1.) Know if and when you need external resource
Establish if you really do need an interim manager and that the skills and knowledge you require doesn’t already exist within your organisation. Interim managers offer a specialist resource that companies may not have access to internally but engaging an Interim manager while you have an internal employee who could pick up the challenge may not be the best use of your resources. Interim managers run their own business and their time is precious, therefore, don’t invite an interim manager in for a meeting until you are certain that interim management is the route you want to take. A client should view a meeting with an interim manager as a peer to peer business conversation and not an interview, so it wouldn’t be appropriate to invite them to a meeting on a speculative basis.
2.) Be honest
Be honest with the interim manager with respect to what the situation is, the complexity involved, how internal or political issues may impact the assignment, how difficult the challenge will be and what resources will be required for the interim manager to successfully complete the assignment. To get the most out of an interim manager and to build trust you need honesty. Also, as most interim assignments involve some transformation and change, the organisation and stakeholders involved should be honest with personnel within the organisation and inform them they can expect some uncomfortable moments and a fair degree of disruption and explain this is a normal part of the process.
3.) Establish the Relationship
Establish the relationship and parameters from the outset. It surprises me how many interim managers I speak with tell me they are on assignment yet are unsure when the assignment will end. Although there are circumstances when the finish date needs to be open-ended, for many organisations the lack of a set end date is due to poor management of the assignment by the organisation. At the commencement of an interim assignment an organisation should have a legal contract in place, the assignment scope should be mapped out, the mode of operation should be established, and the deliverables and timeframe should be clear to all. Writing this down means all parties know where they stand. Also consider the Psychological contract, this being the relationship between an organisation and the interim manager, where there are unwritten mutual expectations for each party. While some parts of the relationship are written down and agreed upon, the psychological contract is based on an implied understanding and it is important for a client to maintain a good working relationship with the interim, ensuring both parties know what the expectations and obligations are, over and above what is written down.
4.) Know what you are looking for
What do you need the interim manager to do? What does ideal look like? What essential qualities must the interim possess? Do you need sector or product knowledge or fresh thinking and a new approach that comes from vertical markets? Qualify that the interim has the skills and experience detailed on their CV. An experienced interim manager should be able to furnish you with several references from organisations they have successfully completed assignments for. Don’t just check one reference, as you will be making a considerable investment in the interim manager. If you were to spend £30,000 on a car you would conduct plenty of research before making a decision, as you may be spending the same or more on an interim manager, a similar amount of time and effort needs to go into the purchasing decision.
5.) Choose an interim service provider carefully
Your organisation may use a service provider or specialist interim recruiter to assist you by introducing interim managers. Always use a reputable provider and familiarise yourself with them and their track-record. Satisfy yourself that they have the ability to identify interims with the right balance of experience, technical know-how and applicable knowledge. Look for a professional accreditation, and an extensive database of relevant interim managers.
6.) Don’t take too long to make a decision
Although it is important to conduct due diligence and research before appointing an interim manager, anecdotal evidence suggests that the time it takes organisations to appoint an interim manager has increased. With many organisations operating Matrix Management structures, the decision-making process in this kind of structure can be slow, as there is much discussion laterally between colleagues before findings go up to the next management level for a final decision. With respect to the sourcing process for an interim manager, this process should be viewed as a business-critical transaction, and not a recruitment process. It is often good practice for organisations to involve fewer colleagues in the decision-making process, as this can speed up the process and enable an organisation to make better decisions. This approach will also minimise the potential disappointment of, having finally made a decision, finding out the interim manager you want to engage is now unavailable.
7.) Tap into some impartial advice
Although you are bringing an interim manager in to deliver a specific piece of work, don’t be afraid to ask their advice on other unrelated business matters. Interim managers have a wealth of experience to tap into. Interims don’t have emotional attachments to the organisation like some employees do, so they will give honest advice without prejudice. Use them as a sounding board as interim managers will speak openly to clients - they tell it like it is. It might not be what you want to hear but it will be their honest appraisal.
8.) Expect apolitical behaviour
All workplaces are political, to varying degrees, as employees have an inherent need to bring their personal emotions, opinions, ambitions, and insecurities into the workplace. The organisation should expect and encourage an interim manager they engage not to take sides or get involved with internal politics. An experienced interim will use tact and diplomacy to stay out of company politics. This is necessary for the interim manager and benefits the organisation as the interim remains impartial and continues to work with clarity and sound judgement.
9.) Get off to a good start
Once they commence, an interim manager is generally given a week to understand the task and client requirements, the work involved and the deliverables. It is important both the client and interim use the first week to ensure all parties are on the same page and focused on a shared outcome. Quite often, where assignments 'go wrong' the problem can be traced back to the first couple of weeks. The client should make time during this early stage to make sure the interim manager has a full grasp of the issues. The client should ensure the interim manager has access to all the resources they need to deliver and is able to talk to everyone they will be working with, to introduce themselves and gain an understanding of what is needed. This holistic approach will provide the interim with clarity and help the assignment get off to a productive start.
10.) Maintain the relationship post-assignment
It’s good practice to maintain the relationship with the interim manager once they have completed the assignment. A good interim manager will be more than happy to provide after-sales support. They may not be invoicing you, but they’ll be happy to take a call to discuss an assignment they have worked on. It may be that the work they implemented has veered off-track, or a new set of circumstances has come into the mix, or the project may have lost momentum after the interim manager exited. Whatever the issue, do call the interim manager, they will be pleased to hear from you and open to offer advice as they know that at some point in the future you may wish to engage them again.
Thursday Sep 19, 2019