Another former CEO laughed as he remembered his retirement. “My kids were grown up and living their own lives. They quickly grew tired of my visits. My wife got so tired of me she got a job in a dress store, just to get out of the house. One day I was watching TV by myself, and a delivery guy came to drop off a package. It was his last stop, so I invited him in for a cup of coffee, and we had a very interesting conversation about life.
“After he left I thought, ‘What a great conversation. That was the highlight of my week.’ Then I looked into the mirror. I hadn’t shaved for three days. I had been watching junk on TV. Then I realized what I had just said: ‘The highlight of my week was having a cup of coffee with the delivery guy.’ As a CEO, I may have had some bad weeks, but I never had a week so boring that coffee with delivery people was a highlight. I got a job the next day.”
As you slow down to hand off the baton of leadership to your successor, whether you are the CEO or the executive vice president of human resources, you should have less to do at work. Let your successor start running the place. And I have an important suggestion: Use this time to start planning something exciting to do with the rest of your life. You will probably have too much drive and ambition to be a successful retiree.
You may be thinking: “If I announce my successor in advance, isn’t there a danger that I will just become a lame duck?”
Almost every executive goes through this dialogue as part of the challenge of slowing down. This fear often results from postponement of the announcement until the last minute, and inhibits what could otherwise be a much smoother transition process.
When it is approaching time to leave, face reality. You will become a lame duck! Attention will shift to your successor. His or her vision for the future of the company will mean more than yours. If you disapprove of executive team members’ ideas, they will just wait it out and resell the same ideas to your successor. People will start sucking up to him or her in the same way they used to suck up to you.