Thursday, 19 February 2015

The Interim Paradox by Fraser Geekie

I was inspired by Godfrey Golzen’s book on Interim Management, which, although it is now over 20 years old, has a very interesting chapter “The Right Stuff of Interim Management”, which is as apt today, if not more so, than it was in 1992 when the book was written. 

It fell on my head from the top shelf of the bookcase, along with a number of associated magazine cuttings which have also contributed to the thinking behind this blog. Dislodged by fate, perhaps, (or was it the bottle of single malt hidden behind that I was reaching for) the resultant bang on the head drew me to contemplate a series of animated discussions we have been having with colleagues attending the Interims North bi-monthly seminars in Manchester on the topic of what properly and uniquely defines an Interim Manager and therefore what are the Corporate benefits of employing one? 

Harking back on the group discussions; adaptability, resilience, diplomacy and independence were a few of the characteristics we all proffered as essential foundation blocks of Interim Management success. Additionally, the general feeling was that the key competencies demonstrated by successful Interims were learned on the job, rather than being skills which could be taught. We all agreed that Interim Managers draw experience from several organisations and are over-qualified for the Interim assignments which they take on. This makes them able to hit the ground running, command the respect of their stakeholders and make quick inroads into solving the problem. All good stuff, but does it really distinguish the Interim Manager? 

Now, this is the important bit. Let’s distinguish between a “Career Interim” and someone who is simply "on the market", perhaps between permanent jobs, to undertake a defined project. There are several important competencies which set high performing Career Interim Managers apart from candidates who just happen to be immediately available (albeit suitably qualified) for specific short term assignments. To my knowledge there is no quotable qualification (yet) in flexibility, impartiality and organisational know-how / nouse, yet most Career Interim Managers would consider these a significant part of part of their job description. Add to this one particular behaviour which stands out in all the feedback I have received from satisfied Clients (Employers of Interim Managers) – good Interim Managers are more likely than permanent professionals or staff on project related contracts to prioritise the needs of the Business over their own personal goals. Simple when you boil it down. I would suggest that this final characteristic is, indeed, the unique differentiator. 

As ‘fixers’, Interims are more likely to focus on the client’s need rather than their own personal requirements or career aspirations. Yes, maintaining their personal reputation is essential, but this is enhanced by doing the very best they can for their clients with minimal support and with an eye on value for money. Their reputation is enhanced by ensuring they leave a strong legacy; up skilling and coaching teams to continue their work long after the assignment has ended. Strangely, the shorter the assignment, the greater the commitment to the client’s cause. The “Interim Paradox”, where, if they are unable to focus on serving the client and leaving a legacy, the assignment may come to a premature end. 

If you would like to know more on the benefits of Interim Management and perhaps discuss some appropriate case studies from a Client or a Candidate perspective, please don’t hesitate to contact me at Executives Online  or directly 07976 905571 

Fraser Geekie 

A Senior Consultant with Executives Online (North), Fraser delivers Business-wide solutions through the rapid and precise placement of Consultancy, Interim, and Permanent personnel. Quality talent in-place, on-time.

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