Fathers Struggling to ‘Have it all’

A senior television executive is reading a bedtime story to his eight-year-old daughter. It is 10pm and he has just returned home from work. His phone rings — a work call — and he answers it, leaving the story unfinished.

His daughter shouts from her bed: “You’re a terrible father!” He returns to his daughter and tries to explain, with little success, why the call was important.

This executive works late and sees his daughter for only about two hours during the working week. Although he feels guilty about this and fears he is missing the best moments of family life, he seems unable to switch off from work.

This scene will be familiar to many men in senior positions who have taxing jobs and struggle to respond to the demands of family life.

It is common for working women to reflect, sometimes publicly, on the challenges of juggling the needs of family and work. In recent decades, the role of fathers has changed too, giving them greater involvement in family life.

But often men find it difficult to deal with the conflicting demands of work and home . As I have seen in my own psychotherapy practice, it is, for many executives, a continuing, unresolved battle. As one chief executive whose children are now adults told me: “It was often a tug of war, and work would always win. I was always better at switching off from home at work than the other way round.”

The problem can be exacerbated because men are often climbing to the peak of their careers during their children’s formative years. Instead of family life being a rewarding break from the pressures of work, too often it comes a poor second with the result that the family — and the career — suffers.

Men rarely seek help for such problems early on. They can be unwilling to confront it, and may fear that it will be regarded as a weakness and may harm their promotion prospects. Often, these problems only present themselves when the individual reaches a crisis point such as divorce, depressive breakdown or alcohol misuse.

Many men justify their long working hours as wanting to provide the best for their families. Work, however, offers psychological as well as financial rewards — it can be exciting, challenging and provide satisfaction from a job or deal well done. Family life can feel messier, mundane and even boring in comparison.

The danger is that work can become a convenient escape from the emotional demands of family life. Top executives often develop a sense of themselves through their professional achievements, not through emotional connections. In contrast, their wives may value emotional connection over all else.

For some men, work can even become an alternative family; where they can feel more successful, more in control, and turn to colleagues for connections that they are missing at home.

Kerry Sulkowicz is a psychoanalyst and founder of the Boswell Group, a New York consultancy that specialises in advising chief executives on the psychological aspects of their work. He describes men with the most extreme difficulties in this regard as being unable to put themselves in another person’s shoes. They often have little self-awareness, cannot empathise and lack emotional language, which frequently angers and distances family members.

As a reaction to a more distant wife, the executive may begin an affair. Or he may turn to alcohol or male-dominated activities that further exclude the family. Career and home life can quickly unravel.

Mr Sulkowicz explains why such men focus on their careers: “At work they don’t have to deal so much with people who are emotionally needy, or who miss them [when they are away]. They often find these problems either trivial or incomprehensible.

“The kinds of problems these men solve at work tend to be practical and tactical, and action is rewarded with compensation, professional advancement and praise . . . However, problems at home are more emotional, and listening rather than doing is often the best approach.”

When such men transfer the authoritarian stance they adopt at work to home, family members feel resentful and alienated. It is often easier to tell employees what to do than a toddler or a teenager.

Mr Sulkowicz says it is not only the man’s family that can suffer, but also his career in the long term.

“The best-kept secret here is that these bullying, arrogant men are much less effective at work than they think they are,” he says. “While they may get a lot done, they inspire fear and avoidance, and they find themselves increasingly disconnected from their colleagues and their organisations.”

Some male executives, however, have adopted strategies for meeting the demands of corporate and home life, often combining a conscious decision to prioritise the family with strict timekeeping. For Greg Hodder, chief executive of Charles Tyrwhitt, the men’s clothing company, the decision was instinctive and driven by the fact that he thoroughly enjoyed being with his children.

The time when they were young, and family life was most demanding coincided with a particularly successful period of his career. “Having something demanding but different, rather than relaxing, gave me a real break from work,” he says.

He established a rule that he would not work past 6pm or at weekends — and he stuck to it. He does not look at emails during evenings or weekends, or take work on holiday. Showing his wife his devotion to the family strengthened their marriage.

Mr Hodder believes he has been able to achieve this by being extremely organised. “People who work long hours are less able to achieve their goals . . . They are people who tend to say yes to everything and end up out of control,” he adds.

