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The human qualities of an Interim Manager enable them to take charge of challenging situations

The human qualities of an Interim Manager enable them to take charge of challenging situations

Michel Behar, an M&A Advisor who works mainly with investment funds, regularly calls on interim transition managers, whom he lauds for their ability to adapt and to execute rapidly.

What is your role? How does it relate to interim management?

I am an M&A advisor. I am also involved in organizing a network of business leaders who aim to make acquisitions in partnership with investment funds. Some members of the network may take on interim management roles, where appropriate, to turn around or restructure companies owned by private equity funds. Such roles are exclusively senior management positions.

When you use interim managers on behalf of the investment funds you represent, what capabilities do you look for?

In addition to their professional qualifications and proven expertise, prerequisites for winning an assignment, the interim managers we select must be able to adapt quickly to the new context in which they will be immersed, which few managers know how to do. Their human qualities and in particular their sense of empathy, often well above average, allow them to take command of the situation. Managers must be able to analyze a situation very quickly and take the most appropriate decisions either to maintain a given situation (to avoid degradation) or to improve it. In this respect, a manager who has stayed twenty years in the same company, which in itself is not a bad thing, would find it difficult to step into the shoes of an interim manager since he will simply not have had the opportunity to deal with real change. It is worth noting that experience in a consulting firm can be very helpful to an interim manager to develop his powers of observation and speed of understanding in a new situation.

Is the role of interim manager widely accepted by companies, in your opinion?

The concept of transition management is becoming more and more common in business, even if many companies still confuse the role with that of the interim or freelance, which is not the same. We distinguish between a pure interim role as a replacement or “gap-filler”, for example, during maternity leave or long-term illness of the incumbent, and the interim transition manager who will be called on to deal with serious problems and strategic change such as crisis management or merger integration: in short, a significant change in the life of the business.

What are the essential qualities of an effective transition manager?

While the cost of an experienced manager is not neutral, neither is a situation where the effective leadership of the company is at stake. Similarly for an important function (HR or finance) within the company at a crucial moment of change. Before thinking in terms of cost, it is essential to calculate the gain. Transition management undeniably provides added value for the client company.

When a company is in trouble, what contribution can be expected of the interim transition manager?

Even though the skills of a transition manager are very useful in developing the business, it is true that he/she is often asked to handle difficult situations. When an organization is suddenly struck by financial difficulties, a “classic” manager can quickly lose his foothold and find it extremely difficult to manage a restructuring. It is often very difficult for him to implement a redundancy plan which may involve colleagues he has been working with for 10 or 15 years. In such a context, an interim manager will have more latitude and the necessary detachment to carry out this type of mission.