What makes a successful interim manager?

Speaking to Contract Eye, Jason Atkinson, chairman of the IMA, explains what it takes to become a successful interim manager.

Why is being able to conform an essential characteristic of a successful interim?

Interim managers are results-orientated, communicative individuals, but they are not rebellious and they will conform because – in the end – they need to work the best interests of the client organisation.

They do not have any “axes to grind” and from the first minute of their assignment they are doing what is best for the organisation in a balanced and objective way. They will challenge the CEO, top management and/or Board of Directors and give their honest and professional advice, but they will not force a decision.

It is the role of an interim to speak their mind and to be challenging. They have ‘been there, done that’, and if they have seen something working in a previous role, then they will want to see how far they can push their point – in order to see whether the success can be deployed in their most current role.

At my own business, Russam Interim, we have conducted a great deal of behavioural profiling through Thomas International – looking at personality and behavioural profiling. What was discovered through the analysis of over 2000 interims, is that they will conform; but only once they have got their points across.

What are the other key characteristics of a successful interim?

Definition: A top level independent executive or project manager. An expert in their field. A high level performer with a track record of quantifiable achievement. A possessor of drive and energy. A perceptive individual capable of adapting to new environments and delivering results. Available immediately.

Interim managers are experienced executives with specialist skills and a track record of achievement. They are hired by businesses on a project basis to solve problems. Their role is to fill gaps or take on strategic roles; they deliver results quickly before moving on to the next assignment.

Interims like to be compliant and do the best by the business. They will behave the same way, no matter the levels of pressure in the workplace. It isn’t their job to befriend everyone within the business, but they do need to earn respect across the board, in order to make sure the task in hand is completed successfully.

Do you think that ‘head renting’ should have the same tax treatment as any other type of business service provision?

Interim managers are entrepreneurs. Their role is not to take the place of an employee and therefore they should not be subject to the same tax implications. They fulfil a B2B relationship, and should therefore pay the taxes of a small business.

Why is networking even more essential to an interim than an IT contractor, for example?

I’d argue that networking is a necessity for all interims operating today or anyone looking for work at the more senior end. They need to network to create trusted relationships. Only those interims who get out there and understand how businesses operate will be the ones that survive. The days of cold calling are over; and personally, I feel the only way to stand out is to meet people in the flesh, particularly with the mountains of emails we receive and communications via social media platforms.

Jason Atkinson, is the chairman of The Interim Management Association (IMA), and MD of Russam Interim.

This article was first published in 2013.

Partner Contractor Accountants

Last updated: 3rd July 2023