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You need something done? Ask an interim manager!

11th December 2015

The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why – Mark Twain

In other words, figure out your passion and put it to work. A decade of interviewing some of UK’s most effective interim managers has taught me this – the best interims have it all figured out. They know what they’re good at and, to quote a certain Eugene-based sportswear brand, they just do it!

Interim management is the embodiment of what’s been called purpose-driven leadership. For true interim management is the deployment of a leader on an assignment basis to manage transition and accelerate change.

Fewer than 20% of business leaders have a strong sense of their own individual purpose say Nick Craig, president of the Authentic Leadership Institute and Scott Snook, MBA Class of 1958 Senior Lecturer at Harvard Business School. Moreover, although their employer may have a clearly stated purpose apparently hardly any of them have a clear plan for translating purpose into action. This is why we hire interim managers.

Our own research shows that 85% of senior-level interim managers (we like to call them interim leaders) have chosen this second career path very deliberately. They’ve figured out their passion and their purpose. Each interim we meet knows exactly ‘what’s on the tin’, or in other words, what it is they do well and with a passion. With this affirmative and deliberate choice interim managers are demonstrating they have a strong sense of their own purpose. True interim managers are able to tell a prospective client precisely what they have done in previous assignments and will leaving no doubt about the benefits of hiring them.

Today I met two heavyweight and hugely experienced interims who deliver what we call business-change (and recruiters call business transformation) for their clients. They fit my description perfectly. Both have reached significant leadership level in their permanent careers and have made a conscious decision to become an interim.

One has worked in heavy industry but was so clear about the benefits of what he does (turning round and delivering complex business-change programmes) that he found himself doing just that in high-end global luxury. The other led a high-profile shipbuilding programme and is now integrating acquisitions in recyclable packaging in Europe.

The common ground is that both succeed in whichever environment you place them in through clear and purpose-driven leadership. They know what they do. They don’t talk in terms of building ships, oil refineries or packaging factories. They’ll talk about getting a ‘grip’ and giving clarity to business-change, aligning teams, shaping then launching programmes. Some simply describe themselves as ‘fixers’, ‘agents of change’, or ‘the one who delivers stuff’! It’s the clarity and purpose which impresses me.

Interim managers have a single aim – to get the assignment delivered in a specific timeframe. Their purposeful approach should be adopted by all organisations wanting to get something done and to be more efficient where the scarcest resource is management time.

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