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Life as an Interim

Having spent just over 17 years of my life as a specialist Interim Manager, one of my biggest challenges has been explaining to people what I actually do. You would think this to be fairly straight-forward, but believe it or not, I find it quite complicated to explain for a number of reasons. People have described me as a troubleshooter, consultant, change manager, continuity manager and a non exec. In truth, I can understand why description is difficult given the unique nature of the role.

For example, every assignment has been and still is, completely different. They have ranged from taking short term senior management roles in a wide variety of organisations to more complex assignments involving change. Occasionally I have also headed up project teams that are faced with significant time bound challenges in difficult environments.

The sensitive and confidential nature of some assignments also make it difficult to talk about. I have therefore learned over the years that less is more when it comes to explaining interim.

On a positive note there are many aspects of being an interim that I thoroughly enjoy and find rewarding, not least meeting and dealing with many new people and cultures. My assignments have also included different industry types such as Aerospace & Defence, Engineering & Construction, Packaging, Manufacturing, Oil & Gas, Transport & logistics and Government & Public Sector.

There have been the periods of travelling to assignment and having to take the early morning 'red eye,' along with getting used to hotels and living out of the suitcase. I continually amazed myself at just how much I could pack for a few days, including the office.

In more recent years I have specialised in change, growth and succession. This has enabled me to be slightly more flexible these days, allowing me to spend more time working with existing teams in a supportive capacity. Usually operating in a non-executive advisory role, I find myself well placed to provide on the job mentoring to managers and directors as they deal with their more strategic challenges.

Being a career Interim has been a very interesting and varied vocation to date, full of challenge and reward. I'm a believer of continuous development, having went back to study on three occasions, alongside the need to stay up to date with courses, including the latest insights and research in my field . The wide range of assignment briefs has also afforded me the unique experience of learning to relate to many different scenarios and personalities, often in turbulent environments.

Most satisfying of all though has been the privilege to see people grow as they overcome obstacles along the way. One thing I am convinced of is the capacity of people to excel in challenging circumstances and I have witnessed this first hand many times.

Interim is not for the faint hearted and it's very different from the norm. Change is a way of life and staying still is not an option.

The role of the Interim Manager has demonstrated real tangible bottom line value to many organisations and in my view will continue to do so for a long time to come.

The Emotional Tank

I spend a lot of time in the world of business. I take part in discussions about growth, crisis, people, results, targets, pressure, competitors and customers on a daily basis.

My conversations can be with people who are on top of their game, some who are visibly under pressure, and others who seem to be going through the motions as it were.

One thing I've come to notice the longer I work is that we all possess something I'll call the emotional tank. Now I'm not a medic, but depending on how full the tank is on a given day, it can either positively or negatively impact personal performance and the work environment. There are occasions when the emotional tank is pretty full with all the issues outside of work, leaving little capacity for the challenges of the day.

Sadly, some people deal with tough situations outside the workplace and they try to leave these down as they sign in. The reality is that this is difficult to do.

Some people deal with or hide these better than others. The more private generally internalize the challenges they face outside work, whilst the more open tend to share with their close colleagues.

In summary, it's good to be mindful of the emotional tank in the people we work with, or do business with.  In fact, all of us humans can use a little encouragement regardless. We all genuinely appreciate support in tough times, whether we admit it or not.

Today, why don't we (myself included) reach out to someone who could use some encouragement, a person who's emotional tank seems a little full.  We all know somebody who could benefit from some support, and they're usually not that far away from us.

Striking a work/life balance..

It always interests me to see people work through the various stages of life, for instance those finishing school, college or university and setting out into the world of work for the first time.  It's nice to watch the satisfaction of that first pay packet and the promise of so much more.

Then fast forward a few years and for many the spouse appears, the house is found and either a rent or a mortgage comes next, closely followed by the patter of tiny feet.  By now, the novelty of the first pay packet has well and truly worn off.

This coincides with promotion and added responsibility at work, or perhaps it's the new business venture.  Either way it brings stress and longer hours; it promises the dream and the idea of greater reward in the future.  Meanwhile, the family is growing and the demands are also increasing at home, yet the challenge of being present in body and spirit is a real one.