Another senior executive, who works in the media, ensures that he makes breakfast for his three children and is there for their bedtime stories. He has sought to work in organisations that are sympathetic to family life.

Mr Sulkowicz believes companies can help, with astute human resources officers playing a proactive role. Perhaps, however, executives struggling with the issue should reflect on the old aphorism: “Work, no matter how stimulating and rewarding, will never love you back.”

The writer is a psychotherapist and this article is partly based on her clinical experience. None of the individuals named are her clients

By Naomi Shragai

Fraud is a Mental War

All people have the capacity to commit fraud. Deceit, trickery, and abuse of trust are a fraudster’s basic tools, and also characteristics inherent to all human beings. This is an insight offered by Alexander Stein, an American business psychoanalyst, and a specialist advisor in the psychology of fraud. Dr. Stein visited São Paulo last month with a group of fraud litigators to speak at the Inaugural Congress on International Fraud and Asset Recovery and Trans-Border Insolvency Cooperation at the Ministério Público de São Paulo. How does the mind of a fraudster operate? What leads a senior executive to commit financial fraud? How do sophisticated psychological expertise and strategies enhance conventional asset recovery operations?

How does fraud psychology work?

Fraud is theft carried out through deceit, sharp dealing, and breaches of confidence. The psychological DNA of fraudsters is incredibly complex. One of the main points to be considered is that betrayal and deception are the fraudster’s tools. He could not employ them so masterfully without knowing them intimately. The fraudster is governed by the main belief that everything presented, conceived or promised towards achieving his personal desires – such as certainty and security – was always based on a lie. The fraudster is psychologically driven by unpredictability, contingency and falsehood. He lives in a state of chronic disappointment, resentment, helplessness and humiliation. One developmental consequence of this is an exceptional and refined radar focused on others. As he grew up, making an effort to understand what was happening in his surroundings in order to survive, he developed certain skills that are now useful in his criminal career. In particular, the fraudster is an astonishing virtuoso in being able to perceive what people seem to need or want. Now, he is a creative, even brilliant – but unscrupulous – CEO.

Are people born with a tendency to commit fraud?

Yes. Everyone is sort of a fraudster! But, of course, not everyone becomes an evil criminal. What I mean is that the characteristics of fraud – falsehood, dishonesty, concealment – are all characteristic  inherent to human beings. These are important elements for survival, defence mechanisms to escape or defeat adversity. They are adaptive devices. From the mundane, such as replying to the common social greeting “how are you?” and replying “very good” even when you are not. Or hiding key aspects about your-self ‒ thoughts, feelings,wants and wishes. This is all with the purpose of avoiding scrutiny, judgment or humiliation. The essential point is to understand how our natural defence mechanisms turn into predatory weapons serving criminal action.

What leads a successful person, such as a bank director, to become a fraudster?

Psychologically speaking, the line dividing legitimate entrepreneurship from criminal behaviour is subtle. A creative businessman and a fraudster can overlap in many aspects. Success and personal accomplishment are not antidotes to criminal behaviour, chiefly because financial gain is rarely the main (or even the only) driver for committing substantial fraud. Opportunity and greed may play a role, but overall, high level professionals who take advantage of confidential information and power were already fraudsters before they came to their roles. They didn’t become fraudsters because of their jobs.

How do we identify a fraudster or a potential fraudster?

This is a challenging question. The best fraudsters are highly skilled in their ability to deceive and to avoid detection. But we should remember that in order for a fraudster to exercise his nefarious and anarchical power, he ultimately depends on his victims. What makes a person become a victim? Some people are more prone than others to become victims

The Hunter of Billions

Offshore Monies When Banks and Authorities search for the proceeds of crime in offshore havens then they often call Martin Kenney.

Martin Kenney appears fresh out of the shower in the Admiral’s Lounge at New York’s JFK Airport. The frequent flyer has just arrived from a conference in Dubai and in an hour and a half will fly on via San Juan to the British Virgin Islands (BVI). He quickly packs away a Caesar salad with grilled chicken. The lawyer comes across as small and brawny, and not just somewhat.

The 51 year old Canadian with Irish roots is renowned as one of the best specialists worldwide when it comes to tracking down millions that have been misappropriated by fraudsters. Whether leafing through batches of bank statements, having the rubbish of a criminal combed though over a period of months, or hiring an informer to befriend the criminal, Kenney doesn’t give up until he has managed to secure the return of most of the money to its rightful owner. Even when the search last years and costs millions.

