Interim managers in companies: implement instead of advise

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Digitization is also leaving its mark on the world of work. Company have to react faster and faster if they don't want to be suppressed. They often fall back on interim managers for complex new projects - increasingly also for top management positions. But what requirements does an interim manager have to meet?

Interim Management

Here writes for you:


Harald Smolak Best of HR –®Harald Smolak is a client director and HR director at Atreus.


Change was never more stable than today

Big data, industry 4.0, cloud computing - it's raining mega trends in the world of work. To secure their success, they must Company to question themselves at shorter and shorter intervals, to react lightning-fast to disruptive market changes and to take the initiative early on. They must adapt or develop new technologies, open up new markets at lightning speed and combine products and services into smart services.

Time is increasingly becoming a bottleneck: in the meantime, a few months often decide whether a company ranks among successful disruptors or loses connection permanently. But experts for the new challenges are rare; the "War for Talents" is getting harder. What are companies doing that urgently need experts, but who can neither fill them internally nor get them on the market?

Temporary managers - more in demand than ever

This is where the interim manager comes in - a “temporary manager”. While this job profile has long been established in Anglo-Saxon countries, interim managers in Germany have so far mostly only been found in mechanical and plant engineering, in the automotive sector and in IT. That should change urgently.

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Interim management is an approach for companies of various sizes, sectors and legal forms to react quickly and efficiently to changing conditions and special situations. This is not just about bridging a short-term vacancy or pushing an urgent project: Management requirements are on the rise - and good interim managers at C-level are able to fulfill these requirements in the short term.

First and foremost, interim managers are on the agenda today when a weak company is before the turnaround. Even long-standing profitable medium-sized companies can quickly get into trouble when they recognize the signs of the time too late.

The management spoiled by success often misses the crisis experience in such situations, it threatens the risk of expensive wrong decisions. There has recently been an increasing use of an interim manager with CEO and / or CRO experience - often under pressure from banks or other investors.

The interim manager receives a clearly defined order with a fixed time horizon. Often, one of his core tasks is strategic reorientation or building a competitive organizational structure.

MundA projects and international expansion: Interim managers as experienced experts

Interim managers with experience in MundA are also increasingly in demand for international mergers and acquisitions. Many MundA projects fail due to a lack of expert knowledge or the underestimation of cultural factors. In the context of the MundA process, permanent managers in particular often fail to define clear goals, develop and implement strategies, and leverage synergy potential.

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In addition, the importance of cultural differences as well as country- and region-specific patterns of thought and action are often underestimated because management lacks international experience and intercultural competence. A short-term solution can also be provided by an interim manager who has already successfully mastered similar events in a company's development and knows case tricks as well as restrictions from his own experience.

And precisely those companies that have grown very successfully in Germany and are now looking to expand abroad, pass-through interim managers offer a secure solution to gain a foothold quickly abroad because they have already mastered this task several times and are familiar with the corresponding target markets very well.

What specific requirements should an interim manager at the first management level meet against this background?

  1. Analysis and communication skills are trumps: An essential professional competence of an interim manager should be in a strong analytical market. It should be able to assess the current situation of a company in detail within a few days by means of figures, facts and discussions. In a turnaround situation, the ability to not only read a remediation report, but also to implement it quickly is also often required. In addition, a wide range of consultants often find themselves in crisis-stricken companies. In view of its professional competence, a good interim manager can communicate with these consultants on the same level and motivate them as employees in the sense of the company.
  2. Make unpleasant truths - not everyone's thing: The most important competence of an interim manager is to initiate measurable measures quickly and purposefully. In the process, he should have the necessary standing and avoid errors, especially time losses, in the face of many years of industry and implementation experience at the responsible position. In view of its independence and neutrality, a temporary manager does not need to build up networks and sympathies for a long-term stay in the company. Rather, he has the right and the duty to pronounce also unpleasant truths and hard cuts.
  3. Many years of leadership experience, intercultural competence, adaptability: The ideal interim manager at C-level has gained many years of experience in various organizations in industry or service, has high intercultural competence and understands the concerns of family businesses, listed companies and investors. It is multifunctional, flexible and can play on all keyboards: Maximum adaptability is a must. It is up to each interim manager himself to define his own USP and his own business model. Conceptual strength coupled with the highest degree of implementation competence, flexibility and adaptability to different corporate cultures and legal forms form the ideal starting point.

Empathic leaders who gather a team behind them - especially in difficult situations

However, professional expertise alone is not enough: As an empathic leader, Interim managers must be able to inspire all stakeholders at the various hierarchical levels for the necessary transformation steps, and to show the effects of these measures to decision-makers and employees. If they are involved in the perspective of their customers and respect their motives, they can make him or her carry the proposed path.

Interim managers feel at home in difficult situations. They can be embraced by different corporate cultures and inspire stakeholders for all necessary measures. They gather employees and companies as a team behind them and win them over for their ideas and measures. Conflicts are used and decided positively in the sense of the company.

The ideal interim manager

The ideal interim manager has an absolute success and result orientation. It sets and agrees clear goals, stands for a commitment culture and lives it. He persuades and leads his employees through personal authority to success and thereby occurs self-confidently and independently - without any trace of arrogance. He identifies with his job and loves the challenge.

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In short: The interim manager at C-level combines all the requirements of a top manager both professionally and personally. He is a senior manager who has become wise through experience and is therefore increasingly used to successfully solve special situations in companies. Frequently, companies would like to take over such managers on a permanent basis. However, this is rarely achieved, since interim managers prefer their autonomy and freedom to a permanent position and want to face new challenges after work has been done. And they will not fail in the foreseeable future.

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  1. Volkmar


    I've seen it myself at the company I work for. Somehow things didn't work out that well and then an interim manager had to be found. Many, like me, were initially skeptical, but today things are looking bright again. Sometimes a change is needed and this sentence is of course perfect: “Change has never been more constant than today” We found the interim manager at there is an extensive portfolio of experienced people ....


    • Simone Janson

      Hello Volkmar,
      thank you for the hint!

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    RT @Berufebilder: Interim manager in companies: Implementation instead of advice - - Exciting contributionWiVEGsxMK5

  5. Mark Appoh

    Guest contribution by Harald Smolak, partner at #Atreus, German market leader in interim management: - Exciting contributionkhAfjlVI3w

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