“Off the Wall” Podcast

3 Executive Career Transitions: How to Level Up, Make a Change, or Step Away

Nov 06, 2023 Planning for Retirement

Are you an executive getting ready for your next career move? Need advice on how to step away from your current role and figure out what’s next? Thinking of taking a sabbatical or transitioning to retirement? Tune in to the expert advice you need to make your next move successful!

In this episode of Off the Wall, host Jessica Gibbs welcomes Deborah Brecher, President and Managing Director of Tandem Group, to give you advice on navigating change, growth, and transitions in your career. Today, she highlights the three most common transitions executives experience in their careers and how to move through them with ease.

Throughout the discussion, you’ll learn how to get ready for your next executive role, how to make a career move, and how to step away. Deborah gives fantastic advice on branding yourself as a trustworthy executive, strategically identifying what the next chapter of your career looks like, and how to ensure your next executive role is fulfilling. She also details how you can leverage your network to propel your career to the next level.

If you’re ready to take on more leadership responsibilities, shift into a new industry or company, or step away from your career altogether, Deborah’s advice will certainly guide you in the right direction.

“The first place to work is with yourself because when you go look for your next opportunity, you’ve got to come at it from a place of positivity and belief in yourself.”
– Deborah Brecher

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You’ve come to the right place.

Episode Timeline/Key Highlights:

[00:19] Introducing Deborah Brecher & the topic of today’s episode.
[01:56] How to prepare for your next role as an executive.
[10:41] Personal branding tips for executives.
[15:55] How to make your next career move (and make sure it’s fulfilling).
[27:57] Approaching your next role when it’s an unexpected change vs. your own choice.
[31:46] Taking a career sabbatical: Is it worth it for executives?
[34:02] Act III: Navigating the last chapter of your career.
[37:04] How to step away from your career and plan a fulfilling retirement.
[41:56] When it’s time to grit and when it’s time to quit.
[47:00] About Tandem Group.

Resources Mentioned:

Follow Tandem Group on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/tandem-group-inc- 
Tandem Group’s website: https://www.tandemgroupinc.com
Tandem Group’s blog “To The Point”: https://www.tandemgroupinc.com/blog
Center for Creative Leadership: https://www.ccl.org 
Spencer Stuart: https://www.spencerstuart.com
Russell Reynolds: https://www.russellreynolds.com 
Heidrick & Struggles: https://www.heidrick.com 
Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl: https://bit.ly/45W9Urx 

About Deborah Brecher:

About Deborah Brecher:
Deborah Brecher works with CEOs, senior leadership teams, and Boards of Directors at global companies to diagnose organizational performance issues, design and implement large scale transformational journeys, CEO and senior leadership succession planning, BOD effectiveness, and talent pipeline management. She’s had the opportunity to speak and author articles on a range of topics from CEO succession to how leaders must adapt post-COVID-19 to attract and retain good people. Most recently, she led a panel discussion for an NACD (National Association of Corporate Directors) Master Class on CEO succession planning.

Connect with Deborah on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/deborah-brecher-94ab1914a 


Jessica Gibbs, CFP® [00:00:17] Hi everyone. It’s Jessica from the Monument Team. I am here hosting solo today, Dave wasn’t able to make it today. But it’s okay because I can do this by myself. We’ve got a great episode today, I think. I think everyone listening to this, you can reflect back on your career and you can kind of, you know, pinpoint a few like notable transitions that you’ve made. And I also think most everyone you know, you can also telescope what transitions are likely to come for you. And I think everyone, you know, wants to kind of wing it. You want to approach these transitions, these big moments in your career with kind of your best foot forward. And so that’s really what we’re here to talk about today. We’ve got a great expert who’s going to give us some good advice regardless of what stage of career you are at. So Deborah Brecher is Managing Director of the Tandem Group, which is a premier consulting firm dedicated to building highly effective organizations. With more than 25 years in consulting, Deborah has extensive experience helping CEOs and senior executives and global companies navigate through change, accelerate growth, build strong talent pipelines and produce breakthrough results. So welcome, Deborah, to Off the Wall. We’re so happy to have you.

Deborah Brecher [00:01:37] Jessica Thanks for having me. It’s a pleasure to be here. And Dave, wherever you are, we send our good wishes.

Jessica Gibbs, CFP® [00:01:44] Yes, I’m sure he’ll listen back to this and then he’ll have lots of feedback and questions. So it’s good. So, yeah, as I said, we’re going to focus today’s conversation on three common transitions that executives experience in their careers and how best to prepare for them. So those three transitions are how to get ready for your next role, how to make a career move, and how to step away. And so let’s start with preparing for your next role. And I’m thinking about this within the context of maybe you’re looking to move up to the next level within your organization. You’re looking to take on more responsibilities and leadership, you know, but you aren’t there yet. So how can you start to prepare yourself so that when the opportunity arises or when you put your you want to put yourself forward for that next step, you are in fact ready and you will be successful?