He tracked down millions misappropriated by the super fraudster, Bernie Madoff, on behalf of a Swiss bank. However, he doesn’t talk about that: confidential. The British Financial Times calls Kenney the Top Money Hunter. Canadian specialist magazine, The Canadian Lawyer, describes him as one of the most driven and trustworthy lawyers out there, owing to his modern day Robin Hood reputation and his pitbull-style methods.

Time and again Kenney’s path leads to Switzerland. Most recently he secured artworks in Zurich that had been purchased as a vehicle to launder money by the banker Edemar Cid Ferreira. The Brazilian defrauded his bank, Banco Santos, out of $800 million. The financial institution was declared bankrupt in 2005. The man is serving a 21-year sentence for the fraud. Indeed until recently there was no trace of the money. A high-gloss magazine about Ferreira’s art collection set Kenney in hot pursuit; amongst the pile of artwork, 1000 pieces of his illegitimate collection were from the masters such as Jackson Pollock. One trail lead to a gallery in Manhattan where Ferreira was a regular customer. There Kenney discovered documents that lead to a series of storage facilities in European cities where works were stored – amongst them Switzerland.

The last place in the world
For the renovation of his villa alone the Brazilian spent $65 million. When Kenney put in action the seizure of the property, he discovered Brazilian papers that lead to a Swiss bank account that was managed by a Bahamian company in trust for Ferreira. That was two and a half months ago. Since then nine further accounts have been discovered.

“If I were a criminal, Switzerland would be the last place in the world I would hide my money,” says Kenney. “The authorities there are unbelievably professional when it comes to identifying and stopping money laundering. They are amongst the best in the world.” Indeed in the last 20 years Switzerland has witnessed a sea change in the culture of financial centres. “They realised the negative publicity and effect of the bank secrecy laws,” says Kenney. “Now they have found a better balance between the laws of privacy and justice.”

The rogues of this world still love Switzerland, however. “The air of bank secrecy pervades Switzerland and Lichtenstein now as it did then – that magically draws them in.” However the main reason why malefactors hide their money in such bank accounts is the stable legal and contract system: “A fraudster fears nothing more than another fraudster.” That’s why accounts in Turkmenistan and the Ukraine don’t have the same attraction for big time fraudsters.

Professionals can manage to set up 20 different and independent routes for their misappropriated money, all designed to place the greatest distance between the fraud and the proceeds in every possible way and method. Next to Switzerland, favoured hiding places include Lichtenstein, Singapore, Belize, Panama, the British Virgin Islands, Guernsey, Nevis, the Cook Islands, and Canada. “Often one lead will lead to another – but some monies will remain forever hidden,” advised Kenney.

When Kenney is engaged on a new case, he first travels to the scene of the crime: “Initially you enter a pitch black room. There you must orient yourself and indentify Mr. Big.” Economic crime seems to be a male dominated field – only once in his career has Kenney had to deal with a female fraudster.

After that Kenney takes care of every manner of paper, documents, bank statements, everything that the victim can provide. Then Kenney tries to find out whatever he can about the Fraudster, his life style, his telephone numbers, his domicile, and his travel routes. Kenney loves private jets in particular – they are registered with a number which enables one to trace where in the world the owner has spent time.

Kenney’s goal is not just to track down the lost money. More important for the restitution to the victims is the chain of evidence that can lead to the criminal. That is easier said than done. Often economic criminals manage to place 20 to 40 different layers between them and the proceeds of fraud. Kenney follows the money from its source, through account after account across the whole world.

In one case Kenney discovered buildings in Canada that were held by various numbered companies, for example 8769542 Alberta, Inc. The capital in question came from a series of offshore companies that in turn belonged to a Netherlands Antilles domiciled company. Behind that company was a trust and behind that in turn the real criminal who had misappropriated $250 million though a mass marketing scam.

Kenney keeps a team of 25 experts in the BVI busy. There are forensic accountants, as well as experts who previously worked for Scotland Yard. Two lawyers in New York and Dublin are also included. In addition, he has a software programme that organises all discovered leads into a diagram that can also be viewed quickly according to years. Often his clients are banks – first line employees defraud the banks of money regularly.

