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Your Next, Next Career is Closer Than You Think

Your Next, Next Career is Closer Than You Think

It is not just the youngsters today who are changing the employment landscape; the older cohort of workers are also doing their part to significantly alter the environment. This is seen strongest as working seniors redefine “retirement” to mean something entirely new and exciting. With that comes a significant amount of planning – what we like to call our clients’ “Next, Next.”

Whereas 65-year-olds used to stop working and live off their pensions, today’s older workforce is finding significant joy and productivity by creatively remaining engaged in the economic engine of employment. We encourage our executive clients to consider living a portfolio personal and professional life that is comprised of a handful of jobs that in aggregate comprise a fulfilling and fruitful new career.

Before engaging with the portfolio career there is a lot of preparation and steps that need to be taken. When we work with clients in career transition who are in their 60s we map out a very specific plan that includes dual focus of preparing for his or her next job, which is usually the last stop on their climb up the corporate ladder and urge them to consider what happens after that chapter ends.

To be sure, there are many who by the time they reach their mid-to-late-60s want to sit poolside and lounge in the sun-drenched glow of retirement, but we know from experience most C-Suite executives are not wired that way. I enjoy asking my clients: “have you done your greatest thing yet?” and witnessing the moment they realize they still have that fire. They, and we, know there is still a lot of work to be done and much to be accomplished late in careers and life. Consider the creative and business accomplishments by the following leaders of their crafts who were in “retirement” age:

  • At 62, JRR Tolkien published the first volume of his fantasy series “The Lord of the Rings;”
  • At 66, Noah Webster completed his “American Dictionary of the English Language;”
  • At 70, Cornelius Vanderbilt began buying up railroads.

Ready to get started on your Next, Next plan? Here are the three critical steps everyone should take to managing their “retirement” before it manages them:

Coaching. Reflection is generally not something executives do well on their own because they are so focused on their careers. These highly driven people are usually set on a specific career path and never look back until the very end of the road. Having a guide in the form of a coach can be an efficient and productive way to set a new course. Coaches can be invaluable resources to helping clients formulate what retirement looks like and how to get there without distraction.

Monetize. As part of the reflection piece, executives should start thinking about where his and her passions truly lie. Ask oneself what it is he or she loves to do and then how can they make money doing it.

Start. It is never too early, nor is it ever too late, to begin the process of considering this new and exciting phase of one’s career. Reflect, self-assess and start preparing.

Why not get ready for your Next, Next right now? The sooner you start, the more prepared you will be, and you will realize that your greatest career accomplishments have most likely yet to be achieved. With a little bit of planning and guidance you can make it happen.


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Your Next, Next Career is Closer Than You Think

It is Never Too Early to Get a Coach

Welcome to Executive Leadership Insights by Shields Meneley Partners, your newsletter that focuses on management issues for today’s C-Suite. In today’s ever-changing landscape, many leaders know they need a coach to help navigate the rough waters, however, many people don’t know when or how to get started. The latest edition of Executive Leadership Insights of helps readers understand why it is important to connect with their coach and when they will know the time is right.

As an experienced coach to the C-suite and executives, one of the most frequent questions I field is “when do I need a coach?” Given the amount of responsibility that lies on the shoulders of these leaders, this is an important question.

While there is no timetable for when an executive should work with a coach, in my many years of experience, I have found one common thread. There comes a time frequently when you feel overwhelmed and lonely at the top because you really don’t have anybody to talk to. You’re not quite ready to talk to a psychologist, but you’d love to have somebody’s perspective, objective, and confidential, and a conversation partner. In that situation, a coach could be a appropriate partner for that type of need.

Another instance in which clients come to me seeking coaching is when they start thinking about what work looks like after corporate life? This question usually arises as a result of an event which typically arises around the time they turn 50. Most of the time, it’s because they got fired, sometimes it’s because of a health issue and perhaps other reasons, but they typically have one commonality of having not given any thought to what they’re going to do next.

To be sure, this is a scary time for a client because their path has typically been mapped out and now they unexpectedly have to navigate unfamiliar waters. This is a great time to have a coach as a guide along this new journey. In our experience, this exercise often leads to what we call the “next, next” – what to do after the next step? After all, we want to learn from this experience and make sure our clients are prepared for the next event.

Working with our clients on their “next, next” is wonderfully exciting for them and for us because the possibilities are nearly boundless. We begin with a blank page and explore their options. As you may imagine, it is beneficial to have somebody with a coach’s experience to help guide you through that reflection, through the discovery, and then through a process to create a vision of what’s next. What is more, it is never too early to begin this planning.