Deborah Brecher [00:02:38] Yeah, it’s a great question. And if I can just take a step back for a second before I address that question and put this into context, I think it’s helpful to know that for all of us, there are ages and stages of transition, and what often feels awkward is that we don’t think about them in advance, to your point. We we think about them when we start to feel the energy moving towards what we think next is. And, you know, I spend a lot of my time working with senior leaders on succession planning, on executive development. And so I think the first thing for us to think about are those ages and stages, one of which you’ve highlighted here, which is, you know, I am in perhaps I’m in the mid to more senior level of my my career. I know that there’s another jump that I want to make. What are the things they should be thinking about related to that? And we’ll address that question. But but even, you know, even more importantly, do I do that in the organization I’m in? Do I do it in another organization? How do I make those decisions? And once I’ve gotten to a place where I feel complete, whatever that is, and whenever that is, how do I start planning for the transition to whatever next is? Because we’re all living longer and we’re all healthier and and we need to stay active. So. So if that’s the context, then let’s go back to I’m in a I’m in a place in my career where I know I want to get ready for the next big jump and and what do I do where I am to get ready for that? Because there’s a supposition always that when we are getting ready for that, we don’t know what we don’t know. And there there’s going to be a gap. That’s that’s a going in supposition. So I think there’s three things to think about when that’s true. First is me and what it is I’m striving for and what’s going to be important to me now. I mean, I think we’re one of the interesting things is to watch the, you know, millennials, Gen Z, the folks coming up, you know, the days are gone when you just have people thinking, well, I just need to get to the next thing because the next thing is what I’m supposed to do. And once I do that, I’ll do the next thing. And so what I’ve been working with clients on is actually to take a pause and first, first reconsider. What is it that drives me? What is it that gets me up in the morning? What is the contribution I choose to make? What what are the skill sets that I have? What are the values that motivate me? I have a I have a couple of activities I like to do with people when I’m first starting with them. And one is to look at their lifeline. And, you know, depending on where you where you are in your life, that can be a short activity or a long activity, but it’s a creative activity. And the intent is to look at the places and actions in your life that have had meaning for you, either positive or negative. So something that may have happened to you when you were a young child, something that happened to you in your teen years and so forth. So you really go through the whole of your life and you you look at highlighting those in a way that makes sense to you and then think about what was it that made that important to me. Either I learned something or something mattered to me. And you can start to get at the internal intrinsic drivers and things that are important or assumptions that we’ve made about ourselves and what we can or cannot do, should or should not do. And we can start to make some very explicit choices about what will matter to us. So why does it matter to do that? Because when you’re in inflection points like I’m about to strive to my next level where I’m going to look for another company, it’s important to make the invisible visible and not to be driven by things that we are even thinking about anymore, but do affect our actions day to day. So that’s exercise number one. The second one is then what I refer to as our ideal scene. And look, I think people need to use the right brain as well as their left brain when they do this. So I have them get big poster board. If you can still find the magazines that you can put pictures out of and you know, what’s the environment I want to be in? Who are the kinds of people I want to be working with? What’s the kind of work that I want to do? And so rather than so this the purpose here is to diverge before we converge on what’s automatically next. All right. So let’s say we have all that. Then the question becomes, all right, now I’m in an organization. Is my experience in this organization, the one I need to have or what? I’d like to create a different experience in this organization. Or do I need a different organization to have the experience I’m looking for? Often what happens for people when they’re getting ready for their next step is there’s it can feel like irritation or frustration that people want to move on. But what that really is, is is energy moving and a drive to go to what’s next. So if we can frame it positively. Then the question we ask ourselves is what are the available opportunities for me? And they’re they’re one of two. Usually if you’re staying in the same organization, you’re either looking for a promotion or you’re looking for a lateral move to take you to a promotion. Many people don’t consider lateral moves as seriously as they think they should. And the reason to think about that is because depending on where you are, let’s take an example of a person that I’m working with actually right now. He’s a VP in the role that he’s in his next he wants to get to an SVP level. He has come from a finance background, and the question I asked him was, is it in finance that you want to take your next step? And he said, well, that would be the most logical. And I said, But if you telescope out five years from now or seven years from now, what do you aspire to be? Now, I’ve spent some time with this this person. And so I said, Do you aspire to be the CEO of one of the business units? And he said, I do. And I said, Well, if that’s true, then what? You need to get us some operational experience. So moving up in finance will help you. You need to go over here or you need to go over here. So we started to brainstorm not just roles, but what are the experiences he needs to have that set him up for that now? Do we know if he’ll get to be a CEO or not? No. But if he doesn’t plan now for the experiences that I know they will consider in the running, then he won’t have them. So that’s number one. What are the experiences I have? And that could include a lateral move for him. It will include a lateral move. The second thing then to think about is who is it that needs to know who I am and what I contribute to the organization and who needs to advocate for me when it’s time to make these decisions. So most most of us have our heads down day in and day out doing the thing we’re supposed to be doing. But when it comes to making decisions about the next level up, there’s a constituency that comes together to talk about that. And the question is, are you on the radar of the constituency you need to be seriously considered for where you’re going? Now, I’m I’m taking it I’m taking it for granted that whoever this is is performing well in their role, because that’s table stakes. Right. So who is the constituency and how do you begin to build visibility and relationships with those people in a meaningful way? Not in a, gee, I know you’re more senior than me. Can I go have breakfast with you? But rather, what are the things those people are paying attention to in the organization? Are there special projects I could get on where I could be seen? Are there people in my network who know them better than I would? And that can make an introduction. It’s really not much different than marketing in general to get your message out. But it’s the same idea Build your network and be very clear by asking for feedback what your brand is. So how do people in the organization view me? Is that the way I want them to view me? If the answer is no, what do I need to shift? I’ll give an example of a very recent ascension. Somebody that I’ve known for a long time comes from the CFO ranks. Happened to just take over as president of a $20 billion business. Now, he’s a very good CFO. He’s a very smart business man. He does not show up as a president. Yet. And so his job is actually to think about how do I use myself? In this new role so that the organization sees me as someone they can trust to follow, including through difficult times should they occur. Because they see me as a senior statesman. That requires a difference in his brand, how he shows up with his new peers because he’s just gotten there. He’s got an elevated up. How does how is he seen by his new peers? How is he seen by his boss? How is he seen by his organization? So we actually put a 100 day plan together to make a shift in that, including, as silly as it sounds, what does he wear? Because what he’s been wearing in his, you know, post-pandemic sit in my office with no glass look, is not what it’s going to look like when he moves up. 47 floors, which is what he’s going up literally to all glass offices. So let me pause there, because that’s a lot. What does that spark for you?