Whoever engages Kenney needs a thick wallet. A successful trace can cost $10 million, if not more. As some victims are left bankrupt as a result of the fraud, Kenney also organises investment pools that finance the recovery in return for a share in the recovered proceeds. In extreme cases, Kenney – who normally charges by the hour – offers to take the work on for a success fee: usually around 30 % of the recovery.

“My job is fun,” says Kenney. His empathy is what drives him. Often his clients are at their
wits’ end – they contemplate suicide or suffer from a heart attack. “I want justice for my
clients. Whoever thinks that slogging one’s way through thousands of files is boring is
kidding himself. In our office there is no shortage of energy. We are emergency lawyers, for
us it’s straight to the point.”

Kenney played ice hockey in college and nearly took up a professional career with the NHL. These days he channels the aggression of the sport into the hunt for monies. Even today he feels the same adrenaline that he once experienced as a young New York lawyer who returned $720 million to its rightful owner for the first time. “I worked all day long without sleeping.” Towards the end he brought in a colleague who befriended the fraudster. He recorded their conversations with a hidden recording device. For six long months he followed the malefactor’s every move until he gave in and confessed. “He offered to pay everything back if I would just get off his case.” Kenney’s intensity is genetic: His Brother, Jason, is the Minister of Immigration in Canada.

“Fraud is psychological warfare”, Kenney quotes the New York psychologist, Alexander Stein, an expert in the field. Sure it’s his personal ambition to keep the upper hand. Time and time again Kenney has had to deal with personal death threats. “Once I sat at the bargaining table with a fraudster and he roared at me that he would like to rip my head off,” Kenney shudders at the thought.

He could tell tales of robbers for hours on end, but the fast yet extremely mindfully spoken lawyer holds himself back. It’s more important for him to talk about his campaign against kleptocratic dictators. “Corruption is just as much a crime against humanity as genocide. It can lead to famine and poverty.” Together with lawyers form Nigeria, France, and Dubai he wants to procure the prosecution of corruption as an international crime before the ICC in The

Kenney personally followed the monies of the Nigerian dictator Abacha. These days he is busy trying to track down the monies of the overthrown Tunisian tyrant, Zine Ben Ali. He stops mid sentence and looks at his watch: “I have to catch my plane.”


Written by Nele Husmann

Keeping the Con Artist at Bay

The woman’s boyfriend came to her with a scary story – gangsters were after him! He needed several thousands of dollars to pay them off. She wrote a check. But it happened again. And again. Eventually, the wealthy young woman’s family intervened. “He was asking someone who had a lot of money and who would give it to him,” says Karen Altfest, principal of Altfest Personal Wealth Management in New York City, who said it was just one of the many examples she has seen of how wealthy people can become targets.

“She needed a lot of support, and treatment for years,” says Altfest, author of Keeping Clients for Life, and co-author with her husband, Lew, of Lew Altfest Answers Almost All Your Questions About Money. Altfest often speaks about investing to women’s groups and at seminars.

Since the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme scandal erupted in the media, more people have become aware of investment fraud and other financial crimes, which can range from simple street schemes to ‘sell’ fake winning lottery tickets, to grand illusions realistically portraying phoney companies, complete with brochures, fake employees and bogus testimonials. Economic crime is the tropical rainforest of thievery, with a proliferation of constantly growing and adapting scams.

Scores came to light between late 2007 and 2009, when the economic squeeze had investors rushing to cash out of what they thought were solid investments. “We saw many collapse during the financial meltdown – when the tide goes out you see who is not wearing a bathing suit,” says David Nanz, FBI supervisory special agent, whose team helped bring down Scott Rothstein, the Fort Lauderdale attorney convicted of running a Ponzi scheme – in which the money of new investors is used to pay off the old investors, and usually fund the Ponzi-schemer’s lavish lifestyle.

According to the FBI’s 2009 Financial Crimes Report (the latest figures available), securities and commodities fraud investigations rose by 33 percent over five years, going from 1,139 in 2005 to 1,510 in 2009, representing billions of dollars in losses.

What’s more, the increased participation of Americans in securities and commodities markets – nearly half of the population owns stocks or bonds in some fashion – and the advice to diversify investments are also giving fraudsters a new playing field, the report continued.

