by Penny Davis4
My first interim assignment: Carpe Diem!
What lessons did you learn when starting out as an interim manager? Board level HR and Change Director Penny Davis shares her insight having just completed her first interim role.
Why did I become an interim?
Throughout my corporate life, I had always eyed interims with envy. They always seemed to be doing interesting work, were able to focus on one project or a set of objectives without the clutter that a big corporate role can bring. Above all (and this may have been fantasy), the interims I met seemed to be getting a lot more job satisfaction than I was — in essence they seemed happier with their lot. So I planned at some stage “when the time was right” to make the switch and become an interim. After two years of profit warnings, corporate gloom and cost cutting, I concluded that perhaps that time was now. My family were growing up, it was time to take a risk and do something different!
Did my first assignment live up to expectations?
It did – and much more. There are adjustments to be made, as saying goodbye to a senior corporate role, is also saying goodbye to some of the status and power that goes with it. You have to rethink ways to engage with people and to get them work with you. What I enjoy the most is the freedom that being an interim gives, a freedom to say what you think is right without the fear that you will damage your career, and a freedom to measure and manage your own performance. My first assignment took me back to what I was good at, and to what I enjoyed about managing change. I was able to use my commercial and HR skills to visibly add value. It was not all easy (and at times highly frustrating) but when my assignment came to an end, I felt sadder at having to leave than I did after any of my long term roles.
My tips for success …albeit after just one assignment!
Tip 1: Scope and Outcomes
Agree a clear scope of what you are going to deliver at the outset of your assignment. I wish I had taken my own advice on this, as scope creep is easy, especially if you want to accommodate your client – however it can dilute what you finally deliver.
Tip 2: Relationships, relationships, relationships
Managing relationships is a cliché but to be successful in driving change, it is critical. I regarded anyone I came into contact with as a stakeholder, from the Receptionist to the Shareholders. After all, you want to be both personally successful, as well as leaving your client with a taste for more — who knows when they might need you again?
Tip 3: Custom made solutions
Having been on the other side of a lot of organisational change in my career, one of the things I was determined not to do was to present a pre-packaged solution. Companies, like people, have different needs and respond to different things, so understanding the context and creating solutions that are right for that particular organisation is the way to leave a lasting legacy.
I am looking forward to my next assignment (wherever that maybe) and for anyone reading this who is considering becoming an interim, my best advice would be: Carpe Diem!
What are your top tips for becoming a successful interim manager? What did you learn from your first assignment? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Penelope Davis is aboard level HR and Change director with over 20 years’ experience across a range of sectors including construction, outsourcing, mobile telecoms and financial services.