Jessica Gibbs, CFP® [00:12:19] Yeah, I’m kind of curious if you’re trying to figure out. I think that personal brand idea is really interesting. And I feel like if you’ve kind of grown in your career, you’re maybe maybe you have an idea of what your personal brand is, but maybe it’s it’s, to your point, not aligned with what reality is. I mean, do you recommend people, you know, ask colleagues or ask, you know, the people above, Like, I don’t even know how do you approach that question But like asking questions of like, well, how do how do you perceive me? Which I gather can be a very uncomfortable conversation because you’re opening yourself off to opening yourself up to hearing what potential flaws are about you. But like, how do you approach that conversation? Is that something that you should be doing?

Deborah Brecher [00:13:01] It’s always good to make sure that you’re aware of what the system is thinking and feeling and saying about you. It happens in every system. We all have that. So there are there are informal and formal ways that you can go about doing that. So informal ways. One of the things I like to advise clients to do, particularly coaching clients that I’m working with, is establish what I refer to as their board of directors. And what that usually means is you choose somewhere between four and six people that are come from a variety of walks of life in your world who know enough about you and see you enough to to comment meaningfully about what they see and what they experience. And you use and you you contract with those people or ask those people specifically to give you feedback about how you’re doing or being perceived. And you know, whether you check in with them every month or you check in with them every six weeks or whatever the cadence is. You can use those informal feedback providers to help you know where you’re going and how you’re being perceived. Some and I like to do a mix of people inside an organization and outside of an organization. So because these days, since everything is so connected, you know, you, you will your external network is as important as your internal network, particularly as you get more senior. So that’s sort of the informal way to do it. You can also, I mean, depending on the size of the organization that you’re in, your boss should be available to give you feedback like that. Doesn’t mean they’re always feeling confident about that. But let’s just say that’s one. Another is you can go to somebody who knows you or who has the responsibility to keep track of talent in your organization, usually in HR. And you can ask them to provide you feedback. And those are some of the peers you can ask. Peers. It’s harder to get it from subordinates if you’re leading a team because they’re usually more nervous with peers. You can ask being aware that peers sometimes have a competitive, competitive energy, and that’s okay. You just factor that in. Now if you want if you want to do something a little more formal, depending on whether it’s available to you in the organization that you’re in. And what I am often involved in is, is a 360 feedback process. And so then then you can get all kinds of anonymous feedback rolled up in reports, whether they be survey or qualitative. That will give you a real view. And there are also there are also some great. Center for Creative Leadership, if you’ve ever heard of that. Center for Creative Leadership has some great senior programs which include three sixes that help people get ready for their next level of leadership, if that’s something that’s also available to somebody in their organization. So again, you’ll have feedback from people in the room and you’ll have feedback from people in your own organization, and that will help you see where you are and what you might want to do differently.

Jessica Gibbs, CFP® [00:15:59] Yeah, interesting too. Yeah, you’ve just got to take that opportunity. Yeah. So now let’s talk about making a career move, which I think can take a lot of different forms. So maybe, you know, as you said, you’re you’re looking for experience at a different company or different company culture, or you want to maybe move from an established corporation to a startup. You know, that’s a really different. I’m also thinking, you know, maybe you’ve been downsized or you’ve opted to take a severance package from your company and you’re just trying to figure out what is my next move going to be? And there’s probably more instances that you can elaborate on. So but how do you approach thinking about what your next chapter looks like and how do you make sure that you’re being strategic and, you know, helping to make sure that your next step is going to be fulfilling or, as you said earlier, like help you get to that place where you ultimately want to be.

