Retired but not tired

Retired but not tired

Glen Johnson talks to two corporate executives energized by an exciting new chapter in their careers that allows them to make a big difference—interim executive management.

I was on a Zoom call a few years ago when one of the participants introduced himself and told the attendees that he was “retired but not tired”. I thought it was very descriptive of what he was doing in the next chapter of his career. A former corporate executive, he split his time as a board member for several privately held companies.

In my business, where I connect interim executive talent to companies and organizations that need talent on a relatively short-term basis, those that are self-proclaimed “retired but not tired” are an amazing talent community that delivers incredible value to my clients. I certainly work with other talented leaders, some that have their own consultancies, and others that are executives in transition, but the “retired” executive community is the group I want to focus on for the purposes of this piece.

Recently, I read a survey report on the topic of retirees returning to the workforce. The survey data indicated that 1 in 8 retirees plan to go back to work in 2024. The conclusion was that the main driver for returning to work was financial. That is not what I see in the executive ranks though. I see talented executives that have had very impressive careers and have retired from an executive role but seek to share their knowledge in a productive and helpful way.

In general, they are not looking for another traditional career run. Rather, they have a lot to offer and are willing to run in sprints to solve problems, leveraging their amassed years of knowledge, skills, and experience. They do get paid well, but that is not their primary driver. Some love the challenge. Some like the “get in, fix and repair, then get out” approach. Some say that work keeps them sharp, involved, relevant, and helpful.

I had a chance to catch up with a couple of talented executives that have had successful engagements with my clients over the past few years to talk about their perspective.

When Lawrence Cresci retired in 2020 after a 35+ year career in Global Supply Chain and Operations manufacturing, including 28 years with Dow Chemical where he led a team of over 4,000 employees supporting all businesses across the $60B global company, he was looking forward to doing things he had not been able to do while working full-time. He was going to “sit back and reflect, spend time with the grandkids, travel, visit friends, home improvement, brush up on my golf game, and give back to the community.” All of this sounded a lot like full-time retirement. What changed? “Well, opportunity knocked, and it sounded interesting—with a closed end where I could make a difference. I thought, I'll enjoy it so let's give it a go. And here we are on our second engagement.”

Trisha Fischetti and I worked closely together many years ago in HR at Siemens. Trisha segments her career into thirds. In the first third, she built her foundational knowledge in HR focused on processes and more transactional type work. Her second third pivoted into global roles as a HR Business Partner within the life sciences space where the organizational needs were more sophisticated and strategic, with a significant amount of M&A activity. The last third started with a move into Private Equity owned companies which were smaller in scale, but had HR needs critical to a successful investment exit. While she initially intended to become an HR Consultant with a focus on coaching and development, her HR leadership experience in a PE company created new opportunities for her as an interim CHRO. Trisha enjoys the challenge that interim engagements bring and shared some of her experience. She “really enjoys homing in on where the gaps are and quickly implementing some pragmatic suggestions and solutions. Whether that is building the talent around you or fitting the talent to the right work, identifying additional talent needs, upscaling talent, driving the associated performance management pieces. I've really enjoyed the strategic workforce elements. I also love stabilizing HR teams that might need it: When you have a situation where you encounter either a void because the HR person has left, or there is a plan for transition, and they have that layer below where the team is just looking for some direction. I look back at all the times in my career that I've received good coaching and mentorship from a thought partner, and I love serving in that capacity for those HR directs. It’s a lot of fun.”

I asked both Trisha and Lawrence what advice they would give to executives considering transitioning from a traditional role into the world of interim. Trisha recommends talking to people that made that successful transition to hear the lessons they have learned. She added, “you need to recognize that you may not be fully engaged all the time and be comfortable having some time off. It may not be a lot of time, but some time not being engaged or connected to an assignment.”

Lawrence advised being ready because roles can come up out of the blue and things happen fast. “You can interview today and start work on Monday.” He further adds, “Don't go into it if you're afraid of hard work, don't go into it if you're afraid of having to learn new things incredibly quickly. Don't be afraid of the risk of failure. Not that you ever want to fail, but you have to be bold, confident in your abilities and what you bring, because inevitably, you're going to bring something valuable and you're going to be able to influence in a positive direction. It's an interesting space that is not for the faint hearted sometimes, but it's very, very rewarding.”

For both Trisha and Lawrence, their world of work has changed. They have taken on their own version of the “gig economy” and thrived while finding a balance in their lives that staying in a traditional leadership role as a fulltime executive would not afford. They enjoy continuous learning while leveraging their amazing set of experiences, skills, and knowledge.

If you're interested in having a conversation about becoming an interim executive, or how interim executives can help your organization, get in touch with Glen Johnson.


Jessie McGowan at 15/04/2024 16:08 said:

Thank you Glen. I love reading stories of execs choosing to use their talents in a creative, nontraditional way.

Glen Johnson at 17/04/2024 14:14 said:

Thanks for your note, Jessie! Glad you enjoyed the story.

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