In today’s fast-paced business environment, the demand for experienced interim managers to address challenges and implement solutions is increasing. According to the Interim Management Association (IMA), the use of interim managers has grown by 93% since the pre-recession levels of 2006.
In this article we will learn more about what interim management means, the essential interim management skills needed, how aspiring managers can develop and enhance these skills, as well as address some common challenges.
Understanding Interim Management
Interim Management is a results-driven approach to help businesses navigate periods of transition, change or crisis, such as a merger, acquisition or restructuring. Managers are hired into a temporary management role with relatively short notice to lead the Company through a specific project, for example, to integrate a new system, solve problems or achieve particular objectives, which differentiates them from permanent employees.
By bringing in an experienced temporary manager, companies can tap into a wealth of expertise and leadership skills, without the long-term commitment of a permanent position. Companies may struggle to fill a full-time permanent role on short notice, and/or there may not be the required skills in-house to undertake the role, therefore an acting manager can be desirable in this situation.
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Core Competencies of Interim Managers
A highly qualified interim manager brings a specific set of key skills and experiences that employers need when transforming their business, going through a merger or acquisition or filling a skills gap.
Here are some of the essential competencies that employers typically look for when hiring an interim manager:
- Adaptability – the ability to quickly adapt to new environments, teams and cultures, as well as different situations, challenges and priorities of each client. Interim managers need to cope with a level of uncertainty and change.
- Leadership – the ability to lead by example, take charge of team projects and advise and guide on any business decisions. Interim managers should inspire and motivate teams.
- Problem-solving – the ability to effectively problem-solve complex, time-sensitive situations. They should possess a combination of critical thinking, creativity, and analytical skills to tackle problems efficiently and effectively.
- Communication – the ability to effectively communicate and build relationships to foster collaboration with the management team and team members. This includes essential communication skills such as listening, advising, explaining, negotiating, and receiving and providing feedback. Suggesting changes or identifying failures can be challenging so a good interim manager needs the ability to ask the right questions of the right people, as well as clearly explain the purpose of the interim project and any proposed outcomes in a way which brings people along.
- Stakeholder Management – the ability to work with and build rapport with various stakeholders including clients, internal employees, and senior leadership, ensuring expectations are clearly communicated.
- Project Management – the ability to handle complex projects that can be varied and demanding.
- Industry Knowledge – the ability to understand the specific industry.
- Time Management – Interim assignments are often time-critical so managers must cope well under pressure. They should manage stakeholders’ expectations by setting clear timelines, milestones, and deliverables.
- Change Management – the ability to guide organisations through successful transformations and help employees navigate transitions and embrace new ways of working.
Developing Interim Management Skills
Interim positions can be highly attractive to those individuals who want to build their experience across multiple organisations and industries, who wish to be geographically mobile, and who relish delivering key projects and moving on to the next challenge. Aspiring interim managers can develop and enhance their skills by building a strong network to help them meet new people and gain insights into new ways of working.
There are also several courses (e.g., change management, leadership, and project management) and certifications from organisations such as the Institute of Interim Management that can help develop the skills and knowledge needed to become an effective and successful interim manager.
Challenges and Pitfalls
While working as an interim manager offers several benefits – including the ability to work on a variety of projects and industries, the opportunity to continuously expand one’s skills and knowledge, and high earning potential – it also presents some challenges.
For example, interim managers are typically brought in from outside the organisation working over a short period of time, making it challenging for them to integrate into the existing culture and team. Clearly communicating the organisation’s culture and values can ensure a smooth integration into the existing team. This alignment fosters collaboration and ensures that the interim manager’s approach resonates with the company’s ethos.
Another challenge with working on a short-term basis is that it can create pressure to deliver results quickly, so it’s important for the organisation to define the scope of the project and the outcomes they expect to enable the interim manager to focus on what needs to be achieved and understand what success looks like. For a successful partnership and to ensure the project meets the organisation’s strategic goals, it’s important to set clear expectations around communication, reporting, deliverables and timelines with the interim manager from the outset.
Interim management is a valuable service for organisations in need of experienced and capable managers and executives during periods of change or uncertainty, who can come in at short notice and hit the ground running. Interim managers provide a flexible and cost-effective solution for companies, helping them to address specific business challenges, and ensuring the organisation remains on track and achieves its goals.
As businesses continue to face challenges and uncertainties, the demand for experienced and skilled interim managers is likely to increase. However, a key requirement for successful managers is having the core skills needed to deliver the desired outcomes. So, any individuals interested in this career direction should focus on developing their skills to help them stand out from the crowd when looking for their next role.
For more information on the skills needed for interim management, see our blog The skills needed for success in interim management or contact us today.
What is an interim manager?
An interim manager is someone appointed by a business, normally at short notice, to a management position on a temporary basis to solve a specific business problem or fulfil a specific project. They are highly experienced and specialised, working at board level and generally have the expertise needed that does not exist in-house.
What is interim management?
Interim management is the temporary provision of management resources and skills to fill a gap or handle a particular project when the company is facing a challenge or change. This could be to manage a period of transition, crisis or change within an organisation, or could include covering long-term absence, for example, maternity leave.