Deborah Brecher [00:16:59] Mm hmm. So so fulfilling, I think, is the word. Fulfilling is an important word. Yeah, because depending on what somebody is, the situation that is causing them to ask the question, do I need to go outside of the organization that I’m in? Will impact how you think about that. So so let’s take some of the examples that you raise. I think first there’s a set of set of situations that can occur where any individual feels like they have a choice in the matter. So what would those be? Those would be things like, I know I’ll use an example of one of the women I coached have coached over time. She knows that she wants to be a CEO of Fortune 500 company. We’ve been managing through what the experiences are that she needs to have. The organization that she’s in is of a size that she won’t naturally be considered CEO material for, that she’s more likely, and particularly given her age, she’s more likely to have to make the move to a mid-sized organization as a CEO, and then that can take her up to the next size just because of the complexity of what the particular organization she’s in requires. She doesn’t have some of that that background. So that’s going to be an easier move for her. So we identified things like what kind of work does she what is the what kind of a what’s the work of the business that she wants to be involved in? And she’s clear about that. She knows what kind of she knows what kind of organizational culture she likes, what matters to her about that. She knows the part of the country that she wants to live in because she’s got she’s got kids who are not out of school yet. And then while she can move, she’s not she’s not necessarily going to take on moving anywhere. It’s got to be someplace where her kids could could acclimate. And so those are the considerations that we talk through for her. So then we created a series of organizations that sort of sit in that criteria, if you will. And we started to map who are the people on their board, who are their senior leaders, who to she knows. So we start build what what I refer to as a relationship map to see because this is a longer term play. So you have to start networking outside the organization. And she has a very clear understanding with her boss, who is the CEO in the organization that she’s in, that she’s going to start doing that because she knows they have discussed that that’s her aspiration and that it won’t happen here. So and it’s you know, it’s probably a three year plan and she’ll be done doing what she’s doing here. So that’s it. Now, you can’t be that can’t always be that straightforward. But it was very easy to do in this particular case. So she’s she’s drawn a relationship map. She’s seen who she knows, and then you just work it like you work any other relationship map. She starts to have meetings with the people that she knows that know them. She gets introductions, she starts widening her network outside and additionally for her, because it’s available to her in the organization that she’s in, they use two different large search firms. One happens to be Spencer Stewart, the other is Korn Ferry. And so they have relationships with those people. So she’s put the word out to them to say, this is what I’m looking for. Now, let’s pretend for a moment that you’ve decided that you do need to leave for your next move. And you can’t be that straightforward. You can’t enlist people in your own organization to do that. Then you go back out and you look at your own network and you choose more strategically who you want to talk to. You narrow the frame a little bit because what you don’t want to see is, is the circuitous information to come back to where you currently live if you don’t want that to be known. Right. So so and I will often start with board members because by their nature, they’re not day to day inside the organization and they’re usually more connected more broadly to other organizations. So let’s say that’s moving outside Now. Sometimes people will choose to move outside because they feel frustrated by the experience they’re having in the organization they’re in. It’s one of the reasons why I have everybody start back with their lifeline in their ideal scene, because there are times when if you can identify. What about a particular situation is not working for you? You can sometimes create a situation that is working for you inside the organization you’re in. If you open up your mind to that, because we tend to be tunnel vision and see just the next thing that’s in front of us. If that’s not quite the right fit, then then we lose the opportunity that may be available to us in the organization. Or I’ll choose Accenture as an example. I spent ten years at Accenture. Now, the good news about a place like Accenture is gigantic. So there’s always something else to do, but people don’t necessarily have visibility into what those other things are. So then we start to look at where the places you can go do homework about what other parts of the business exist. What are the roles in this business? Generally, you can look at. You can look at public sources like on your own website if you haven’t done that. And you can also talk to people again in HR and they can talk to you about what those roles are, what the requirements are, who’s doing them now. And then you start your networking process again. You know, it does come down to people who know people who can get you to where you want to go. Now the tougher ones. Feel like when you don’t have so much as a choice, like the situation has changed and and you may have been downsized directly or you you may have been offered a package. And I think the first step in that is to remind yourself that you’re a good person and you had value, and that whatever is happening in the particular organization you’re in is not a reflection on you. It’s a reflection on necessity of the business in the moment. And and you take what you have contributed to the organization you’re in and you build your narrative. So I’ll use an example of a very senior guy that I worked with at a large consulting firm. He had built a very substantial practice, but he didn’t think about that because day to day he just sort of did what he did, you know, And he was being he was actually being asked to take another role. And it was a role he didn’t want. And first he had to grapple with the fact that he felt rejected, like, why wasn’t I good enough to keep the job I had or the next job that I wanted? And in this particular organization, though, though he knew this, he couldn’t it didn’t feel like it in the moment. They moved people around just to freshen up the pot, if you will. So as we talked about it and as he thought about what mattered to him, he made the very courageous choice to ask for a package. And it was a courageous choice. He’s got two kids in high school. They’re going to start to go to college. He didn’t know if anybody else would ever love him again, but I can vouch for him. He’s extremely competent, serenely capable. And so we spend our time crafting, crafting. First of all, having him remind himself of all that he had done. So we sort of did a timeline for him inside the organization that he was in. And, you know, when you started, what was the first I’d had him look at all the contributions he had made. And when he got to the end, he said, Oh, my God, I really did do good work. Puts you in a different mindset to go out and have other conversations. People will want me.

