth eliminates short-term financial concerns. These executives aren't concerned about mortgage payments, so they are less concerned with base compensation, and more interested in the potential for wealth generation represented by an equity stake.
There is higher risk acceptance. Top executives have racked up many accomplishments. They trust their own instincts and business judgment, and want to do what they think is right without being constrained by policies or tradition.
They want to leave a legacy. Senior executives often talk about how quickly corporate accomplishments are forgotten. At this time in their lives, they want to build something as a lasting testament to their ability. They also think about businesses where their children could someday be involved.
Strong work ethic. Top executives have exceptional work ethics. They routinely work 70-hour weeks, and are driven by the need to lead teams, build organizations and create value.
For these reasons and others, when successful senior executives have the opportunity, almost half want to consider a new path. Their age, combined with the length of time they planned to work, fueled by push and pull factors, make the siren's song of entrepreneurial adventure almost irresistible.
[Editor's note: This is the first article in a two-part series. Next month, find out what makes a successful entrepreneur.]
Gail R. Meneley is a principal in Shields Meneley Partners, a firm that provides confidential career and life-transition services to senior executives. Reach her at 312.994.9500 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about Shields Meneley Partners, visit www.shieldsmeneley.com.