Aren't baby boomers sick of all this keep working, never retire nonsense that makes headlines as someone waxes poetic about the American work ethic or indulges in a little fear-mongering about inflation eroding our savings?
Come to think of it, what about everyone else? Generation Y, Generation X, Generation Me, Generation You: Who doesn't want to slow down, smell the roses, and sip the rosé while cashing a regular paycheck?
Enter Stanley Bing. Bing, the not-so-secret pseudonym of a media executive, has penned Executricks: Or How to Retire While You're Still Working. U.S. News asked Bing to elaborate on his tricks for a fake retirement. Excerpts:
No one seems interested in actually retiring anymore. Why should they retire while they're still working?
It's going to be awfully hard for any of us to actually retire because of the economy. The differences between genuine retirement and retirement while still employed are significant. They almost always default to the benefit of the faux retiree. You're paid, so you're not on a fixed income. You basically can eat wherever you want, as long as you can think of a legitimate business reason to do so. You can drink with friends—as far as friendship goes in the business world. You can take a nap in your office instead of face down in the oatmeal. There are just a lot of things that make a fake or false retirement infinitely superior to a real one. In the book, I quote George Bernard Shaw who says: "A perpetual holiday is a good working definition of hell." You know, how many more walks can you take? There are reasons to keep the old career in the air for as long as possible.
You say people should use their BlackBerry devices to advantage. Shouldn't people be shutting them down?
The BlackBerry and all cellular communications, in fact, give us the freedom to be nowhere. You could, quite literally, spend the day in bed eating bonbons and be a very successful telecommuter. I know quite a few executives who are working around the clock simply because they're at home, or they're at a hotel in Las Vegas. So what are the main "Executricks?"
The core concepts include delegation, absence—which is conferred by the BlackBerry and the cell phone. Then, abuse of status: You're using things available to you because of your status, but at the same time, it does emulate retirement: golfing, having nice long meals, nobody knowing where you are for a while. Those are all things retired people do. You can do them, too, if you live like an executive. Then there's decisiveness even when confused, which means that people who take a long time to decide are always working, whereas people who actually make a decision and then create a delegation to handle the implications have just telescoped months of process into a nanosecond. You know, 'Should we build that thing?' 'Yes. Now go do it.' That's a lot better than having 18 meetings and 14 evaluations. Let other people do that stuff. If you're really an executive then you don't mind being brought up to speed, as it were.
So do they make you a lousy (if relaxed) leader?
No, you could be a very good leader. Ronald Reagan was viewed as a very good leader. The business community certainly thought he was. The famous cover story on Fortune was: "What Managers Can Learn From Manager Reagan." It was all about—he's this fantastic delegator. Isn't that great? Are there limits to what should be delegated?
You shouldn't delegate the actual decisions and the accountability for what you do as business manager. If you're the boss, you can delegate the work associated with a project or an idea. My people will tell you that I do it every day. I'm constantly delegating stuff that's obnoxious. But when my boss says, "Who came up with that idea?" or "How come we did it that way?" I really try not to point to my subordinate and say, "He did." That's the thing that designates a boss. It isn't that you do more work or that you lift the heaviest weights. You come up with the ideas that shape the strategy and you then take accountability for it. Both of those can be done when you're on a beach.