One time Unionist MP for South Down, Enoch Powell, is famous for his so-called ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech delivered in 1968 when he stated: “All political lives, unless they are cut off in midstream at a happy juncture, end in failure…”
The scenario usually plays out as follows. A senior politician makes an error of judgment and gets fired from the front bench. In Ireland, people seldom voluntarily resign over mishaps – they’re normally pushed. The evidence? There are so many examples of political careers ending in failure, it’s difficult to know where to start. One of the more colorful was the British Cabinet Minister David Mellor who famously had an affair with Antonia de Sancha. The relationship, conducted over an intensive 3 months, is probably best remembered for the image of Mellor wearing the Chelsea football gear to ‘score’ in the bedroom, which later turned out to be a fabrication concocted by the celebrity publicist Max Clifford. I prefer the Barcelona strip myself (it can get Messi). Yes, never let the truth get in the way of a good story.
Irish Politicians: In the case of Irish political leaders, the ‘end of reign’ is normally a tad less colorful. Their demise coincides with party members coming to a view that the Dear Leader has ‘overstayed her/his welcome’ and needs to be replaced with someone more electable. Of course, the person who normally disagrees vehemently with this analysis is the leader being deposed. Politicians cling to power with a grip that would make a Silverback Gorilla jealous.
Succession Planning: Is there a parallel to this in the business world? In the best-managed companies, leadership transitions are typically planned and outwardly less traumatic. I’ve had the privilege of working with several retiring Senior Executives and CEO’s, helping them to manage their end-of-career transition and confirm the following: less public doesn’t always mean less painful. The good news is that executives who’ve managed to climb the greasy organization pole are normally financially secure. The mortgage is paid; money pressures are light or non-existent. Those looking enviously from the sidelines envisage former CEO’s saying goodbye to long hours and hello to the Irish Times over a lunchtime full strength Guinness. It all looks rosy – except to the person facing into what can be a very uncertain chapter in their life.
Final Chapter: While we all experience the normal moans around good health, the final chapter throws up additional worries for former executives. Will I still be a player? (depends on how you define your life goals). Will I still have some influence in my old organization? (forget that: there’s nothing as ex as an ex). Will I be remembered? (yes: normally for about 3 weeks). Will I be able to fully ‘let go’? (you’ll have to – assuming that you want to stay mentally healthy). One CEO I know had more ‘going away parties’ than Elizabeth Taylor had honeymoons. Some years on, he’s still ‘stuck in the past’. Every single conversation leads back to “When I worked in Company X.” It’s sad. If you want to read about managing the final chapter in your life – track down the brilliant Chasing Daylight – subtitled ‘How My forthcoming Death Changed My life’ – by Eugene Kelly. Or you can work with an Executive Coach to help plot the course. Or, God Forbid, even punch in some ‘thinking time’ and DIY. Whatever method you choose, make sure that you plan the next phase of your life before it sneaks up on you. My brother Tony said he recently walked past the bedroom mirror and wondered how a small, baldy, fat guy had broken into his house! I know that feeling.
The Message: Make your executive transition plan-ful. Don’t end your final chapter with a ‘bitter after-taste’ which can taint a lifetime of success. ‘Walk-the-plank’ voluntarily rather than waiting to be pushed.
Thought for the Week: This anonymous quote struck a chord…“The kids who need the most love will ask for it in the most unloving of ways.”
PS Some Lighter notes …
Regular naps prevent old age, especially if you take them while driving.
Retirement is the time in your life when time is no longer money.
Somewhere an elderly lady reads a book on how to use the internet, while a young boy Googles ‘how to read a book.’
A woman came home to find her retired husband waving a rolled up newspaper round his head.
Wife: “What are you doing dear?”
Husband: “Swatting flies. I got three males and two females”
Wife: “How on Earth do you know which gender they were?”
Husband: “Easy: three were on the beer, and the other two were on the phone.”
Question: How do you know you’re old enough to retire?
Answer: Instead of lying about your age, you start bragging about it!
Check our website http://www.tandemconsulting.ie or call 087 2439019 for an informal discussion about executive or organization development.