It's not long before relationships strain and communication at home is limited to a few minutes about the children, bills or the house.  Tiredness sets in and before long it's time for a good dose of reality.

The reason why I'm drawn to this is that I'm now at an age where I've went through many of these seasons myself.  I'm obviously writing from the perspective of a husband and a father, and at a time a selfish one too I must confess.  I worked hard yes, but when I came home I wanted my share of down time too.

If I learned anything from going through these stages of life, it's this, 'Take time to appreciate the here and now.  Value what you have now, not in the future.  Appreciate your spouse and spend time with your children, that's what they really want more than anything else.'

I thank God that I came to understand this early enough to do something about it.

Let's not live life with regrets, wishing we could wind the clock back if it were possible.


The Authentic Leader

Regardless of whether it’s business, sport, politics, or church, to name a few of the main spheres of life, the topic of leadership has been debated for centuries.

It was once said ‘Leadership is like beauty, it’s hard to define, but you know it when you see it.’

There are many who call themselves leader these days, but then again self-praise is no praise.  People usually follow a leader for three reasons; it’s because they have to, are paid to, or want to. The authentic leader is interested in the last category.

The key to authentic leadership can be described in one word. It’s a word we hear often, but seldom take time to reflect on the fullness of it’s meaning.

The word is ‘Character.’

Character has a number of key attributes, which attracts genuine followers. These include:

·     Integrity

·     Reliability

·     Honesty

·     Self-discipline

·     Being teachable

·     Perseverance

·     Consistency

If a leader takes seriously the effect of these values, they will attract loyal and faithful followers who will go the extra mile.  Discretionary effort is a valuable commodity these days and the example of the leader is more powerful than ever.

The Mexican Fisherman Story by Heinrich Boll - A life lesson

An American investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellow fin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

The Mexican replied, “only a little while. The American then asked why didn’t he stay out longer and catch more fish? The Mexican said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs. The American then asked, “but what do you do with the rest of your time?”

The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siestas with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine, and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life.” The American scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat, you could buy several boats, eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing, and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually New York City, where you will run your expanding enterprise.”

The Mexican fisherman asked, “But, how long will this all take?”

To which the American replied, “15 – 20 years.”

“But what then?” Asked the Mexican.

The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions!”

“Millions – then what?”

The American said, “Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siestas with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”

Dealing With Adversity

I remember a customer coming to see me a number of years ago. This guy usually came a couple of times a year and I really looked forward to his visit as we got on very well.  Anyhow, this time as he drove into the car park I looked out the office window and noticed that he was walking a little strange. As we sat down to a cup of tea I asked 'what's with the limp?' He looked at me with a smile and said, 'I had an argument with a digger, and it won.' He proceeded to roll his trousers up to show me an artificial leg.

Well, as you might imagine I was quite taken aback. I asked, 'How have you coped with that?' He replied, ' I have good and bad days.' I continued, 'What do you do on a bad day?' He answered, 'I get into the jeep and drive to the hospital and I visit the ward I was admitted to at the time of the accident. I spend some time talking to the patients and when I come out I feel as right as rain.'

This guy had learned how to deal with adversity by encouraging others. I've thought about that meeting many times over the years. Whenever things are tough, and circumstances seem overwhelming, taking time out to encourage others less fortunate can change how we view the problem we're facing.

5 Essential Wisdom Tips

When building a career or a business, remember that your family requires an investment of time, not money

When making important decisions listen only to a small number of people. The more you listen to, the harder it will be to make the right decision

Beware of those who smile at you all the time and yet run others down all the time

There is a season for everything under the sun. Even though you face a difficult challenge now, you can often laugh at it when you look back in 6 months time

The world can look completely different after a really good night's sleep

What do you see?

Never underestimate the potential in people.  The capacity of a human being is an amazing thing.  So often people are written off either at first glance, or because of a poor initial impression, yet they are and can be completely different when time is spent getting to know them.