Lisa Cotton, Founder and CEO Ideology Group

“If I had taken the opportunity to understand what my post full-time work world would look like before transitioning, I would have been able to get my act together in a matter of months rather than years and I would have avoided the regular feeling of two steps forward one back”, said Jack.

Jack’s experience is a common one for C-Suite executives who’ve often been so immersed in their roles, they had little time left to figure out the ‘next chapter’ in their lives. As such, they have grappled with feeling behind the eight ball, and dealing with personal challenges including a lack of relevance, loss of power and little purpose.

One major issue is that when you’re used to working frenetically and the structure and rhythm of the life you knew suddenly stops, it’s easy to fall into a black hole and miss the extraordinary opportunities to live a new kind of life that this phase offers.

Here’s some suggestions to help you think about making the most of your transition:

1.          Your thoughts create your future. Carve out a little time to explore what an optimal life looks like. You might start with a simple map to visualise, reflect and prioritise. Treat it like you would any business investment - with great care - before choosing a path.

2.         Get to know yourself. To understand what success means, you must know yourself. In the complexity of life, it’s easy to lose your sense of self. Who are you outside work? Finding out who you really are is liberating. It provides insights on where you should direct your energy.

3.          Speak to others. It may seem obvious, but speaking to peers who’ve been through this experience can help you to avoid pitfalls and to gain further clarity on defining your boundaries and clarifying what success really means to you.

4.         Factor in family. With more flexibility on the horizon, share plans and seek feedback from your family. They are key partners in the success of this next chapter and factoring in the changing dynamic in this area is vital to align expectations and integrate their needs.

5.          De-clutter your drains. To gain control over our lives, it’s important to de-clutter. It’s easy to get caught up in daily demands. Within reason, learn to say no if it doesn’t serve your interests so you have time to focus on the things that matter – your future!

6.     Be patient. A common but avoidable error is to rush into the first opportunity that comes along to fill the void. More often than not, it ends in tears. Do your research, subscribe to blogs, let others know you’re open to opportunities. You’ll be amazed how open people can be in connecting you with others.

With these tips, executives can be far more effective in taking one of the hardest, yet one of the most rewarding, steps of their careers. And if supported by boards and CEOs who offer planning guidance, flexibility and practical support, it’s a win-win for all.

About the author

Prior to establishing Ideology Group, Lisa was co-founder and CEO of The Funding Network. In 2017, she was named ‘Third Sector CEO of the Year’, and was included in Pro-Bono Australia’s ‘Impact 25’ list of people who have had  significant influence on the for-purpose sector. She’s a Board Director of the Stella Prize, and sits on Australian Futures Project Advisory Board and Swinburne University’s Social Innovation Research Institute Advisory Committee. Lisa is a regular speaker, panellist and facilitator on the power of community contribution and purpose.


lisa cotton