Another late night in the City - this time networking with the British Argentine Chamber of Commerce for our Latin American franchise. If you think times are tough here in Europe…try operating over there right now. Conversation turns to the Chelsea manager Rafa Benitez who complained vigorously about the inclusion of the word interim in his job title. Perhaps in the English-Spanish translation something has got lost (I will ask my team in Buenos Aires), but does he have a point?  Is the term interim a derogatory one?

A great interim opportunity

I agree the term does have a degree of finality about it, which could lead to sensitivity if you have felt that was not the case. But in this instance, the club have not said “we are appointing a new manager and it is…”. More it was the case that Robert Di Matteo left and Rafa stepped in.

But forget the title and the words. Rafa has the control and should take the opportunity with open arms. If you can’t be a Beckham or a Terry, then isn’t the manager position (interim or not) of Chelsea a great accolade to have achieved?

Professional and proud

I do have some sympathy with Rafa. When I was a management consultant, I used to hate the term ‘contractor’. Companies were paying out for my skills and I repaid that with loyalty, expertise and commitment. I used to think of myself as one of the company, who also brought the external challenge and expertise you would expect from my fee rate. So the title ‘contractor’ seemed demeaning to me and gave the sense of a barrier that didn’t recognise my commitment.

But interims are different. Typically, professional interims are proud of their title and what they bring to a business. Similarly, they are often proud to leave the business in a better position and quietly exit without taking the credit and applause. Those plaudits are for the permanent guys and perhaps this is something that needs to be communicated at Stamford Bridge.

Rafa, you are in charge!

So Rafa, stand up and be proud of the opportunity you have been given. There is no confusion. You are in charge.  Concentrate on the task in hand, lead from the front and succeed. Then we will remember you for your successes and your ability to quietly achieve where others have failed. We will remember your victories and the way you led the club into the Champions League for another season.

It is difficult to ignore detractors - in this case some of the fans - but you will have to rise above it. Succeed and I’m sure Abramovich will reward you handsomely – perhaps he will follow the current industry trend and extend your contract? But, remember too, as an interim, you are often only judged on your last assignment - so crack on and concentrate on the important issue of leading and inspiring your team as every professional interim does.

What do you feel about the term “interim” and job titles in general? What does your title mean to you and are you proud of it? Or do you have a better alternative to the one you’ve been given? Share your likes and dislikes below.

photo credit: proforged via photopin cc

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  • Simon Goodwin

    Maybe some of the reason behind Rafa’s unhappiness at being called “interim” lies in the fact that even “permanent” Chelsea Managers under Abramovich tend to be “interim” in reality. So, being called an “interim” from the off makes him an “interim” “interim” and he has to accept twice any stigma he might feel about the word.

    In my view the word “interim”, in a positional title, can actually be used as a positive by a candidate. It shouldn’t be seen to suggest that the client only has limited demand for your skillset but rather that, as a candidate, you have a breadth of previous experience and, above all else, have a flexibility that means you can be dropped into a role at any time and make a positive impact within it.

    • Nigel Peters

      Simon - absolutely - interim can be used in the positive sense, but it is about delivery not title. Thanks for the input.

  • Nic Vine

    Ah, the ever-rolling terminology debate. Rafa’s problem, I suspect, is that he wants to be thought of as the permanent manager. Whereas I have no wish to have a permanent role in an organisation; I delight in problem-solving, making things happen, transferring knowledge and skills, letting those who hired me take the plaudits, and leaving quietly when the job is done.

    The irony today is that the interim role tends to have more certainty than the permanent role, in business at least though perhaps not in football.

    In general, my job title is only important to the extent that it helps rather than hinders the job I’m there to do. As an interim I have no ego, no politics to pursue, no position to protect … but I recognise these exist in others and I have to work with them or round them.

    • Nigel Peters

      Nic - a seasoned interim! A lovely exponent of how you and your colleagues deliver without taking the kudos and credit. Interestingly, I met a major client this week that still had little understanding of this concept - so we have to keep spreading the message.

  • P King

    Nic Vine’s comments about the mindset of interims couldn’t have hit the nail more directly on its head! Thank you Nic, my own thoughts well expressed.

    • Nigel Peters

      Thanks for reading the blog and taking part in the conversation Paul - Nic does make some excellent points.