Completely engaged and completely disengaged

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They act completely engaged and completely disengaged at the same time.  This is the experience of many younger leaders and employees with the close but not quite retired senior leader.  You experience them fully engaged and immersed and seemingly not involved at all.

I remember this distinctly with my father.  He is one of the top authors with his publisher.  Now as a semi-retired author some of the key leaders view him as completely retired.  They failed to invite him to a sales meeting and he felt upset that he was not included.  He just wanted the choice to say “yes” or “no” vs. not  given the choice by leaders.   I call this a preconceived presumption.

Another example was during a merger and the sole owner was not properly engaged during client transitions, key leadership decisions or even looped in on email.  The critical point is to remember that he just wanted to know that he was still in charge while he was completely out.  The perspective of the “semi-retired or pre-retired” is about wanting to know that their life mattered and their contribution will not be forgotten.  They are considering their legacy and more than anything they want to know that they left a legacy to begin with.

Here are a few suggestions to evaluate how you are doing in making sure that critical leader who is completely out and completely in is a part of your business:

  • Do Not Assume that you know what it is like to have invested your entire career in building a business and think that it is easy to walk away from it.  In fact, during this season that person is likely evaluating and wanting to hold onto their legacy.
  • Are you including? Make sure you include them on every aspect of dealings that involve their clients. That could be as simple as calling to say you are visiting their client or looping them in via email.  Your job is to provide the same level of service and expertise that they provided when they secured and retained the business.
  • Ask for help:  Put yourself in the position of a respected learner.  Stop acting like you know as much as they do because you likely do not.  State your plan and ask for input.  Listen to that input and apply it.  Don’t worry, you will learn something.  It is not about you.  You are there to serve them and the customer.
  • Critical Decisions: Invite them into executive leadership meetings and get their input.  Be sure to listen because they have much to share.  It might not be a bad idea to actually implement one of their ideas.  Remember that they mostly want to be heard and validated.

One decision I made early on in my career was to be sure that I over-communicated with my semi-retired boss.  He deserved the respect that the business he built would be a legacy.  My boss just wanted the option to be totally involved or not involved at all.  He felt respected by this gesture.

They are completely out and completely in at exactly the same time.  Do not make it one or the other.  Allow both to exist in this wonderful dynamic tension.  Do not make them choose prematurely.  The time will come when they will be completely out and hopefully you have helped them see the legacy they have left.  This will help your career too because during this process you will have learned a great deal.

You will be there one day evaluating the legacy you have left.  You will no doubt wrestle with the tension of being completely engaged and completely disengaged all at the same time.  It is hard to let go and it is hard to hold on.