Episode 93

Retirement: The Next Chapter

with Howard Kern, Sandra Fenwick, and Bill Zollars

December 29, 2022

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Howard Kern, Sandra Fenwick, and Bill Zollars

This episode features three leaders previously interviewed on The Gary Bisbee Show. Listeners will hear from: Howard Kern, Former President and CEO, Sentara Healthcare; Sandra Fenwick, Former CEO, Boston Children’s Hospital; and Bill Zollars, Former Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, YRC Worldwide Inc.


For me, it has been a wonderful move from being immersed and submerged, to being able to select where you can really continue to add value.  – Sandra Fenwick

Howard Kern, Sandra Fenwick, and Bill Zollars Tweet



Retirement: The Next Chapter
Casey Pratt: On this episode of the Gary Bisbee Show, we’ll be taking a closer look at how successful business leaders are updating how we think about retirement.

According to Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, author of The Hero’s Farewell: What Happens when CEOs Retire, Type-A personalities are less likely to retire than Type-Bs. Says Sonnenfeld, “Instead of a reward for a lifetime of toil, retirement for these work-intensive people represents defeat.”

There’s no doubt that the classic retirement past-times like moving to Florida, working on your putting game, and visiting grandchildren will remain popular, but a new generation of retirees is shifting the expectations of what a fruitful retirement looks like. Top executives are applying the same deliberation and decisiveness to mapping out their retirement as they applied to business decisions throughout their careers. Here, consensus is emerging that it’s possible to stay in good health, give back to the profession (on one’s own terms), and still leave plenty of time to visit with friends and family.

We will hear from Howard Kern, Former President and CEO, Sentara Healthcare; Sandra Fenwick, Former CEO, Boston Children’s Hospital; and Bill Zollars, Former Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, YRC Worldwide Inc.

Each of these retiring executives offers a different vision of retirement, but wisdom comes in many forms.

To start, let’s listen to Howard Kern outline his own well-designed retirement plan, to understand how, for some retirees, staying busy, on their own terms, is the right path.

Howard Kern: I want to give something back to the profession. So I have agreed to become a faculty member and Executive in Residence at VCU School Health Administration, where I went to MCV. And I’ve also agreed to become an executive residence with Scottsdale Institute Downworlders operation that that has just done some really interesting things in the area of digital and informatics, for executive leaders. And I’m really excited to probably learn a little bit more than I thought I know, in that area, being in that role. The next category that I think I put in, in discussion is community leadership. I’m, I’ve been on a lot of boards at centerra and needed to be on them because it was important to centerra that I be involved in a number of community agencies and organizations. And being on the board was a key piece. Now I’m going to be more in the mode of picking and choosing the ones that I really want that are meaningful to me, that’s probably going to be a third or a quarter of the number of community boards that me organizations, I’ll involve myself in but I’ll do it because I’m picking them this time.

Casey Pratt: Next up, let’s hear Sandra Fenwick describe how to make the transition to retirement as smooth as possible:

Sandra Fenwick: We ended up with one of the smoothest transitions, although 2020, as you know, was the year the pandemic. And so they asked me to please stay on a little bit longer, which I did course. And it turned out to be really the right decision for so many reasons. But it was also a good time for me to really wrap up wonderful, wonderful things that I wanted to complete and lead through probably one of the, again, most challenging times that the hospital had to go through. And so professionally, I think it was a it was a wonderful transition. And then personally, I said, I don’t want to just stop this isn’t the end of the road. It’s the beginning of another chapter. And I wanted to know where I was going to. I had a lot of things I still wanted to do. And I was lucky to unfortunate that I was asked to sit on a continue on public company board, a private company board and an institute at Harvard, the board, and then I’ve picked up, several since then. But it was really planning professionally what I would do I love mentoring young people, professional people growing into new leadership roles, taking on those those board roles, but also grandchildren and my husband of 48 years, my kids and long lost professional and personal friends. So it has been a wonderful, you know, move from, being in really immersed and submerged, to really being able to select where you can really continue to add value.

Casey Pratt: Sandra recently joined Think Medium’s Her Story Advisory Council. When she is not busy travelling to and from board meetings, mentoring and reconnecting with her close-knit family and network of friends, she can be found hosting interviews on Her Story as a purposeful way to deepen commitment to mentoring aspiring women leaders.

Casey Pratt: Now, let’s listen to Bill Zollars articulate the keys to a successful retirement:

Bill Zollars: I’m not exactly sure I’ve been successful. But I can tell you a couple of things, I think to keep in mind, for anybody that’s approaching that stage in the transition. One is not to do anything for about six months. What tends to happen, I think, to most people, when they they’re used to working as hard as most of us do, is they tend to feel like they should be doing something right away after they retire. And I think if you if you fall into that trap, you have a tendency to jump at the first thing that looks good to you, and then maybe have second thoughts down the road. The kind of advice I’ve given the most people that are approaching retirement is just give it some time to settle out. Give yourself some time to decide what you want to do. Don’t go after the first thing that comes at you. And I think that ability to take a step back and just think about how you want to spend your time going forward is worth a lot.

Casey Pratt: Bill has learned that retirement is a gift and that there is no rush to nail down next steps immediately. He encourages new retirees to take the time to plan carefully, and to gain some distance before deciding how to invest time in the coming years.

The three key lessons from these conversations are, first, pursue what interests you most; second, be selective—many options will become available; and third, take your time to consider next steps (Bill Zollars suggests six months). Congratulations to our three guests for their highly successful careers and their commitment to an orderly and well thought-out retirement.

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