Preparing for Retirement – Why Social + Emotional Intelligence can help with your career transition

Article contributed by Howard Fox, MA, ACC

I facilitated a workshop on Social + Emotional Intelligence (S + EI) recently for the staff employees of a local university, and was struck by “Robert”, one of the participants.  What was most interesting was his general demeanor towards his job, and how he was preparing himself and his employer for his last years prior to retirement.  Repeatedly during the session, Robert would state, “Why should I care? What does it matter? And, I’ll do what I need to do until I retire.”

As a consultant/manager, my reaction might be, “well, if this is the way you feel, how would you like to start your retirement early?”

As a coach, my reaction was:

  • How are these thoughts serving or not serving those around you in this room?
  • How are these thoughts serving YOU/or not serving you in creating a legacy for yourself?
  • How important is creating a legacy to you?
  • What would you like your peers and co-workers to remember you for?
  • What impact do you think your last years prior to retirement will have on you and others once you retire?

The workshop structure prevented me from fully engaging in a private coaching session with Robert, but if he did seek me out for individual coaching, there are a number of S+EI competency development strategies that I would use to assist him in creating awareness, insight, and possibility for what the remaining working and retirement years will have in store.

A successful coaching strategy could entail working with Robert across many of the S+EI competencies, but a number of competencies seem ideal in helping this individual work through the issues at hand:

Self Awareness – What does a “day-in-the-life” look like for Robert?  How does he feel waking up in the morning prior to going to work?  How does he feel at the end of the day?  What parts of the job does he enjoy the most, and what part the least?  How would he like to feel on his first day of retirement?

Personal Power – What parts of the job provide him with the greatest opportunities to solve problems and make a difference?  What does he do to relish in these achievements?  What parts of the job do not give him the satisfaction that he seeks?   What would it take to exert control over the things that he does not receive satisfaction in doing?  Or, what would it take to feel in control and make things happen? What are his dreams for retirement?  What does he envision these days to look like?

Initiative – What are the top five initiatives he would like to see happen in his job that will enhance the capabilities and effectiveness of his department before he retires?  Of these five initiatives which one could he undertake today?  What support from management or co-workers does he need to undertake these initiatives?

Service Orientation – It is said that people remember their interactions with us if they are treated in a helpful, respectful manner, and that the quality of these interactions drives their perception of satisfaction with their experience of us.  What would managers, peers, and co-workers have to say about their interactions with Robert?  How often does he make himself available when others need his assistance?  How often does he assist in completing a task or support an organizational initiative because it’s the right thing to do, not because he grudgingly (and sometimes loudly) feels he has to?

Intentionality – What activities could Robert plan for and undertake to ensure these remaining work years are as productive and valuable as possible for him and his organization?  What plans could he put in place and see through that would ensure his department can continue to function successfully after he’s gone?  And for his retirement years, what does he want to achieve for himself and his family? What kind of support does he need to produce this plan and make it actionable?

Interpersonal Skills – What opportunities does he have to interact with his peers and co-workers?  How can he ease the interpersonal transactions in the workplace?  How can he bring people together and find common purpose and direction?   An understanding of the Robert’s DiSC profile or Myers-Briggs Type (MBTI) would add to his interpersonal awareness and development.

Inspirational Leadership – What steps can Robert take to create a vision for his department?  What means does he use to communicate the importance of his vision and get buy-in from his manager, peers, and subordinates?  How often does he share his ideas and thoughts about how work ought to get done or new initiatives that ought to be undertaken?  Chances are, Robert has a great deal of insight into these arenas since he’s been with the organization for a good long while.

Coaching and Mentoring Others– As Robert prepares to create a vision and plan for how his years prior to retirement will unfold, what steps is he taking to prepare his colleagues for his departure?  What development, mentoring, and training will he undertake to prepare the staff?  How often does he provide constructive feedback and acknowledge and recognize the progress they are making?

Concluding Comments
The opportunity to coach an individual like Robert is a chance to help someone create a positive and lasting legacy, and plan for how they might enjoy and thrive in their retirement years.  There is no certainty of the events that Robert’s organization will face after he leaves, or what he might face during retirement.  What is certain is that being aware of and developing his social + emotional intelligence will help him show up and be confident in his ability to leave a lasting legacy, support the growth and development of others who will be stepping into his shoes, and in the long run, feel  a sense of pride.  Much better mindset than sitting back and asking, “Why should I care? What does it matter?” day after day, year after year until he retires.  Research suggests he’ll even enjoy better health and is more likely to thrive in retirement as a result!

One Response to “Preparing for Retirement – Why Social + Emotional Intelligence can help with your career transition”

  • Amy E. Kelsall Ph.D.:

    This is very helpful and ties many aspects of SEI into a pattern of flow and logical and creative thought. Thanks very much. There are a lot of Robert’s out there. Let’s go help them.