There are other reasons when it is apparent a coach is needed. For instance, you are on the path toward the C-Suite and a coveted seat at the executive table and you know you have a deficiency or a flat spot that needs to be shored up. What is more, you know this challenge is recognized by your supervisor, the head of human resources and/or the head of the company. You are on target with 90 percent of your job, but that remaining 10 percent is a challenge. This is where a trusted coach can become vital because in addition to professional advice, there is an important element of life coaching.

My favorite example is when I was on the board of a fairly large zoo and I recognized something we see all the time, especially in not-for-profits, and sometimes in business – the person that gets to the top of the organization didn’t get there because they’re a great leader or manager, they got there because they’re good at the thing, and the thing for a CEO of a zoo is the animals. It’s somebody that has usually risen up through the world of zoo keeping, zoology, or a field along those lines.

During one board meeting I said out loud that our chairman had more humans working for him in the zoo than there were animals in the zoo, and that meant he needed to learn more people leadership skills. We set up a coaching engagement where I spent every Saturday morning with him talking about leading people, executing good management practices, such as succession planning, performance evaluation, compensation, and so on. All of which were a soft spot for somebody who had grown up as an executive by being an expert in the thing of the organization, rather than the leadership side. This kind of soft spots for leaders happens in all sectors, not solely non-profits.
Let us look at this from the human resources point of view or talent person that’s looking at the high potentials or people already in leadership positions. Quite often, they will spot a gap that needs to be addressed to keep that employee on the current path. Most organizations today do not have the resources to fill that need that a particular leader or high potential person has. A coach would be an excellent substitute or add on to that organization to help this person develop those skills.

Another good time to engage with a coach comes into play during onboarding. Given the new work landscape in the age of Covid-19, it is possible to bring on a new person without even having met them. How do they onboard in the culture of your organization? How can they be successful in their first 100 days? This is a wonderful time where a coach can help.

I strongly believe that coaching should be viewed as a benefit and not a punishment. In fact, I will not take an engagement where the person is told you’re going to get a coach or else. What I like to see is when a client is walking me through their organization and they introduce me as their coach. This happens to us often and it is that kind of validation that is so gratifying because we know we have done a good job integrating into that organization. More importantly, the individual is showing some vulnerability and letting superiors and reports they are taking steps to address their gaps, and that can be really rewarding for everyone.
Thank you for taking the time to read our newsletter and we hope you found it insightful. We encourage readers and subscribers to join in the discussion by adding your thoughts in the comment section below.

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Executive Onboarding During the Pandemic: Both Pitfall and Opportunity

Executive Onboarding During the Pandemic: Both Pitfall and Opportunity

Talent managers, human resources practitioners, and executive coaches continue to perfect work-from-home and make it the new norm. As they do, they find a hidden pitfall in their work becoming more evident each day. We’re talking about executive onboarding – specifically, for those new team members C-Suite and just below.

So how, in a remote world of work, does the new team member get to know their new colleagues?
Let’s say you just started that new position in the (now virtual) executive suite. You are looking to become part of the team quickly. Chances are you have already thought about how you are going to talk to your direct reports. You have a sense of how to communicate and collaborate,
of course. To help matters, your new boss and you have already figured out how you will interact. As some of our clients initially thought, there is a general sense of feeling good about their new situation. And yet, the piece that is missing is an important one.

The fact is we miss the opportunity to connect in person – especially as the new addition. And we haven’t yet learned how to get to know our peers in the organization while working remotely.

Executive Onboarding: A Challenge Even in “Normal” Times
As is the case when working in-person at an office, remote teams and group leaders tend to become siloed. After all, when working alone, it is easy to become narrowly focused on our own departments. Although a natural occurrence, this makes it difficult for the new chief marketing officer, for example, to know much about what the chief financial officer is doing.

Scheduling video calls with equals is not typically on executives’ wavelengths. But in today’s world of work, it should be – it must be. Because when the left-hand does not know what the right hand is doing, problems result. Company efficiencies and productivity suffer. As we coach our clients: You are not just joining the team you will run, you are joining your boss’ team. Neglecting to invest in the development of relationships with team members and leaders at your level, in your situation, creates a leadership dysfunction that is not good for the company – any company.

Developing Relationships in a Virtual World
The key to a successful onboarding process and the development of one-on-one relationships is active listening. In the new work-from-home landscape – where the watercooler conversation, spur of the moment “let’s grab a coffee,” and unannounced pop-in are absent – how does one develop those relationships? Where are the opportunities for active listening? It is not through
only one’s direct reports, nor is it solely from your boss – a key source of learning comes from peers.

