Navigating Ups and Downs of the C-Suite – Part 1

by | Aug 29, 2019 | Career Transition, Leadership, Networking, Private Equity | 0 comments

The landscape for today’s C-Suite has changed dramatically compared with previous generations. No longer do leaders stay with the same company for their entire careers with the confidence they will be taken care of during their retirement years as a reward. Instead, tenure in these positions has been compressed to only a handful of years. Executives who are very good at managing companies and divisions in his or her lanes find out quickly they usually do not have the skill set to find that new job when the time comes.

Part I: Prepare to be Fired When Hired

When a senior executive is in the flow of his or her job it just about occupies all of that person’s brain space and energy to keep all the plates spinning, all the balls in the air and any other saying to connote the simple truth that leaders today are busier than ever. At the same time, the tenure of a C- Level executive is relatively short at a little more than three years on average. When the executive is focused solely on the bottom line and performance of the company, certain aspects of his or her personal life fall by the wayside. While that may not be a long time in terms of a person’s overall career, it is a lifetime when it comes to networking. When they are let go, it is usually sudden and unexpected for the leader, whom is unprepared to navigate the rough waters ahead.

It does not have to be this way.

Generally speaking, the mind of the senior executive today thinks “I’m okay because I’ve been getting called by recruiters for the last few years, I know I can do this again someplace else.” The leader puts that thought to bed with a sense of comfort, but the fact is once you’re out, those calls are not as regular as they used to be. In fact, they dry up very quickly and then panic sets in for the bewildered individual who always had direction in his or her march toward the top job, but suddenly has no place to go.

Same Old, Same Old?

The good news is you have more options than you think. To start, ask yourself if you are going to do the same thing now, just someplace else. You do not have to. In fact, you may be burned out and not even know it.

If you have made it to the C-Suite, odds are you are financially secure to take time to figure out your next step. This time of discovery can be incredibly liberating and valuable because you realize there are far more options than you may have considered. The key to unlocking this newfound freedom is having the right guide to help you pilot the journey.

When I first meet a client, I look her or him in the eye and I ask: “do you really want to do what you’ve done, again?” If the answer is yes, I ask the client to humor me and let us explore some other options for an hour or two because we may find that in fact there is something else that you want to do. I have been successfully coaching C-Suite members for five years and nearly every time I suggest a doing something different to a client there is a sea change in personality and I can see a wave of relief, wonderment and excitement wash over them because they never even considered doing something else for work, much less, something he or she will enjoy.

Retirement is probably not one of those options. You might be able to “retire” in your 50’s, but you’re still going to be on the planet for another 35 years, so the thought of just golfing for the next three decades doesn’t have an appeal anymore. Instead, you probably want to do something that adds value, keeps you interested, keeps you vibrant. Perhaps doing something in the not-for-profit sector, where your skills would be very valued, is an option. You may want to do something in private equity as an operating partner or portfolio CEO, which could be a short stint but could be very interesting because the chance to roll up your sleeves and do all of the things that you’ve learned throughout your career and be rewarded at the time of exit.

Please check back to my feed next week when I discuss the options that are available to leaders today in determining next steps.

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