Trust but Verify
Few of the schemes would surprise Altfest, who has been advising investors for more than 25 years, and has become an advocate for widows, retirees, and others who suddenly come into a large amount of money and may be naïve about investing.

“I like to tell people about how to form a portfolio,” and how financial decisions can be tailored to a person’s life, she says.

And it seems that in life, just like in school, doing one’s homework is crucial.

“We tend to trust our gut a lot, and instincts are good,” she says, “but you want to have transparency. You don’t want the kind of adviser who says ‘I’ll take care of it, I’ll handle it.’ ” Altfest says prudence dictates not having the adviser be the same person who also handles the money. “If you have Charles Schwab sending you a monthly statement, you are getting conformation that the money is really there,” she says, adding that funds should remain in the investor’s name and giving thumbs down on co-mingled accounts.

“That should give you a comfort level,” she says. “All these things protect the investor.”

In the wake of the Bernie Madoff scandal, new clients often come in and say, “You seem like nice people – but how do I know you are not Madoff?”

“People now feel they should ask that,” Altfest says, noting that, paradoxically, part of Madoff’s genius in attracting investors was his coolness. “It certainly didn’t sound like he pressured people.”

And those high pressure sales tactics are something Altfest says people should guard against – even if they come from legitimate companies. She tells of one elderly client who came to her after salespeople from a major investment firm showed up at the woman’s house, sat in her living room and would not leave until she signed up with them.

Why didn’t she kick them out? “She didn’t want to upset them,” Altfest says.

She suggests that everyone bring a trusted relative or longtime friend to such meetings, “who can say no for you.” And remember, she says, making quick decisions is to be avoided.

“If it sounds good to you on Monday, it is going to sound just as good to you on Friday,” she says.

A suddenly profitable business, or sale proceeds realized by Internet entrepreneurs, can lead to similar pitfalls, says Dr. Kerry Sulkowicz, psychiatrist, psychoanalyst and founder of the Boswell Group, a New York-headquartered consulting firm focusing on the psychology of business.

“Part of what makes them vulnerable is the lack of knowledge of what to do with it,” he says. “You need all kinds of advice and help. The most basic thing these people are told is that they have to diversify – therein lies the opportunity for schemers and scammers,” he says, echoing the FBI report.

The challenge of weeding out good offers and advice from bad can be overwhelming, he says. And overwhelmed people may tend to become passive, he adds. Some may also have anxiety about having so much money – as well as guilt, which, Sulkowicz says, are also risk factors for becoming a victim.

The Con in the Confidence Scheme
There is a reason they call it a confidence scheme. Unlike breaking and entering, grand theft auto, or a jewelry heist, the perpetrator plays on the natural emotions of those they target.

Victims can be left feeling foolish, embarrassed, and guilty for perceiving that they in some way contributed to their own fleecing. This is just what scam artists count on.

What makes a fraudster good, is identifying the emotional soft spot in the potential victim that they can hook into, says psychoanalyst Dr. Alexander Stein, also of the Boswell Group. Stein, an internationally regarded expert in the psychology of fraud, says part of the problem is that society, including the legal system, often shift at least some culpability to the victim (“he was greedy”).

“One of the things that makes criminal fraud unique from any other kind of crime, is some form of participation,” he says. “Fraud is about manipulation and trickery. At some level, that has given rise to such a characterization.”

But part of the fraudster’s skills, he says, is being able to suss out what the victim wants and position himself or his product to provide it, building on normal human desires, emotions and relationships. “This is something the best of them understand in how they manipulate their victims,” he says. And gaining trust is at the heart of the process. “This is someone who has learned to hide himself in artful ways.”

Trust, first built then betrayed, is the window into the minds of such criminals, Stein says. “They leave a psychological fingerprint that is telling about their own experiences,” he says.

Typically, he says, such a person was unable to come to terms with an early dislocation or trauma that someone with more resilience could overcome. “Fraudsters are crippled in regard to this and they are unable to come through these experiences in a workable way, and instead, harbor acidic reservoirs of rage that get unleashed on others.”

These people, adds Stein’s colleague, Sulkowicz, often first come across as seductive, and tend to make all kinds of promises.

The key though, is how they act when they don’t get their way. “They are very accommodating until lose interest in you.”

Investors must do background checks, references checks and consider, at least at the beginning, staying with a well-known name or institution, Sulkowicz says.