Your peers will likely have various levels of experience and institutional knowledge about the company. That experience and well-earned knowledge will likely become essential resources for your own team’s success at some point. After all, the Chief Procurement Officer will likely need to rely upon the Chief Supply Chain Officer, and vice-versa, to succeed. Not only will they know the business, but they will also know your people. And developing those relationships, over time, is an integral part of being a good executive.
So how does a new executive team member develop those relationships while working from home? Here are three suggestions:

Develop a Comprehensive Communication Plan
Along with your hiring manager, develop a detailed onboarding plan that ensures you will communicate with all stakeholders. This is especially important for connecting with new peers, an oft-forgotten cohort. It is natural to devise a plan to configure best practices for your new boss and those reporting to you. But developing those relationships with your equals is critical to your success because these people will help you navigate the workplace culture from your same vantage point.

Plan for Spontaneous Connection
Leaders at every level must find a substitute for the unplanned office drop-in to say hello. Those interactions are typically low-stress and ultimately derive high returns when it comes to relationship-building. For WFH, we suggest keeping a pad near your computer to write down a reminder of what you might say when you virtually drop in. That means preparing what you want to say in that short text and quick call—no need to schedule a videoconference to relay that “job well done” encouragement.

Schedule Virtual Happy Hours
Carve out some valuable end-of-the-day time for an after-hours virtual coffee or cocktail with your new team and with your peers. New leaders should accomplish this task through one-on-one meetings or in small groups. Be sure to develop these relationships in a more casual setting because everyone a more relaxed environment will encourage team building and team bonding.

Connecting with one’s peers within the organization should happen regularly for established leadership teams, regardless of work circumstances. When it comes to onboarding in a remote work situation, we encourage our clients to intentionally reach out to their new colleagues via video call or telephone call. Not to accommodate formal meetings, but just to say hello. This
aspect of virtual executive onboarding will also help understand the company culture and, just as importantly, what you can anticipate others will expect of you.

How Will You Improve Executive Onboarding?
Deliberately making that introduction, sharing enough personal information to form a bond, and offering your help to new colleagues will surprise some new coworkers and fellow leaders.
Those actions will also make an excellent first impression and go a long way toward easing the transition into that new position—all while working from home.

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Your Next, Next Career is Closer Than You Think

When Career Transitions Go Sideways, Keep it Cool

The social contract between employer and employee that was in place for generations has pretty much fallen by the wayside. In the past, people worked in one company for a lifetime believing that the company would “take care of them”. Today’s C-Suite needs to be prepared for a bumpy exit no matter how unlikely he or she may think it is.

Don’t believe me? Here are just a few stories of some of our clients:

A CEO of a $400M healthcare company was fired without warning. The news was leaked to the press before he could reach his family. A local television reporter called his home, his 16-year-old daughter answered, and the reporter asked, “How do you feel about your father being fired?”

If that doesn’t make your stomach turn just a bit, how about this one:

The chief operating officer of a private company had been promised that he would succeed the chief executive officer when the time came for a leadership transition. The founders called him into a previously unscheduled meeting, fired him on the spot without cause and then dared him to do something about it, saying: “We are not going to honor anything in your contract. If you don’t like it, sue us.”

These are just two of the many stories we have heard from our clients and each one makes us angry because it is avoidable.

No matter how poorly a termination is handled you must keep your cool. Take it in, control your emotions, let the person know that you need time to process what you have been told, and terminate the meeting as soon as you can. It is important to remember that every action you take while in, and after that meeting, may well determine everything that happens later.

Most of the clients who come to us are at the top of the leadership ladder – a Board Member, a CEO, a direct report to the CEO, or a Division Officer – but no matter who they are, they need a solid reference from the organization they are leaving. It is important to maintain a professional business demeanor because that is the final and lasting image that people will have of you. No one wants to help an executive who “kicks the furniture” on the way out the door.

Listen. I get it. We are all human and we’ve had situations where we let our emotions get the best of us. But don’t let this situation be one of those situations. How?

Breathe. Reach out to us. Using our confidential process, we can debrief you and help you understand what happened and examine appropriate next steps. We will ask a lot of important questions.  How was the situation presented? Who was in the room? How did they present it? What did you hear? How did you react to it? If we sense that our client took the low road, we offer solid counsel on how to regroup. Most senior executives are smart enough not to do anything rash or make idle threats, but they are justifiably upset – particularly if they didn’t see the termination coming.   But, our client has to go back to his or her former boss, apologize for the emotional response, and ask for their help to make the dissolution of the partnership as fair and equitable as possible to both sides.

