Fixed Retirement : A Unique Opportunity

Fixed Retirement: A Unique Opportunity for Executive Succession

By: Leslie W. Braksick, PhD, MPH

Even with robust succession planning, executive retirement can be complicated. Executives nearing retirement become distracted. The company faces losing valuable organizational knowledge and experienced insight. Key
client relationships and operating teams get disrupted. The executives themselves become anxious when they lack a plan for “what’s next.”

Through our work with senior executives, we know that approaching executive retirement with a focus on Finishing Well and Leaving Well neutralizes these risks. Executives who Finish Well and Leave Well make valuable contributions in the period leading up to retirement: successor readiness increases, team stability is protected, and key clients feel valued and well-served.

The organization sees experience and eminence overtly recognized and honored, advancing a culture of confident leadership, transparency, and care. Executives themselves enter post-retirement life feeling prepared and speaking well of their organization and what it stands for: especially valuable for people who often go on to join boards or otherwise become important influencers in the market. We also know how hard this can be.

  • Executives are reluctant to talk about departure: What will my leader and colleagues think? What if they think I want to leave? What if they say, “great, you can go now?” What if they take away all my responsibilities and embarrass me? What if I sound ungrateful or disloyal or just disengaged?
  • CEOs and CHROs, concerned about the impact of the executive’s departure, are equally reluctant to touch the topic: “What will she think? What if he thinks we want to fire him? What if she’s insulted and decides to quit, or worse, to sue? What if he tells the rest of the execs he’s being eased out and it could happen to them too? What might she tell her clients? What if he pulls back just when we need him leading something important?”

The real problem is that executive retirement transition done well, points to having a conversation that both sides really want (and need) to have, with themselves and with each other, but which neither wants to start.

Fixed Retirement Dates – A Risk and an Opportunity

Having negotiated retirement dates in place for your senior executives or partners does not eliminate the risks. They still need the focused conversation and support. Otherwise, they will still be distracted, may be
inclined to coast, hold onto organizational responsibilities until the bitter end, impede or block timely succession, and leave clients dissatisfied with how the transition went down. And they can still find themselves feeling cut adrift and deeply unhappy post-retirement. The distractions and difficulties this brings extend to active executives who watch it happen, and external audiences whose perceptions of your organization are influenced by the executive.

Having a negotiated retirement age in place does bring a particular benefit: at least the topic of retirement is already open. You have “safe” grounds to pursue conversation about it well in advance. Actively doing that accomplishes three things:

  1. You can plan collaboratively on how the executive’s retirement will go down . . . regardless of actual timing (even if the company decides it is best for the executive to retire ahead of the mandatory date). The right requests and commitments can secure the executive’s commitment to work toward a quality transition, plus satisfaction that the organization honors and celebrates their contributions.
  2. Finishing Well becomes part of the employment experience and the culture – bringing benefits:
    • Emerging leaders get better mentoring.
    • Client relationships transition smoothly, thoughtfully, and expeditiously.
    • Team performance is protected because transition is intentional, disciplined, communicated.
    • Executives engage (differently) with colleagues and organizations that prepare them for their Next Season.
    • The company overtly practices values around client experience, professional development, and people-centric culture. Talk is seen to Walk.
  3. Executives actively plan “what’s next” honorably, with less anxiety and greater confidence, making them more supportive influencers post-retirement

What We Know

Through our research and work, we know that executives who are supported actively to prepare thoughtfully for their Next Season transition better than those who don’t. They lean into – and are seen to lean into – What’s Next with greater success, pursuing relationships, opportunities, and community engagement with their organization’s support, which in turn enhances the company’s culture, image, and reputation.

How We Help

MyNextSeason was founded to change the paradigm for how executives transition out of companies, regardless of the catalyst for the transition. Through a high-quality, highly individualized, and caring approach,
MyNextSeason’s corporate clients support their executives to make the most of their skills and experience and to move to fulfilling Next Seasons with deepened appreciation and support for the organization they leave. By supporting the organization to engage collaboratively with their executives to Finish Well, Leave Well, and Be Well, we help both derive the most value from the lead up to retirement.

Typically, we work to three outcomes:

  • For the Company, to assure valuable contribution from executives well along in their careers – including those who may not see additional promotions or major pay increases, but whom the company desires to retain and inspire nonetheless, and whose knowledge and experience are critical to effective succession and transition.
  • For the Executive to feel celebrated and valued by their employer, with a process and safe partner to plan their Next Season goals and move to them.
  • For HR and Culture Leaders, a cost-effective structure to sustain timely, open, constructive dialogue with senior executives around effective transition, both organizational and personal.

We deliver this support by applying these resources:

  • Your Next Season book + Workbook that guides the advising process and gives the executive exposure to other voices of experience
  • 1:1 Advisory support from trained senior executives who have Finished Well and Left Well
  • MyNextSeason Services, including Health/Wellbeing consultation with a medical concierge, rebranding (new bio, resume, LinkedIn Profile), networking, interview prep, board search, and ghost writing.