In a recent meeting with our Interim Management Advisory Panel, we discussed the convergence of communication skills with other disciplines such as change management. Every couple of years the pendulum swings away from the need for a very specific industry niche or communication specialism, towards the trend for generalists who can manage projects.
The current picture is mixed. We have clients, particularly in the financial services sector who are looking for Interim Managers in their own image: from a financial services background, and preferably also with experience of working in a particular type of project environment, such as IT change. On the flip side we’re working with a broad range of clients – from large global corporations to public sector bodies – who are keen to hire an Interim who can demonstrate a variety of communication skills and who, with their experience of handling different situations from multiple industry sectors, are able to identify what solution best fits the clients’ needs.
We always endeavor to find out as much as we can from our clients about the situation, the stakeholders, messages, team structure, working environment and hoped-for outcomes, but we rarely have the luxury of a job description to pass onto our Interim Managers (clients generally phone us in a bit of a panic). The Interim will interrogate the client further during the interview process and then start to determine the shape of the communication hole and what skills and activities are needed to fill it. One of the benefits of bringing in an Interim Manager is that they have the confidence to challenge the client about what they want, and instead advise them about what they need.
This need might change over time and the experienced Interim will have the flexibility to adapt accordingly. We recently placed an Interim into a global transformation project as the internal communication lead and within a fortnight, she had delegated her IC responsibilities and moved into a broader programme management role. This is an extreme example, but the Interim recognised that this was the right course of action and was able to go with the flow.
As one of our Interim Advisory Panel members put it: “the client wants the Interim to quickly take away their pain”. Whatever the role and however it changes over time, clients trust their Interim Manager to use his or her discretion about whether to use their generalist or specialist skill set.
By Vicki Jay
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