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11. August 2015

Personality Assessments and Retirement

by Richard Downen, Advisor, My Next Season

On a golf trip to Hilton Head South Carolina I was paired with a recently-retired executive who lived in the area. The golf community had a broad demographic array and included families of all ages. I asked how he liked the community and what he enjoyed the most. After considering for a moment he said, “Everyone here interacts on an equal basis. It doesn’t matter if you were the CEO of a corporation, worked on a production line, or had been a small business owner. Nobody cares. We get along great.”

For the retiring senior executive, this can be an adjustment. When you are used to people listening to your every word, laughing at every joke, and executing your instructions with a sense of urgency, this represents a significant change. Understanding how you are viewed and how others are likely to react to your personality and communication style is important in making the transition to retirement.

We frequently think of personality tests as tools utilized by companies during the hiring process and for employee development. But they are less frequently thought of as something to be used to prepare for retirement. The sentiment of many retiring executives regarding personality tests was recently expressed by a client when they asked, “I have taken dozens of these over my career. I am not looking for my next promotion so why am I taking another personality test now?”

So why take a test at this time in one’s career? Consider the successful executive who is approaching retirement. Having spent a career developing skills and a management style to fit their environment, suddenly he or she is faced with the equivalent of a new career in a profession for which they may be totally unprepared. As today’s retiring executive rarely retires in the traditional sense, but rather enters a new phase of their life, it is important to recognize that adjustments may be necessary to be successful in that new career as well as when connecting in new ways with family and friends.

A retiring executive I advised had always wanted to “give back” and engage more directly in philanthropic endeavors by leading a not-for-profit organization. Because “dominance” was her leadership and communication style, we discussed ways in which that trait could be helpful or challenging when working with volunteers. That same trait that made her successful in her prior career would translate differently in the philanthropic world.

Another executive was having difficulty identifying the direction he wished to go because of a long list of perceived passions. The assessment helped narrow the field by defining those that were better suited for his personality and communication style.

Personality and communication style assessments can be effectively used in helping retiring executives identify good “fits” and understand how their style may help or hinder them. Just as they were used by individuals and executive coaches to improve performance during their careers, they are equally valuable in helping executives understand development opportunities in retirement. Whether engaging more directly in philanthropic endeavors, getting involved in community or volunteer work, sitting on boards, or even starting that business you had always considered, these tools will help make for a much smoother transition to your next season.

Richard Downen brings more than twenty years of experience as an executive with Bank of America to his role as an Advisor for My Next Season. In addition, since his own transition, Richard has spent over ten years as an executive coach and management consultant for the leaders of large multinational corporations. At My Next Season, he uses communication style assessments with every client, supporting them as they transition from corporate careers to meaningful next seasons.

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