Jessica Gibbs, CFP® [00:24:46] Yeah, and here’s what I have to offer.

Deborah Brecher [00:24:48] This is what I have to offer. This is where I care to offer it. And I have to say success story. He has. He reminded himself of all the people he’s known over the course of his career. As he reintroduced himself to those people, they were so excited to talk to him. And so he felt he felt the love coming. And that helped. And, you know, he’s he has gotten he has gotten more offers than he knows what to do with. Now, that takes us to another comment that you made, You know, do you want to go to a big company? Do you want to go to a startup? Start ups and big companies are very different. So it is important to know, do you want to do you want to invent? Do you want to innovate or do you want to you know, our cost sustain and grow. So sustain and grow is more like you want an established, well-positioned organization and they sort of have their groove down. They’re going to grow. There’s there’s innovation that occurs in terms of incremental growth. That’s one kind of organization, innovate. You know, I’ve got energy. I want to be on the leading edge. There are places inside those organizations that I’ll generally that’ll generally incubate while the rest of the business is running. Or then you truly go to a startup. Now, startup sound very sexy, but they don’t always have a lot of money and they’re volatile. So if you’re going to do something like go to a startup, you need to be the you need to self-identify as somebody who enjoys an adrenaline rush on a daily basis, loves ambiguity, appreciates being chief cook and bottle washer because, you know, you don’t have to find swim lanes. You get to do a little bit of everything and you want to drive something to the next step. And there are people who absolutely love doing that or can’t wait to have that opportunity. I’ll go back to my person that I said, you know, he was identifying all the places that he had made a difference. He got very clear that he did not want to be part of a startup. That was too unnerving for him. But what he wanted to do was be in an organization where there were places that that they incubated new product because that’s what turns him on. But within what I’ll refer to as a safety net of capital to invest, if you will. So again, let me pause, see what what that sparks you.

Jessica Gibbs, CFP® [00:26:58] Yeah, I’m thinking about kind of is there a different way that you should approach your thinking when it comes to making a career move? If you know you’re in a place where you’re actively making the decision versus like, it’s unexpected, you know, you’ve been downsized or something like that. Is there a difference in how you should approach your thinking?

Deborah Brecher [00:27:18] I think it’s a less about how you approach your thinking and more about how you value yourself. If I’m looking for if I’m actively, proactively looking for my next opportunity, I’m generally feeling positive. I’m generally feeling I’m generally feeling like this is totally possible. Maybe, maybe a little nervous. Maybe you know, a little a little excited. But I have a I have a basic sense of belief in myself, whereas when it happens to me, I begin to wonder, as we just talked about with my friend, we begin to wonder, am I good enough? So that’s why I say the first place to work is is with yourself. Because when you go look for your next opportunity, you got to come at it from a place of positivity, if you will, and belief in yourself. And that’s and it and until you get there. So the the guy that we were talking about that reminded himself of how good he had done actually and could afford to do this, not everybody can, but took three months off. Took three months off. Just settled. We gave him some homework around, exploring people, exploring places, exploring- I had him walking into various kinds of buildings to feel what it felt like. And what we did was give him permission not to have to choose anything for a period of time, because in the permission of not having to choose something, you can move through the grief that comes with being let go because it’s you. There’s grief, generally speaking, and you need for that to settle before you move on to the next thing. And you know, there’s another guy that I worked with that actually, again, was in a VP role. He made the conscious choice to leave a very, very prestigious organization, one of the one of the ones that looks really good on your resume and you can take it anywhere. He made the decision to go, counterintuitively, because his boss was changing and he didn’t want to work with the person who was coming in. And typically, you know, we’re all told, you know, stick it out. You know, you never know. But he knew the chemistry was not going to be right. He knew that that person had a different set of values than he did. And so as we talked about it, he decided that he would tendered his resignation, which is, by the way, different than asking for a package, you know. The last guy we talked about left with money that he could this one was going to go. And he was unusually he was going to resign before he had whatever his next role was going to be. And so what he decided to do so that he could be true to himself, this is how he thought about it, was he’s created his own consulting organization. And so that’s another valid choice. You can decide not to go anywhere else but do your own thing. You know, I’ll use myself as an example. My husband was diagnosed with colon cancer and I was working at Accenture at a very senior level. And I decided that that was not they those two things were not going to mix. And I wanted to spend the time that I could with my husband and still do what I needed to do for my family. And so similarly, one of the women I used to work with in a previous iteration of my life, and I came together and we formed Tandem Group and we went we went out and created an organization that has has really not missed a beat, spent seven years, done great work in the marketplace. And it came, though, from a choice of came from a choice that mattered to me and that called me forward. And and even though there was risk involved in that, it was it was a positive choice that allowed me the energy to continue through the ambiguity. And I would say the same was true for my friend who left the very prestigious firm he was working for. And he now he chose a different route. He decided he really wanted to make something that was salable in the end, which means you’ve got to get investment backers. And so he went and found some angel investors and he had a know bona fide business plan and he was hiring staff. That’s a you know, it depends on how big or small you want to make something like that. But he knew he wanted a going concern that had scale in the marketplace that he could then sell when he got there because he was in his late forties and he had run room to do that and that was a vote for himself. So again, a very a very different choice than many people make, but one that was very valid for him.