“What we are talking about is trust. And trust is relationship based. It’s not something you can sell, it’s something earned over time.”

By Karen-Janine Cohen

US President’s Father-Hunger

Sir, I agree with your editorial “Palace intrigue on Pennsylvania Ave” (March 11), which assigns responsibility to Barack Obama for the internal feuds at the White House. As a corporate psychoanalyst who advises chief executives and political leaders, may I offer him my advice?

The dysfunction among his senior team was not inevitable, despite the president having assembled his own version of a “team of rivals”. Such squabbles arise in a well-known phenomenon of organizational dynamics called group regression, in which a perceived leadership vacuum causes a team to retreat to less adaptive modes of functioning, turning against one another and pointing fingers internally rather than focusing on the true adversaries, namely the economy, the wars, the Republicans, the entrenched obstacles in American culture, and so on.

What can President Obama do to reverse this situation? It is not simply a matter of being tougher, nor would it be enough to just demand that his advisers stop fighting. Neither approach would address his team’s –and his country’s – underlying feeling of being “fatherless”. His own actual father-hunger probably makes it hard for him to evolve into a warmer, more benevolent paternalistic role. But if he can unlock his own emotional development and progress from being the brilliant son to the wise man with gravitas that we need, the entire world might be better for it.

Kerry Sulkowicz,
Professor of Psychiatry,
New York University School of Medicine,
New York, NY, US

Deal Journal: Beware the Wall Street Salary Monster

On Wall Street, bonuses are out, bigger salaries are in.

J.P. Morgan Chase is the latest bank to consider boosting salaries for its workers, according to the New York Post, rather than rely on the old bonus system. Citigroup and Bank of America also have signaled their intent to increase salaries to keep talent from jumping ship.

But as Wall Street seeks to skirt public outcry over bonuses, it could be creating a different kind of compensation monster.

Deal Journal asked Kerry Sulkowicz, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine and managing principal at Boswell Group, which consults with chief executives at financial firms and in other industries on workplace culture and leadership, for his thoughts on Wall Street’s move toward bigger salaries. Here are some excerpts.

Deal Journal: Is it a good idea to increase salaries on Wall Street instead of giving employees large bonuses.

Kerry Sulkowicz: It seems like a transparent way to circumvent the outcry against bonuses. But it’s short-term thinking about a longer-term problem. If you look a few years out, it’s going to be hard to roll back these inflated salaries, which don’t necessarily have a bearing on how good a job an employee is doing.

DJ: How should Wall Street try to retain talented workers in the current environment?

Sulkowicz: I understand that money may be the most important thing. But firms have to pay attention to developing loyalty in other ways. People I know who work at J.P. Morgan talk about how they have great pride in working there because they believe in the leadership of CEO Jamie Dimon. By comparison, the people I talk to at Citigroup are not particularly happy or inspired. They might stay there because they don’t have a choice, not because the leaders inspire that kind of following. The downside of loyalty is what happened at Lehman, where some senior executives felt a great sense of pride, but that can create an insular culture and you can miss out on certain problems.

DJ: Are there any studies on how different types of compensation affect workplace psychology?

Sulkowicz: Not that I am aware of, but there should be.

DJ: Are Wall Street bonuses a thing of the past.

Sulkowicz: Bonuses have a bad connotation at the moment. But my sense is that as the crisis fades, bonuses will be back.

From No Job to New Job

Like anyone who has lost a job, CEOs who part ways with associations are often left wondering what’s next and hoping the experience will not darken their future job prospects. But for some, rebounding is not as difficult as you might think.

For Craig Fuller, the end came in 2006. During more than six years, Fuller had been the CEO of the National Association for Chain Drug Stores, which represents retail chain pharmacies and suppliers. He felt he had been successful, especially in influencing the debate on Medicare reform and its implementation.

But when the board wanted to go in a different direction, “it looked like a good time for me to do something else,” Fuller said.

Out of a job, Fuller didn’t despair. Instead, he focused on the things his busy schedule as a CEO would not allow, like flying his Beechcraft Bonanza airplane and sailing in the Caribbean.

Fuller also reconstructed The Fuller Company, his private consulting firm. Having worked in Washington since 1981 in posts ranging from chief of staff to Vice President George H.W. Bush to principal at the public relations firm The Wexler Group, Fuller had no problem finding clients. “The advantage of being in town for a while is you have a lot of friends and a lot of relationships,” he said.

