Picking the right interim manager – Q&A
Q: Our company is planning to undertake a key strategic project . Broadly speaking, we are clear on what needs to be achieved but also clear that we do not have a manager within our ranks in possession of the relevant knowledge and proven skills to deliver. We are therefore considering the need to hire an interim manager. But what attributes should we look for in an interim hire?
A: You are far from alone. Research by the IMA shows an increase in interim assignments every quarter since Q4 2011. This is almost certainly because, during a time of financial crisis and the slow recovery, interim managers can plug strategic gaps and meet the needs of different market and organisational circumstances, without the expense of a permanent hire. This makes them a flexible resource.
As always, the first thing to consider is not who you need but what you need. To get the right questions, the information you need to consider are:
- Your top 3 objectives
- The top 3 challenges you anticipate
- How will the perfect CV look? What core skills and essential personal strengths and qualities must feature?
- Are you looking for specific sector or product knowledge or someone to bring fresh thinking?
- How will you measure success?
By answering these questions, you will be able to better sketch your ideal candidate and make a checklist of the skills and attributes he or she will need to get the job done. You may not have to look far either. Interestingly, a 2012 IIM survey revealed that, using the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator as a model of behavioural preference, a staggering 55% of interim managers fall into just 3 of the 16 possible types, compared to 35% of the management population and only 11% of the general population. Equally fascinatingly, 56% of interim managers know ‘off the top of their head’ what their MBTI profile is. According to the IIM:
25% of the interim population are ENTJ – Interim management type No. 1
Frank, decisive and assumes leadership readily. Quickly see illogical and inefficient procedures and policies, develop and implement comprehensive systems to solve organizational problems. Enjoy long-term planning and goal setting. Usually well informed and well read, enjoy expanding their knowledge and passing it on to others. Forceful in presenting their ideas.
16% are INTJ – Interim management type No. 2
Have original minds and great drive for implementing their ideas and achieving their goals. Quickly see patterns in external events and develop long-range explanatory perspectives. When committed, organize a job and carry it through. Sceptical and independent, have high standards of competence and performance – for themselves and others.
14% are ENTP – Interim management type No. 3
Quick, ingenious, stimulating, alert, and outspoken. Resourceful in solving new and challenging problems. Adept at generating conceptual possibilities and then analysing them strategically. Good at reading other people. Bored by routine, will seldom do the same thing the same way, apt to turn to one new interest after another.
Given this fact, to my mind, as an interviewee, you are in a unique position to ask your potential interim hire about his or her Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, short-cutting many doubts and questions. If they have not taken this test, it may well be worth arranging this.
So, there are many characteristics that a majority of successful interims share. To sum up, the most generic attributes you should be intent on identifying are:
- the ability to assess – in a much more accelerated period than if they were a permanent hire – precisely the measure of the situation in this totally new environment
- the ability to take ownership, analyse, develop and deliver solutions to the agreed schedule and budget
- a demonstrable track record of achieving the above, showing progression of increasing responsibility
- excellent and effective communication skills
- the ability to form relationships quickly
- the ability to lead, to influence and to motivate
- emotional intelligence. After all, this is not a job for the faint-hearted. An interim manager is not there to manage the status quo and that can cause resentment and resistance so they have to be able to manage the minefield of employee resistance with diplomacy
My final advice to you would be not to advertise for an interim manager yourselves but instead to go to a reputable specialist agency who can guarantee quality and choice. They will have a roster of trusted managers with the right balance of management skills, technical know-how and market knowledge for you. And they will be able to give additional valuable advice on identifying your perfect interim.