Jessica Gibbs, CFP® [00:31:42] Yeah, it’s kind of interesting listening to you. I like to call them sabbaticals with my clients, but something that I mean, it’s obviously it’s a privilege to be able to do that, but it is actually something that I have noticed people doing more and, you know. It. Maybe it’s it’s an executive that has taken a severance package. Right. And is regrouping. I’ve also seen this with business owners who, you know, they founded a company, they built it. They sold it. And and it just this idea of like, okay, I’m going to take a sabbatical to just kind of pause, rest, refocus where you think about what it is that, you know, I like to do and who I like to work with and all these things that you’ve talked about. I think I think it is so interesting that, you know, American work culture is so go, go, go. You know, next step, as you said. And I think it it is kind of interesting within the last couple of years just notice more people. Again, they have the ability to do it. But to take that path, to take that sabbatical for a few months and regroup and and then move on to the next thing. And it is back to our word, fulfilling, and you can ensure that it is a good, fulfilling next stop. I think about someone that I work with where he built a very successful business. He sold it. He has all this wonderful expertise. And yes, whereas he might like the startup environment, like he doesn’t really have an interest and in, you know, grinding it out the way he did when he built his own company. And so he’s able to, you know, he he you know, he’s on the board of some of these startups where he can give those founders his expertise. He gets a little bit of share of equity If the companies do well and do eventually sell one day, you know, but like he’s able to kind of like have a bit more balance in his life while still feeling like he’s contributing, sharing what he’s learned and helping to build something just without that pressure on his shoulders. So I think I always thought that that was just such an interesting approach of like kind of a next phase of your career, what you could do. And I just think, yeah, I think it’s interesting that sabbaticals are coming up more for people.

Deborah Brecher [00:33:46] I think the pandemic, as odd as it sounds, I think the pandemic taught us that we could breathe a little bit and life wouldn’t fall apart. And and so a lot of people took time to think about it. And then as you look at the demographics, many of us are, you know, are getting on the the older end of the spectrum. We are starting to think about, you know, the way I frame it for people like me is Act three, what does Act three look like? And Act three generally does not look like, What’s your next promotion in the organization that you’re in? And I think I think particularly for those of us that have been very driven, those who have built their own businesses, we work with a number of family owned businesses, for example. Those who have built their own businesses or those who have who are CEOs. I do CEO succession. And the first question you have to address with folks like that is what does life mean to you at this point? Because most of them have been so wholly focused on what it is they’ve been doing day to day that there’s not much that has gone on outside of them. And it’s really scary, really scary. They have their they have their their self sense of self-worth tied up in in that. And it’s it’s going to be different. Your point, though, is different. How so? You know, private equity firms are always looking for folks. Yes. To invest, but more to be counsel to members of the management team for the organizations that they buy or own or building. So could be on a board, could be coach to the management team members. I have one of the guys that I worked with at Accenture. That’s the route he took. He’s working with a private equity firm and he’s he’s counseling organizations and doing due diligence for the ones that they’re considering buying, which has been great for him. He loves it a lot. To the degree you can, you need to make some decisions about it. Most of us are on nonprofit boards, but do you want to be a for profit board or do you want to and you want that to be privately held or publicly held? They come with different opportunities and risks and you work the process the same way we’ve talked about in terms of building your network. And then a couple of the search firms actually have really Spencer Stuart and Russell Reynolds are and Heidrick and Struggles. All three of those are best known for their board placements. So you make it known that that’s something that you want to do if you have the if you’ve had the kind of roles or the pedigree that would cause a public board to look at you, it’s good to go to one of those three folks. If you’re looking for a private board, you’re generally asking the question, Do I want to invest? And and if so, in what? And how do I want to participate? But those are all those are all great, great things to do.

Jessica Gibbs, CFP® [00:36:25] And as someone who used to work for a very large nonprofit, you should be aware, depending on the degree of organization, being on a nonprofit board is also going to involve a financial commitment. Yes, So that is also a factor, but.

Deborah Brecher [00:36:38] It’s generally a labor of love. I know.

