Masters of Third Half: Russell Abbott

Updated: 2 days ago

At Third Half Advisors, we often work with people who are highly motivated and successful. Our story about Russell Abbott is no exception.

We know that finding balance in the Third Half can be as challenging as finding balance in corporate America. It just looks different. In this Third Half Masters story, we introduce you to Russell Abbott. Russells’ top 5 Clifton Strengths are Learner, Ideation, Input, Analytical, Intellection. These strengths shine through the way Russell thoroughly plans out his life’s transitions while also leaving room for flexibility and creativity. He has learned the value of leaning on those in your community for support and isn’t afraid to ask for advice in order to gain insight. Here is his story.

– Coach Polly Chandler

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In his first career, Russell Abbott worked on Wall Street. He also volunteered on the side. His favorite volunteering position? Serving as a board member. “I really got to see how a board can help shape the direction of a nonprofit,” he says. He learned how important setting clear goals and strategic thinking is in guiding nonprofits. He used his Analytic and Input strengths to ensure that he was making decisions on the whole picture: people and data. Russell’s Learner and Intellection helped him to learn a great deal about the world of nonprofits that would help shape his decision in his Third Half.


Transitioning from Wall Street to Start-Up.


His strengths came into play as Russell made a transition from working on Wall Street to his next step, all of which was planned out in advance. At his son’s recommendation, Russell looked into New York’s start-up scene. He discovered CariClub, a company that straddled the for-and-nonprofit worlds and worked to “engage millennials into associate board service.” Russell served as president of the start-up for three years. The main draw? Helping avail nonprofits of needed manpower. Again, his strategic thinking strengths were guiding him to big ideas that needed input and a thorough analysis in order to reach the vision.


While at CariClub, Russell was introduced to his third career, a fellowship with Encore. Encore’s fellowship program connects its participants with positions within nonprofits. Russell carefully chose a smaller nonprofit in which he could work closely with the nonprofit’s Executive Director, a future career path he was considering for himself. Russell’s strategic thinking strengths of Learner, Ideation, Intellection and Analytical helped him to see not just the vision but operations of a nonprofit. During his time in the Encore fellowship, Russel volunteered for a virtual coaching assignment with an Alabama nonprofit, a strategically planned decision that allowed him to honor family members who lived there.


Throughout his various careers, Russell has discovered a few things about himself and the nonprofit world. The notion that “You need to figure out a way to get it done,” is something Russell carried with him from his Wall Street Days. On Wall Street, that notion was backed by an “incredible support network.” At a nonprofit, “You’re stuck with your own resources.” Russell proudly succeeded on his own merits. Knowing his strengths helped him to see the deep well of resources he had within.


Learning in the Non-Profit World.


His attitude towards nonprofits evolved through his Encore fellowship. Russell not only learned to value community, but he also learned to use his Input to ask “How can I help” rather than “Do you need help?”. Before his fellowship, Russell hadn’t fully recognized the importance of community. But as he recently pointed out, “Almost every single nonprofit emerges because there are people who recognize that there is a need that’s not being met.” In setting out to remedy a deficiency, these people create a new community-- one which spans to all the people their nonprofit helps. Russell used his Learner to be curious about the needs of communities and this led to helping more people where they needed it most.


Throughout his transitions, Russell turned to his own community for help. He wasn’t relying on his community for help with a job search, but rather, “a sense of what it was like for them [to transition],” and whether “there was any kind of similarity, potentially, between my path and the one they’d taken.” In asking those around him about their experiences, Russell gained many insights.


  1. Make sure to engage with your family (especially a spouse) and support system about your decision. Your transition affects those closest to you as much as it does you. From time spent with loved ones to personal finances, your decisions impact those you love. So include them in your decision. Russell relied on his Relator strength to guide him into authentic conversations with people close to him.

  2. Consider why you’re choosing to transition and make sure you’re transitioning for the right reasons. Create an end-game before you transition and be willing to ask yourself the hardest questions, so your transition doesn’t become the path of least resistance. Strategic is a theme that needs an end game, a target, a destination. Russell’s ability to gather information with his Input, be curious with his Learner and spend time thinking with his Intellection ensured the best results.

  3. Make sure whatever you transition to, it is something you enjoy and look forward to. Two strengths Russell has, Maximizer and Competition, that both strive to do good work, to do things well and thrive in the role. These two strengths clearly have helped him to do what he loves, do it well and thrive in all aspects of his work.

If you’re looking to transition specifically to the nonprofit world, Russell has a final piece of advice: “Be willing to check your ego at the door. Make sure you’re not thinking that you’ll be the solution, but rather that you’re going to try and figure out how you can be an agent for change, if change is needed.”


Learning More About Clifton Strengths.


Russell is strong in strategic thinking strengths and his collective talents supported him through this journey. His top Clifton Strengths include 6 of the 7 strategic themes: Learner, Ideation, Input, Analytical, Intellection and Strategic. All these purpose-driven strengths helped him to analyze opportunities, research, brainstorm ideas, and set a strategic path forward.


Before debriefing his CliftonStrengths report with Third Half Advisor, Polly Chandler, Russell wasn’t particularly surprised by his results. However, he found that working with Polly provided valuable contextualization for his CliftonStrength report. Polly helped Russell realize his strengths weren’t “so much deficiencies as they were areas where there might be a lack of passion for me to really engage in those particular areas.”


While it’s important to be mindful of your lesser strengths, don’t take the CliftonStrengths Assessment as a test to see what you need to improve. CliftonStrengths are better intended as a way for you to gain a “sense of who you are” and for you to keep that awareness and see how your pieces all fit together.


His final piece of advice? “Look at areas that are not your highest rated strengths, and think about them, but don’t focus on improving yourself in those areas because they may not be the ones where your passions lie in the first place so that you might be barking up the wrong tree… realize where you can integrate them into the areas where you’re strongest.” Lean into people who have those strengths to form powerful partnerships.


What's Next?


Russell is unsure of his next steps. At the moment, he’s collaborating with his son on a project. As Russell explained, “I’m so excited to work with my son on a project that I’m interested in doing.” As he knows, “I know that the way my brain works, I need to be interested.”


Russell’s top six strengths are very brain based, motivated by thinking, learning and analyzing. No doubt Russell will engage in many purpose driven exploration conversations with his son. They will make a difference because Russell’s strengths are driven towards goals, outcomes, and living authentically.


Learn more about Russell and connect with him on LinkedIn. Make sure to check out our other Third Half Stories to learn more about others who are transitioning from their corporate career to “what’s next”.

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