Dec '16

Q. When is an Interim not an Interim?

A. When they’re a Perm.

An Interim career is for life, not just for Christmas.

On the face of it, this is a statement of “the bleedin’ obvious” – except that it’s not always apparent to the interim in question.

It is well publicised that most intermediaries either prefer to, or will only, present tried and tested interim managers to their clients, coining phrases like:

  • “hit the ground running” (yuk) and
  • “safe pair of hands” (only slightly less yuk).

In all seriousness, it is our reputation on the line here; based on trust and built with a client over several years it is easily lost in a careless instant. The success of interim assignments is judged on “how” as much as “what” and for most people it takes time to adjust to new ways of working.

Everyone must start somewhere though and occasionally a new star is born; I am more than happy to speak to aspiring interims and I have, a couple of times now, presented newcomers to a client as one option with the proviso that they have “interim L Plates” on.

As in many worlds there is an 80/20 rule to fall back on, in our case related to the Peter Principle, and for me an interim manager is conceived the moment someone recognises what I see as the “Reverse Peter Principle”.

I have always enjoyed about 80% of the jobs I have done; the remaining 20% makes up stuff you must do, but don’t really enjoy.  Then comes the promotion where you are still competent at your job but those ratios reverse; now 80% of your time is spent on stuff you don’t want to do and only 20% is enjoyable.

Interim Management beckons, where you can devote 100% of your time to doing the things you like and are already good at.

I have three key questions that help me uncover people ready to enjoy a permanent move to the world of interim management: –

  • “what do you want to be when you grow up?”
  • “what have you still to achieve before you retire?” and
  • “where do you see yourself retiring from?”

By the end of that conversation we will both know if we just might have a shiny new star.

(As a footnote, I’m delighted to say that all my “L Plates” were successful and remain as interim managers today.)

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