Jessica Gibbs, CFP® [00:36:42] Depends on maybe my mission. Yes, I was going to say, I think the smaller nonprofits. Yes, larger ones, you know, there is a prestige element to being on the board of that organization. But so I want to pick up on something you were talking about there as far as stepping away. And, you know, what really resonated for me is, is as a financial planner, I you know, I think there’s so much emphasis on your working. You’re saving for retirement, you’re planning for retirement. I’m going to retire. And there’s a lot of energy often put into that financial choice, but there is not the same energy put into what am I going to do in retirement? Right. We are we are not in the age of people, like, I’m just going to golf all day, you know, are like, you know, I don’t garden or I, you know, but people to your point, you got something from your career, you know, it gave you some purpose or meaning or fulfillment or, you know, it helped you sort of with your sense of self. And then all of a sudden it kind of it stops, right? And so how are you going to get that so sense of fulfillment, even if you may not be working, you know, 40 hours a week. So I think I like how you and I, we talked about how stepping away does not mean the end. And, you know, maybe if you are a high performer, it can be even difficult to imagine even stopping working. And so, like, what mindset should you have if you’re in that stepping away phase of your career or you’re approaching it?

Deborah Brecher [00:38:16] Well, great question. And I like to think about the stepping away phase as a as a three year glide path. And you know why three years? I don’t know, because it just worked for me. And it works for most of the people that I work with. So instead of instead of feeling it like a switch that goes on and off. It’s really better to think about it as a three year glide path. All right. So now there’s a time frame. So for me, it does happen to be three years from now, three years from now, I’m going to shift gears and I won’t be focusing myself on working day to day as I do now. So when you when you start back three years before this end result, you start experimenting with different ways to engage yourself outside of work. So there’s a ramp. If you can do it, there’s a ramp down of the hours that you spend doing it because you’re starting to ramp up alternatives that you’ve begun to explore so that you don’t have to feel pressed to pick something. You’ve leaned into things and started to experiment with them to see what calls you. You know, another as crazy as it sounds. Another thing that sometimes works with people is the notion of journaling. Little harder to get my mail CEO friends to do this. It’s not necessary. So you can actually dictate into a day like that better.

Jessica Gibbs, CFP® [00:39:43] Okay. That’s another way.

Deborah Brecher [00:39:45] Well, they like talking into something and somebody listening to them. Sure. But because what’ll happen is you’ll start to hear things emerging or see things emerging that you may not have thought of in your conscious mind. Back to tapping into the hole of who we are, not just to her left brain. Remembering things that we loved to do when we were younger, what we lost, time to do it, or things that we thought, Oh, I’d love to experiment with that, but I don’t have time for that right now. I have one of the guys that was he was president of a Business Unit that he was in, and he decided it was time for him to go. And that’s really that’s really what he did. He spent he spent two years experimenting with a variety of kinds of places where he could. He started doing he started to do ceramics because he had wanted to do he had wanted to be an artist when he was younger. But his you know, his father told him that artists made no money and so he should go into insurance. So he did. Oh.

Jessica Gibbs, CFP® [00:40:41] What a sad story.

Deborah Brecher [00:40:43] He made a lot of money. It took a lot of money. And insurance was really high, but, you know, decided that now was the time he could be an artist because he because he had done the real work that he was supposed to do. It took care of his family, you know, put away his money for retirement, you know, blah, blah. Oh, and had toys and bells and whistles. So it wasn’t it wasn’t a stark experience, I might add. So he went back and started to take some art classes. He was take he was he was like he was learning how to speak Spanish because he’d always wanted to speak Spanish. He was he was actually playing in a band. He started back playing in a band again, which he hadn’t done in a really long time. So creative outlets that he had stopped doing in his teens and twenties because he was told to grow up and get a real job. He has gone back to school. He’s having a great time.

Jessica Gibbs, CFP® [00:41:38] Oh, that’s really interesting. Do you have any thoughts on like. And it’s kind of I’m thinking about this ties into like financially, right? Because I sometimes I’ll have clients that’ll be like. You know, I. Can I retire, like, now? You know, like, I know we talked about two years from now, like, can I do it now? So, like, that’s like a you know, that’s a financial element, right? That’s the conversation that I have with clients. But I’m curious from your perspective, like, do you have any thoughts on like when to grit and when to quit, when to quit. Like when to grit it out.

