Why Your Next C-Level Leader Should Be an Interim Manager

When I founded BrainTower as a sales & marketing boutique, interim management was one of our services, in addition to consulting. Based on my own experience, I believed that companies would temporarily bring in external people for managerial positions.

We are now 20 years on but little has changed. Where companies are increasingly bringing in interim managers for middle-management jobs, this is not happening for senior jobs.

Personally, I don’t understand this. My own experience taught me that an interim manager can actually have a very big and positive impact on the business. Surely, as a company, you should be open to that.

Why bring in a seasoned interim manager at senior level?

  • An interim manager is objective and not biased, either about the business or the people. He also has no previous history with the business.
  • This objectivity and neutrality can create a new dynamic in a company. One makes things negotiable again and gives people a new chance.
  • The right interim manager has already successfully carried out that specific challenge several times. As a result, less valuable time and resources are lost.
  • The interim manager has no agenda of his own and therefore only has to spend minimal time on the ‘political game’ peculiar to companies. The focus is on the continuity of the company with the business activities and people at the centre.
  • By not aspiring to a further career within the company, the interim manager can look at the facts free of emotions. This benefits decision-making skills, leading to more efficient decision-making.
  • External people have more impact to break traditions and facilitate change.
  • Interim managers are part of the internal team and always involve internal employees. This creates support and a realistic plan of action.

Important condition: the interim manager can and must be able to speak freely. He or she must also have a clear mandate and the full support of the shareholders. He or she can point out issues that are very difficult for internal employees. Today, this often gives (expensive) consultancies that are hired to tell people what they know but are afraid to say. Apart from that advice, the implementation of the necessary change is even more important than naming the issues and that is where it often stops for consultants

The top-level interim manager is rare

We are regularly contacted by top profiles with a great curriculum who want to launch themselves as interim managers, often they are fed up with a corporate job or want to come back to Belgium after years of expat status. Each time I ask them how many peers they knew in the industry and at interest groups they were members of who acted as true interim managers. Each time, they were silent.

Apparently, the Belgian business world does not see the talented group that is available on the labour market and also immediately employable.

So is an interim manager unaffordable?

Cost should certainly not be the reason. Take the pay tension between profiles such as a Key Account Manager, Brand Manager or Digital Marketer on the one hand and a VP Sales, Marketing, General Manager, CEO on the other. This is much greater in permanent employment than via interim management.

For the former positions, companies are increasingly bringing in interim managers or freelancers to ensure continuity during pregnancies, long-term illnesses or burn-outs. In this way, they fill short-term vacancies for specific projects where the knowledge is currently lacking internally.

I myself have also experienced that, as an interim manager, you can fill the same role more efficiently because you only have to focus on what is really important. You lose less time in meetings because it is accepted that you skip a meeting that is not necessary to fulfil your own task.

So if the benefits are so great, why doesn’t it happen for the other functions?

Interim management at C-level: still a noble unknown?

Are companies not seeing the benefits then? That would be strange because companies do consider interim management for numerous other roles.

Sometimes companies temporarily combine roles when there is a gap due to departure, pregnancy or illness. But how long can or do people want to combine 2 jobs without losing focus or causing burn-out?

Sometimes I also see people flying in a manager from abroad. By doing so, you say as a company that knowledge of internal processes is more important than knowledge of the market context.

A conscious choice

Opting for an interim manager is a conscious choice and different from opting for a permanent employee. The advantages include efficiency, decisiveness, a proven track record and a generalist view across sectors. There is no denying that something you do for the first time costs more and takes longer.

The side note, however, is that a good interim manager keeps his independence and does not look for a permanent job!

Would you like to discuss this further with us?
Discuss some cases that are specifically relevant to you?

Written by Jan De Lancker, Founder BrainTower

Would you like to discuss this further with us? Discuss cases that are specifically relevant to you?