As a number of Baby Boomer CEOs and business owners approach retirement age, it is not uncommon for them to express reluctance at making material changes to the businesses they’ve worked hard to build, even if they make perfect sense. They often use phrases such as, “I’m on cruise control”, and, “Our model works great and I don’t see a need to make any changes”.
For example, not long the operations manager of a bank told me, “I like your proposal and it makes sense. However, many members of our team are retiring in the next five years, and I think it would be hard to get buy-in”.
On a much larger scale, 80% of bank executives don’t think their banks need to be data driven. Read between the lines, “I’m comfortable. We’re making money. I’ll be retired soon. Let’s not mess anything up”.
Of course my response is, “How can you mess anything up by understanding your customers and markets better?”
Attitudes like this may explain why there used to be close to 20,000 banks in America, and now there are about 6,500, with more going out of business every year.
Let’s really zoom out now to a bigger picture issue. If you are a CEO, business owner, or person high in an organization, you have to keep going and developing. You owe that to the people under you whose livelihoods and careers depend on your level of engagement.
If you go on cruise control as you start to see the runway lights of retirement approaching, it has a demoralizing effect on the younger people below you in the organization who want to do great things for the business.
I remember this phenomena all too well from a previous employer. My peers and I offered up innovative idea after idea, only to be rejected by senior managers who were approaching retirement. Many of us threw up our hands and thought, “What’s the point”?
It doesn’t have to be this way though. I run across plenty of CEOs near retirement age who are still guns blazing. They’re looking realistically and unselfishly at the needs of the organization as they near their departure, and are continuing to innovate and develop the people around them.
Cruise control is dangerous to an organization. I understand folks have paid their dues, are perhaps burned out, and are looking for a transition. That’s normal and understandable.
However, when I consider people such as Moses, Ronald Reagan, Peter Drucker, and the host of retirement age people I know who are still contributing; my encouraging word is, despite your proximity to retirement age, you have not reached your God-given potential, and you still have much more to contribute.
Instead of looking at the runway and putting your feet up, put the hammer down and use your experience to grow, innovate, and develop those around you.
See more in “Six Ways to Maximize Executive Performance”