Our clients have small but highly influential inner circles. When they later run into friends and colleagues, they are often asked, “What really happened?” It is our role to make sure that our clients have that answer ready to go – a truthful, carefully constructed, positive (or at least neutral) story that provides an opportunity to say good things about both the company and herself or himself.

After all, job loss is viewed as one of the top three most stressful situations in a person’s life – preceded only by the emotional disruption of a death and or divorce. That is why if you can’t rush through or repress the healing process that is required. Our team of coaches, advisers and executives have significant P&L expertise and understand the unique needs of the C-Suite. Armed with that knowledge and understanding, we help clients neutralize the emotion that can be so close to the surface when someone asks why he or she left. Once we have achieved that, clients will be ready to re-enter the marketplace with confidence.

Once that emotion is resolved, these very smart, talented and successful people begin to regain their perspective about who they are and what they have accomplished during the careers. As the process moves forward they will say, “Good grief. I’m not so bad, am I?” Or “Wow! I’ve really got a lot done, haven’t I?” They also recognize that they are in good company, because transitions are part of the risk/reward equation that is part of any top job.

Then it’s time to prepare for interviewing by developing compelling stories about the challenges they faced during different parts of their career, what actions they took to resolve them, and the results of their actions. This puts the “fire back in the belly” and they are ready to engage in finding the next opportunity.

This phase includes developing relationships by reaching out to those they know and meet, expanding their scope of influence, and interviewing for roles that are interesting and challenging. When negotiating for that that new role we are behind the scenes conducting compensation studies, recommending employment lawyers to review contracts (with appropriate severance provisions) , and developing a detailed On-Boarding Plan to ensure early success.

Signing on the bottom line to accept that new role is a moment we all relish and celebrate together. These men and women have learned from what came before, increased their self-knowledge, and developed fresh insight into what the market needs. They also know they can handle any unexpected change to their employment status with confidence.

Executive Onboarding During the Pandemic: Both Pitfall and Opportunity

Here’s Why Today’s Leaders Should Choose “And” Thinking

HR Strategy, Work Culture by Elizabeth K. Olson
To the detriment of talent development and work cultures everywhere, we most often employ “either/or” thinking. Let’s talk about why today’s leaders should more often choose “and” thinking….

So many important aspects of human capital are nuanced and interrelated, yet seemingly polar opposites. For instance, recognizing the individual performer or recognizing team efforts. Showing respect for each person or showing respect based on performance and rewarding managerial-style performance or rewarding leaders.

Some organizations state only half of these pairs as desired values, hence the “or” between them. This is a mistake because when we see these values framed as either/or choices, we miss the synergy from leveraging the best from both sides. We cause harm from overfocusing on one value to the neglect of the other. After all, many values are interdependent, and ideas we think might be opposites are both highly desirable. The misleading part about this is that they need to live in tension with one another over time. These pairings can be called paradoxes, wicked problems, or polarities that require “and thinking.”

“And” Thinking Versus “Or” Thinking

Both inside and outside of work, complexities exist that require us to think about these tensions between seemingly opposing pairs, rather than choosing A over B. For instance, one critical thinking point for leaders is the push-pull between continuity and transformation.

Those business leaders often find themselves executing complex change initiatives that enable their companies to compete better. At the same time, they must create and maintain consistent foundational cultures employees can lean into – no matter what. All too often, when the message is only why complex changes are necessary, without acknowledging what has been going well (and what needs to remain in place), even the best plans blow up.

Everything done “the old way” is now wrong. Right?

This pervasive contradiction lowers morale and confuses, thereby sabotaging the energy and focus needed to implement the change.

Centralized Versus Decentralized Coordination

One of the biggest derailers for employees is the pendulum swing between centralized coordination and decentralized coordination. Organizations are frequently in a seesaw around this polarity. It’s as if one is better than the other, so they over-focus on one at the expense of the other.

For instance, a new chief executive officer is instituted and says: “We’ve lost the entrepreneurial nature of this organization, and we must decentralize and give control to each of the business units.” Because centralization and decentralization are interrelated, people complain there is no coordination and little ability to share services effectively. That causes the next CEO to say: “We have to centralize; everything is all over the map. Nobody knows who’s on first.” After finally getting used to the new structure, it whipsaws back to some version of the old one. With the average tenure of CEOs being three-and-a-half years, organizations must simultaneously focus on centralization and decentralization.

The Solution: Mapping Versus Gapping

One way around this conundrum is to institute a mapping process…

Instead of executing a gap analysis, which is how most people approach change, we think about the upside and downside of their preferred value or pole in the polarity equation. We then do the same for the countervailing pole. Then, as the diagram illustrates, we outline action steps for gaining the upsides from each pole. We also design strategies for avoiding the downsides of each if we over-focus on one pole to neglect the other.