Deborah Brecher [00:42:19] When to quit and when to quit. I’m know, I find that a very and well, all right. It’s hard for me to divorce that from the financial conversation because my husband was a financial planner. And so really okay. And so so it’s a very tied world. Yeah. Yes. So let’s pretend. Let’s just pretend for the moment. We have to make some choices. And the choices are, you know, if I’m going to retire earlier than I said I was going to you know, I have a personal friend who actually did that. Her organization was going through. It happened to be in the health care industry. I don’t know if you know anything about the health care industry. Pharmaceuticals, they downsize all the time. You know, they up ramp, they downsized depending on what’s in the pipeline. And she was getting ready to go through. I don’t know, in her career, probably the 10th downsizing. And she just decided, you know what, I’m not going to do that this time. And she decided it not from a place of, oh, my God, I can’t stand it anymore. But you know what? I feel like I’ve done what I came to do. And now she had to make some specific choices. So rather than retire in the state that she was in, which was a much more expensive state, she retired to North Carolina because because her money went further there than it did someplace else. By the way, I’m not a big believer in going to Belize to make your money go further. I’m not one of those people, but some people do. And and they went from two cars to one car. But both she and her husband decided to retire at the same time, and they’re extraordinarily happy. When do you want to grit it out, though? When you have that sense inside yourself that you are not complete yet. Don’t run away from something. Choose what’s next. Don’t run away from where you are. Stay long enough. Stay long enough in the question, why is this not a fit for me? And understand that before you make your next choice. Sometimes. Sometimes I have clients. Who are in that. We all have this sometimes in our careers. Oh, my God. I can’t take this anymore. Well, the question is, what’s the this that you can’t take? And why is that? And when you pause long enough to explore that. Sometimes what you can do is shift the experience and you don’t have to go anywhere, but you have to stay long enough. You have to stop long enough to understand what is it about this that doesn’t fit for me right now, and what could I change where I am if I’m not ready to go? And ready to go includes a lot of things like, you know, maybe I could do this financially, but my kids would have to take out loans for school and I don’t want them to do that. For example, you know, sometimes people make those choices and say, I can rent it out for five more years because my because I want my kids to have X and I’m okay contributing for this period of time. There’s always what we’re always, always, always looking for is where do I feel motivated? Where do I fee choice? Because that’s freedom I do have. This is going to sound very odd, but it’s one of the things that I ask people to think about. So do you know who Viktor Frankl is?

Jessica Gibbs, CFP® [00:45:33] No.

Deborah Brecher [00:45:34] Okay. So Viktor Frankl. Studied under Sigmund Freud, and she was one of the three fathers of modern psychology or modern psychotherapy. And why do I even bring him up? Because he wrote his his seminal work was called Man’s Search for Meaning. He happened to be at a concentration camp, and he figured out how to make that mean something. And it’s about thinking about where do I have choice? And what about this could matter to me, and how can I reframe my experience so that it matches what’s important to me, not to lie to myself, but to look more deeply than what I think the external world is reflecting to me in this moment. We’re whole being. So we have to look at all that stuff that we operate on unconsciously and make a conscious so that we can see this. And can I change any this? Can I think about it differently? Can I approach it differently? Might make my experience altogether different. If the answer still is, Oh my God, this doesn’t work. Time to exit Stage left.

Jessica Gibbs, CFP® [00:46:34] Adds amazing perspective. Deborah I think that’s a great place to stop. But I do want to take that opportunity. Can you tell us a little bit about Tandem Group and how you and your team help companies and executives?

Deborah Brecher [00:46:48] Absolutely. So we’re a mighty firm of five.

Jessica Gibbs, CFP® [00:46:51] Yes, I love a small firm

Deborah Brecher [00:46:53] Firm of five with with a whole bunch of friends that we hang out with when, you know, sort of like laggards and messiness sitting in when a project is big enough. We we work with organizations, particularly at the senior level. So we’re usually working the CEO or president level, depending on the size of the organization or the board, looking at when we need to do something very different. In a business, we have an outsized growth goal or we’re going to do a lot of acquisition or we’re going to do divestiture, big things that need to get done that we don’t already know how to do. Working with the senior team on building the strategy for how to do that and then and tuning the organization to be able to deliver. So how does the human system need to align with the strategy that we’ve now proposed to get us where we want to go and unlock the energy in any particular organization? So we we will set we will design and set strategy with an organization’s leaders. We will help them look at their organization, see if is designed in a way that can work. We’ll look at their talent strategy. We’ll look at their culture, and we’ll help them change anything they need to change to be able to deliver on the vision that they have.

Jessica Gibbs, CFP® [00:47:59] That’s great. And where can people find you if they want to follow more of your thoughts?

Deborah Brecher [00:48:04] Well, thank you. We can you go to Tandem Group Inc which is our LinkedIn page www.tandemgroupinc and you will find Carolyn Hendrickson who’s the CEO and I and our friends who we hang out with on the page. We have a blog that we publish fairly frequently, I wouldn’t say regularly, but fairly frequently. And we operate nationally, but we have a lot of concentration on the East Coast because she’s originally from Chicago, I’m from Philadelphia. That said, I have some very large marquee West Coast clients. I will generally work in communications media technology because that’s my background. Carolyn likes to work at family, businesses and manufacturing. That’s her background. And then anything in between, we will find ourselves depending on what’s happening.

Jessica Gibbs, CFP® [00:48:50] That’s great and we will link to the blog and or LinkedIn in our show. Not so you can find a link there. And I do want to remind listeners that you can keep up with new episodes of Off the Wall, as well as our weekly market commentary by signing up for our blog at www.monumentwealthmanagement.com/blog. And you can also follow Monument Wealth on LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook for our wealth management tips. So thank you, Deborah, so much. Really juicy, meaningful episode. I think hopefully everyone, regardless of where you are in your career, you could get something out of that.

Deborah Brecher [00:49:26] Thank you so much, Jessica. It’s been my pleasure.

About "Off The Wall"

OFF THE WALL is a podcast for business professionals and high-net-worth investors who want to build wealth with purpose. A little bit Wall Street, a little bit off-the-wall; it’s your go-to for straightforward, unfiltered wealth advice on topics that founders, business owners, and executives care about.

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