It wasn’t long before some of the firms where Fuller was consulting began recruiting him. In 2007, when the communications and public relations firm APCO Worldwide asked him to be executive vice-president, he accepted. He had been working for himself for only a year.

“I’ve always operated under the theory that as you close one door another one opens and another one after that,” said Fuller, who has recently been tapped by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association as its next CEO.

For association CEOs, the door often closes sooner than they would hope. The average tenure for a trade group chief executive is just over six years, according to AssociationIntel, an online database of associations, leader and salary information. Because of today’s short tenures, it is important for CEOs to prepare an exit strategy, say professional job coaches, recruiters and CEOs who have successfully rebounded.

Gone are the days when CEOs spend an entire career at one association, Fuller said. Just like CEOs in the private sector, it’s become common to see turnover in five to eight years, he said. “Boards change. The people who hired you rotate out and new people come in. You always have to be prepared.”

Steve Axelrod, an executive consultant and job coach in New York City, often consults with both nonprofit and for-profit CEOs who find themselves out of a job. Not all of them fare as well as Fuller, but many do, he said.

Axelrod says it’s important for a CEO to find a “healthy narrative” about why the job didn’t work out and to focus on what’s next instead of dwelling on the past. “Losing a job or moving from job to job is not as much of a stigma as it used to be,” he said. “A key to surviving is having the presence of mind to realize that this is one chapter in my life and there will be other chapters.”

That doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. Charlie Ingersoll, a senior client partner at the executive search firm Korn/Ferry International, said recruiters are leery about prospects who have left on less than stellar terms. It’s not something a CEO should try to spin or hide, he said. “We are going to do due diligence so we are going to know about it,” he said.

Job candidates who left their former jobs under a dark cloud should be ready to take some of the responsibility, he said, because in all breakups, there are two sides to the story, and usually everybody is a little wrong.

During interviews, Ingersoll says former CEOs should not present themselves as victims. If they truly did something wrong, he thinks they might benefit from a position lower on the totem pole. “There are people who fumble, so to speak,” he said. “Sometimes they need to go back to being a senior staff member someplace.”

One way to avoid the fallout is to know what you are getting into before you take a job. In 2003, Lynn Nicholas was excited to be tapped to lead the American Diabetes Association. But she quickly learned it was a bad fit. Nicholas thought she would be directing policy, but the biggest portion of the job was fundraising, which “is not my skill set,” she said.

Nicholas, who had a trade association background, said she also did not like working for a patient advocacy group, where passionate volunteers want to have a hand in the daily machinery of the organization. “They want to be involved in the day-to-day aspects of everything, from what hotel a meeting is held at, to what is being served for dinner,” she said.

In 2006, the association released Nicholas from her three-year contract. Even though she didn’t like the job, losing it hurt. “On a verypersonal level, for a short while, it made me feel like I had been a failure,” she said. “It made me question my potential and my ability.”

For the first time since 1976, Nicholas said she was looking for a job instead of fielding offers from recruiters. The situation made her reassess her strengths and what she wanted out of her career. It would only take nine months before she was working again.

In 2007, the CEO search committee for the Massachusetts Hospital Association chose Nicholas. During her interview, Nicholas’s short tenure at American Diabetes Association came up. “I was very transparent about it and honest,” she said. “I said ‘I know myself better now. I’m a better and stronger leader because of the experience.'”

Joe Eaton is a Washington, D.C.-based writer.

Tips for professional rebounding

Whether a job loss comes from outright dismissal or a more gentle invitation to leave, executive coach Steve Axelrod has these suggestions to make the most of the situation:

  • Take the opportunity to reflect and learn about yourself. Develop a complete narrative about who you are and your strengths and weaknesses.
  • You will feel a range of emotions including anger, shame, guilt and rage. That’s normal. But try to avoid self-pity and withdrawal. It will get you nowhere.
  • Find your support network or personal “board of directors.” People usually think family first, but sometimes spouses and other family members are just as stressed out and confused by your job loss as you are. Look to professional colleagues as well.
  • Activate and build your network. This is primary. Your job now is to look for a new job. The key to finding one is working your network.
  • Talk to associates and tell them what you are looking for. No one is going to give you a job unless they know you want one.