Welcome to Interim Management Jobs

Interim: What's in a name?

Recently, I spoke with the Managing Director of a food manufacturing business who wanted to appoint a departmental head for a period of 6-months. He wanted to call the role ‘acting’ Technical Director rather than ‘interim Technical Director. As his permanent Technical Director would be returning to the post after 6-months he felt the word ‘acting’ was better as it implied that the regular Technical Director would be coming back which would be re-assuring to staff. Conversely, he believed the word ‘interim’ implied that the job was vacant and could be unsettling to staff.

I explained to the Managing Director that my view of job titles is that it is just Nomenclature and semantics and suggested we just call the role Technical Director as that is the title that the existing staff were used to. He was adamant that we use the word ‘acting’ however, and as I didn’t see it as an issue, I had no problem complying with his wish.

Personally, I see a job title as a label that doesn't really help when assessing a candidates suitability for an interim assignment. When assessing candidate suitability, I avoid looking at job titles and focus on the function of the role, required outcomes and the capabilities of the candidate. In my opinion, if you focus on job titles you can miss what the candidate has been doing, what they delivered and whether this was a successful outcome.

Due to my apathy toward job titles I struggled to see the MD’s opposition to the word ‘interim’ but he knows his staff better than anyone so if he felt there was good reason to use the word ‘acting’ rather than ‘interim’ I was happy to concede, as I knew that calling the role ‘acting’ would not make it any more difficult for me to identify suitable candidates, as I know most interim managers give only a cursory thought to job titles.

It got me thinking though, was this merely semantics, or can a job title hinder or enhance an interim manager’s ability to deliver successfully?

Goldman Sachs certainly believes in the impact the right job title as they employ thousands of ‘Vice Presidents’. In fact, roughly one-third of their entire staff hold the title Vice President!

A cynic may say Goldman Sachs are abusing the Vice President title and using it to hood-wink clients into believing they are working with a more senior individual, “Yes Mr Client we will put together a team headed by three of our most trusted Vice Presidents to oversee your Company merger.” Sounds powerful, but inflating titles to impress clients without actually devoting senior resources to those clients is likely to be damaging to both the clients and employees, who may lack the experience or knowledge to successfully deliver for the client.

But how does ‘job title’ play-out in the interim world? Will the title 'Interim Director' carry more credibility and gravitas than 'Interim Manager'? And if so, will this make it easier to gain the respect and co-operation of employees and stakeholders? Which may in turn make it easier for the Interim to deliver? Or will the vast majority of people not even notice the distinction in job title?

Friday Dec 7, 2018