That is “and” thinking.

Once we get the tension right between the different energetic poles, my clients find themselves comfortably resting in a virtuous cycle. They begin to get the best of both options, no matter how opposite those options seem. For many leaders, this comes as such a relief. Because those leaders, rather than focusing on the power of both – the “and” – tend to over-focus on one side of the equation. They then find themselves in a vicious and contentious cycle that isn’t good for them, their fellow leaders, or their teams.

Harness the power of both poles. Expand your thinking to “and.” You’ll soon create a virtuous cycle that will enable your organization to thrive, freeing your teams to unify under healthy “and” tensions versus the opposing camps that can form from “or” decisions.

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Investing in the Future of Food: Three Essential Steps to Successfully Build a Leadership Team

Investing in the Future of Food: Three Essential Steps to Successfully Build a Leadership Team

Hugh Shields Featured in Food Navigator USA

In this segment of Inventing in the Future of Food, career coach Hugh Shields of Shields Meneley Partners explains the factors that could stunt the company’s growth and how his three essential steps in building a successful leadership team can help entrepreneurs smooth their transition to working with newly hired executives while growing the company.



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Now Is the Time to Build Your Leadership Bench

Now Is the Time to Build Your Leadership Bench

Podcast: https://soundcloud.com/middle-market-growth/build-your-leadership-bench

The economic crisis caused by COVID-19 has led many businesses to focus on challenges related to working capital, supply chain, or the accelerated shift from brick-and-mortar to e-commerce. Yet alongside these urgent priorities, talent planning continues to be important, particularly as companies position themselves for the post-pandemic future.

Bob Ryan, a partner at Shields Meneley Partners, and Keith Goudy, the managing partner at Vantage Leadership Consulting, return to the podcast to discuss the pressing issues related to talent management and hiring that business leaders and private equity owners are grappling with today.

Drawing on their experience working with clients, Ryan and Goudy describe how the COVID crisis has changed what companies are looking for in their leaders, and how to lead effectively when employees are working from home. They offer actionable tips for advancing diversity and inclusion initiatives in a virtual work environment, and they explain why succession planning is now more important than ever.

Ryan and Goudy first appeared on the Middle Market Growth Conversations podcast last year, in an episode titled “How to Get Hired at a Private Equity-Owned Company,” available here.

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People On The Move

People On The Move

Bob Ryan, Shields Meneley Partners

Shields Meneley Partners, Chicago
Shields Meneley Partners, a nationally recognized executive coaching and career transition firm, is pleased to announce Bob Ryan has been named Partner after previously joining the firm as an Advisor. Bob brings over 30 years of senior corporate leadership experience across numerous industries in the human capital arena.




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An Unexpected Networking Opportunity

An Unexpected Networking Opportunity

Believe it or not, this is a great time for executives in career transition to network and to meet people. In my role as a coach for C-Suite members looking for their new jobs, one of the things that we talk about is how important networking is in general and during this time with more people being at home, they’re actually starving for interaction with people. That desire to connect intersects with the fact that potential new contacts are more available because big holes have shown up in their schedules since they are not traveling and they are not commuting. So, they have time.

At Shields Meneley Partners, we have relationships with the most influential search firms and we are finding that recruiters are available. I have already lost count at the number of calls I have had with these people who do not understand why people are not calling them or returning their calls. This is a huge mistake. If you are an executive, particularly in the C-Suite, and you are in career transition, do not assume that nothing is going on with recruiters because nothing could be further from the truth.

Generally speaking, we know about half the positions, executive C-level, are on hold or at least moving slowly, but that also means the other half are full speed ahead and filling these positions is really important. No one wants to go into a board meeting this spring and say that a key position has not been filled because of the pandemic. So, recruiters are still looking to fill those roles.

Even if you are an executive not in career transition, this is still a good time to continue networking. With so many executives home and not busied with travel and in-person distractions from the office, people have the time to catch up. I recently made a list of 16 people that I wanted to contact over the next couple of weeks and after only a few days I had conversations with 15 people! In normal times that would have not happened during such a short timeframe. This is a good time to stay connected with people, offer your help, and at the same time listen. and share what is going on in your life.

Based on what we are seeing in the marketplace, best-in-class CEOs are staying in contact through Zoom or other video tools, with their leadership team, but also getting messages out on video vignettes that are pushed out to all employees, including those whom are furloughed, working, out in the field, or working from home. This is executed with a very human touch that shows leadership’s concern for families first and bringing them up to date on the business.

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