I had lunch with a friend this week. Raylene Decatour used to run the Nature and Science Museum in Denver – she did a spectacular job rasing and investing $100 million and quadrupling revenues while there. Such a good job, in fact, that she is a sought-after consultant to other non-profit boards.
Like any pro, Raylene knows what she’s good at and stays focused on that – for her, it’s startegic planning and CEO succession planning. In her work recruiting and screening candidates for top jobs at large non-profits, Raylene finds most mid-life execs flat-footed when it comes to career planning.
I agree, for all the planning skills it takes to run an organization, most CEOs and top execs are lousy at strategic planning for their life. As Raylene says, unless you are unlucky or stupid, chances are most 50 to 60-year olds will live to 100. So why cram all the 80 hour work weeks and financial focus into a 10 to 20 year window?
I don’t know how long I will live, maybe 60 or 100 years but I do know that my kids will leave home at 18, I know they need my presence in their teens and if I am not in their life in a meaningful way before age 12 it’s going to be tough to make up for those lost years. You know this is true too and, through all of your rationalizing, you can’t slow down your kid’s aging or developmental processes.
I also know that when my kids hit 18 it’s just me and the Mrs. The amount of my investment in that relationship before the kids leave the nest determines what that relationship will be like when it is just the two of us.
With these known and fixed parts of the equation in mind I look out over the years before I hit 100 and I see a lot of time to play golf. I also see the need to plan my career so that I have options that span a long period. When I take this long view I can relax about bagging millions in the next three years and spend time with my wife and children. After all, I have 20 to 30 years to bag millions. Yet also become aware that I have to be deliberate about the way I manage my career.
The career planning I see missing in a lot of execs is that they do little to broaden their skills sets and relationships. They are too focused on the internal dynamics at their company and in performing in their role. Being the top marketing exec for a company is valuable for that company but if that’s all your resume has on it you are a commodity. If you want to consult, teach, work for a small company or launch your own PR firm in the future you’ll need to create and execute on a plan for that.
Clearly the plan that says, I am going to study hard in school, work 125 hour weeks as a trainee so I can get promoted fast or hired by a company and work 100 hour weeks and travel half the time for 20 years while my spouse raises the kids, then retire with all the F-you money I need and then relax and have fun for the next 60 years makes little sense.
What’s your strategic plan?