How to be an interim manager

Practical advice on work issues

Interim management is for people who like a challenge. Moving from organisation to organisation and project to project means a constant change of scene, people and fresh set of issues . Interim managers are often called in to address a particular problem or lead an organisation or department through change, which makes their role even more demanding.

That kind of pressure and variety doesn’t suit everyone, but for people who don’t like to stay too long in one place, it can be a great way to work. Pauline Moignard is a freelance human resources consultant specialising in social care, who has plenty of interim management experience and  enjoys the variety it offers: “You are likely to be in an organisation for long enough to be able to influence and change things but not too long to get stale,” she says.
Interim posts can be any length of time but it’s unusual for them to be longer than two years – because then it’s becoming more like a permanent position. They also usually tend to be at a senior level.

1 Becoming an interim manager
A lot of opportunities come through management consultants. The posts may be advertised by agencies or consultancies that deal in interim management posts.  Moignard suggests that interim manager wannabes look for the relevant advertisements. But the main thing, she says, is to make sure you have the necessary skills and experience: “They are likely to look for a good track record of achievement, particularly in specialist areas of work,” she says.

2 Getting regular work
This is what often bothers people about choosing temporary work over permanent positions – that there will be enough regular work. Roles are unlikely to land in your lap, particularly in the early days, so you have to make it happen. “Getting work as a self-employed contractor is down to your own marketing skills, whether that be simple networking, keeping up your contacts or cold calling organisations is your choice,” says Moignard. “The alternative is to register with a number of consultancies or agencies and keep in contact with them.” The key thing is making sure people remember who you are, what you do, what kind of work you want and when you want to do it. The other thing, of course, is to do a good job as reputation is all important.

3 Being successful
As is always the case, good communication is essential. You need to make sure your temporary colleagues and employees understand why you have been hired to do this role, what the plans are and how they are to be executed – as far as is appropriate. The person who hired you should set the scene, but Moignard says don’t bank on it: “Some senior managers are good at setting out the baseline for you and others aren’t,” she says. “It’s best not to rely on them having done the groundwork.”

4 Hit the ground running
The expectation is that you can immediately get stuck into the role – or hit the ground running, as the expression goes. Be prepared, do your homework about the organisation, department, role, expectations and any issues that might come up. Find out as much as you can before day one. Once you’ve started, don’t expect any handholding as you will probably have to work most of it out for yourself.

5 Managing people
You may only be temporarily in charge of those people you are managing, but you are still their manager so the ordinary rules of management apply. In fact, Moignard thinks interim managers might need to provide even more support and leadership than usual, because the role is often created to overcome a problem.
The beauty of being temporary means you should be able to operate without getting embroiled in internal politics so make the most of it.

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