It has little to do with the quality of interim manager candidates. The only way they become candidates is by demonstrating exceptional skill in implementing the kinds of solutions that clients want. Why, then, do results sometimes go awry?
Unfortunately, some companies treat hiring an interim manager like a magic potion: Drop someone – anyone – into the position and wait for amazing results. That simply doesn’t work.
To produce the exceptional results expected of interim managers, something more is needed than inserting just anyone into the position. The secret to getting maximum benefits lies in what happens even before an interim manager is chosen. Use these seven steps to improve your results.
Step One – Define your needs
Getting the desired result starts with determining exactly what result you want. Ask yourself some questions.
What do we want the interim manager to accomplish? Is our definition of his or her areas of responsibility clear and precise, or not? If not, spell them out in detail so both you and the interim are clear on desired results and how you will measure success in achieving them.
Step Two – Determine what you will provide
What kind of a team will the interim manager need to fulfill the job? What other resources will you make available? How will you ensure he or she has the necessary cooperation from the other employees? How much proprietary information will he or she need to accomplish your goals? How will you manage disseminating that information?
What level of decision-making authority will the interim manager need? This may vary depending on the situation. If the interim manager is guiding the organization through massive change, broad autonomy may be needed to avoid bogging the project down in repeatedly escalating decisions for confirmation. On the other hand, if the interim manager is filling a position as a stopgap arrangement, limited authority may be preferable.
Even when broad authority is granted, make sure that the level granted is appropriate to the situation. Sometimes, hot-button issues that lie at the root of company problems may seem, to someone not aware of those issues’ history, easy to render a quick decision on. Such issues may, however, if dispatched cavalierly by an outsider, blow up and obstruct the intended goal. Thus, thinking through the limits of an interim manager’s decision-making authority is essential.
Step Three – Determine the skillsets your interim manager needs
Only after you have a clear picture of what you want your interim manager to accomplish and what you will provide are you ready to consider the qualities you need in your interim manager. Now you can start to ask:
What relevant experience does our interim manager need? What technical skills are needed? How important of a role will interpersonal skills play?
Step Four – Choose your interim manager
Only after you are clear on all these matters are you ready to choose your interim manager. Having done all this homework will make finding the right person much easier.
Step Five – Communicate your expectations
With your interim manager in place, make sure he or she understands your goals. Here, again, the work you did beforehand makes this easier. Rather than hiring an interim manager and then setting him or her adrift to figure out what you want – and possibly going in the wrong direction – you can communicate the detailed expectations that led to the hiring.
Lay out the resources and background information you are providing. Explain what level of decision-making authority the interim manager will have and how to escalate decisions that lie outside that authority. Alert him or her to any business or personnel issues that need to be considered, so he or she can prepare strategies for potential obstacles. This will make the job easier and help achieve objectives fully.
Step Six – Monitor the project
Continue to give support and advice throughout the project. Facilitate the interim manager’s interdepartmental communications, as needed, as well as escalation of decisions that fall outside the interim manager’s authority. The more you can help him or her work toward the goal, the better the chances of completing it successfully.
Step Seven – Review the results
Reviewing the results when the job is complete will help you identify how to make future projects that involve interim managers run smoother. This also brings objectivity to the job. Permanent employees can view the changes more objectively and accept them faster.
Using these steps effectively – An example
Let’s see these seven steps as they were used in a real-life situation. An aircraft manufacturer decided to introduce a work booking system, wherein the time taken to perform each task would be recorded to identify and eliminate bottlenecks in the work process, thus increasing productivity.
Employees, however, were distrustful of this proposed system. They felt it was a tactic to detect redundancy and eliminate jobs. Complicating the matter was the fact that implementing the new system would require employee agreement to give up some elements of their existing bargaining agreement and replace it with one that reflected the new work process. This would be no small task.
Faced with this situation, management decided to hire an interim manager to facilitate the change. They clearly defined their desired results. They wanted not only to install the new system, but also to win employee acceptance of it. This placed a high priority on finding an interim manager skilled not only in the technical aspects of the change, but perhaps even moreso in earning employee trust and eliciting buy-in of the system.
With a clear vision of what the task would require, management was easily able to determine the resources and level of decision-making authority the interim manager would need. Only then did they search for a candidate with the necessary technical knowledge and leadership expertise to accomplish the mission. They went through thousands of resumes before choosing the interim manager that fit their specific needs.
They clearly communicated the potential obstacles and the desired results to the interim manager and gave whatever support he needed. The results were exceptional. He quickly won employee trust, persuaded them to update their agreement and implemented the new system. Due to the interim manager’s work, not only was the new system introduced with its increased productivity, but the relationship between management and employees was strengthened, as well.
Clearly, the success of an interim manager in an organization depends on both parties – the client and the interim manager. Choosing the right interim manager begins long before the company looks at candidates. Creating a clear vision for the proposed work and determining what resources and information the interim manager will need to achieve success are prerequisites to choosing the right person. Even then, success is not guaranteed. Once the right person is in place, he or she needs ongoing support to fully achieve the goal.
Hiring an interim manager is no magic potion. It requires clear vision of the desired results; deep insight into the path to reach those results; and clear, ongoing communication and interaction between both parties throughout the work process to get the greatest benefit out of the specialized skills of your interim manager. The effort, though, is worth it. By working in this way to get the most out of your interim manager, results can be magical.
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Marin Ivezic is a career interim manager and the founder of InterimManagement.com